Related conditions

Separate diagnostic labels are given by professionals to developmental dyslexia, dysphasia, dyspraxia, attention-deficit /hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autistic spectrum disorders (ASD). Even though the patterns of behavioural and learning difficulties that define them are somewhat different, nevertheless some core symptoms are common to all of them, namely problems with focussing attention, short term memory and sequencing, so that there is much overlap between all these conditions (often called comorbidity). For example half of children with dyslexia have ADHD symptoms and more than half of dyspraxics have dyslexic problems.

Because of the different ways in which these conditions are defined, different professional specialists diagnose and manage each of them. SLI is usually the province of speech therapists. Dyslexia is usually managed by educational psychologists, and interventions typically focus on specialist teaching of reading, spelling and the underlying orthographic and phonological skills. Dyspraxia is usually managed by physiotherapists or occupational therapists via behavioural approaches aimed at improving coordination. ADHD is normally diagnosed by psychiatrists, with stimulant medication as the standard treatment. ASD is also normally diagnosed by psychiatrists, and is treated with a combination of pharmacological, behavioural and psychosocial methods.

Unfortunately these conditions are remarkably common, affecting up to 20 per cent of the school age population to some degree, and they account for the vast majority of children with special educational needs. The associated difficulties usually persist into adulthood, and cause great misery for the individuals affected, their families and society as a whole.