Student Life

Counselling and Personal Development


Learning difficulties

Many students experience difficulties with various aspects of learning which can make university studies appear daunting. When compared to studies at school there is an increase in the amount of reading and writing required for most courses of study at a University level. Lengthy timed examinations are not easy for anyone but are particularly difficult for people with problems in reading, writing, spelling or grammar.

Some of the common problems for people with learning difficulties are:

  • slow reading rate
  • difficulty comprehending material read
  • problems writing good notes during lectures because of writing and spelling problems
  • handwriting may be illegible
  • difficulty expressing knowledge during exams because of time constraints or the inability to find the right words
  • an inability to remember and apply rules with regard to spelling and grammar
  • difficulty proof reading and detecting mistakes
  • difficulty remembering information after reading or attending a lecture.

Others may have no problems with reading and understanding written texts but may have problems

  • expressing themselves verbally, undertaking group work and giving class presentations
  • responding verbally to questions asked, perhaps during a tutorial discussion, because of a difficulty finding the right words
  • understanding maths and statistical concepts
  • planning essay tasks and organizing the information they need to use for the task
  • organizing essay material into a coherent whole following a logical sequence
  • doing practical tasks which require hand-eye co-ordination.

Having to work around these problems is sometimes very frustrating and may cause an increase in anxiety and feelings of inadequacy. However, learning difficulties do not mean that a person is lacking in intellectual ability and the person can, in fact, be very talented in areas other than reading and writing. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses.

Supports such as the use of specialised computer software or extra time in exams can be very helpful. There are a number of learning strategies which also can help when completing your studies.

If you are aware of a student having difficulties in the areas listed above contact the Leaning Disability Assessment Service for an assessment or a Student Counsellor on campus for more advice.

What does Learning Disability Assessment involve?

  • an initial structured interview
  • administration of psychometric tests
  • an extensive report being written detailing the findings
  • strategies recommended to minimise the impact of the learning difficulties
  • recommendations made for suitable accommodations

Who do I contact for further information about learning problems or about arranging an assessment?

Deakin University Disability Resource Centre

Taking it further



  • Morgan, E. and Klein, C. (2000) The Dyslexic Adult. London: Whurr Publishers
  • Bender, W.N. (2004) Learning Disabilities – characteristics, identification and teaching strategies. USA: Pearson Education Inc.
  • Brinckerhoff, L.C., McGuire, J.M. and Shaw, S.F. (2002) Postsecondary Education and Transition for Students with Learning Disabilities. Austin Texas: PRO-ED Inc.

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14th May 2011