The majority of children in Australia start school with a degree of trepidation but with an expectation that they are about to commence an exciting journey of discovery; learning many new skills including how to read and write. Parents share both this excitement and trepidation, but also assume that within the first few years of schooling their children will take the steps required to develop competencies in both literacy and numeracy.

It is certainly the case that with effective instruction, appropriate support and ongoing encouragement most children do learn both the foundation skills, and then the more complex skills, required to read, write, spell and calculate.

However, there are some students who, despite attending school regularly and receiving adequate instruction and support, struggle to acquire these essential academic skills. These students may have a learning disability.

It is estimated that the number of children in Australia with learning disabilities is between three and five percent of the total student population. Such learning difficulties can have a far-reaching impact on an individual’s academic achievement as well as on their emotional wellbeing.

Many parents or carers notice that their child is struggling at school but are unsure about the steps they should take or how best to support their child. There are often many questions that parents have regarding the underlying reasons for their child’s specific difficulties and who they should seek advice and assistance from.

This Guide is designed to answer some of these questions. It has been developed to provide parents and carers with current information about the nature of learning disabilities and to offer practical guidance on the most appropriate identification, intervention and support. This edition has been revised to be consistent with new research findings and current practice, but includes much of the highly-valued information from previous editions.

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