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Cognition and Learning

Cognition and learning can cover a range of needs. Children are identified as having cognition and learning needs if they have difficulties with literacy and numeracy (which therefore impacts their ability to access learning across the curriculum), or if their levels of attainment are significantly below age-related expectations.

Some pupils with cognition and learning needs may have a Specific Learning Difficulty (SpLD) Some examples of specific learning difficulties are:


Pupils with dyscalculia have difficulty in acquiring maths-based skills. This can be especially clear if a pupil performs well in all other subjects. Children with dyscalculia can struggle with spotting patterns and making estimates.


Dysgraphia is a specific learning difficulty that can affect a child's ability to express themselves through writing. Dysgraphia affects fine motor skills. This means that it is often the case that children with dysgraphia can express themselves orally fluently but struggle when writing.


Dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty that affects the way that someone processes information. This makes skills like spelling and reading difficult, and can affect organisational skills and memory.


Dyspraxia is also known as developmental coordination disorder (DCD). For children with dyspraxia fine and gross motor skills can be difficult to learn. This means that they can show signs of clumsiness and struggle with organisation skills.

Pupils with dyspraxia may also have poor balance, coordination, and spatial awareness, and may try and avoid certain actions like running, skipping, and hopping.

Other children identified as having Cognition and Learning Needs may have more general learning difficulties or disabilities. These are known as global difficulties and include moderate learning difficulties (MLD), severe learning difficulties (SLD), and profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD).

Moderate Learning Difficulty (MLD)

Children with MLD may have greater difficulty in basic literacy and numeracy. They may also have speech and language issues. Pupils with MLD are likely to need additional support outside of the National Curriculum.

The effects of having an MLD can also lead to children having lower self-esteem, lower levels of concentration, and under-developed social skills, so it is important that adults watch out for the well-being of pupils as well as their academic achievements.

Severe Learning Difficulty (SLD)

Children with severe learning difficulties are likely to need substantial support in all areas of the curriculum.

Most children with SLD have other needs such as physical, sensory, communication, and interaction needs and social and emotional needs, as well as their cognition and learning needs.

Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulty (PMLD)

Children with Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties have more than one disability, the most significant of which is a profound learning disability.

Having a profound learning disability and other disabilities significantly affects an individual's ability to communicate and be independent.

Children with PMLD may have difficulties seeing, hearing, speaking, and moving. It is likely that they will have needs in all four areas.