Dyslexia, and related specific learning difficulties, are the most common disability encountered by the court system. As “invisible disorders”, they are the least understood and can lead to significant disadvantages in law enforcement and legal settings, even leading to miscarriage of justice.
Many affected youth and adults have not formally identified their difficulties and do not fully understand their own problems. Others may be reluctant to admit their weaknesses.
Some adults are able to perform diagnostic evaluations, but find that they are not always taken into account. Therefore, appreciation of the possibility of specific learning difficulties is essential for legal professionals, in order to promote appropriate outcomes.
Dyslexia is the best known of the learning disorders and affects around 10% of the population, and 4% severely. Specific learning difficulties are a family of related conditions with considerable overlap between them. Collectively, they are thought to affect around 15% of the population to a greater or lesser extent.
Specific learning difficulties affect the way information is learned and processed.
They are neurological (rather than psychological) disorders, usually hereditary, and occur independently of intelligence. They include:
- Dyspraxia or developmental coordination disorder
- Attention deficit disorder with or without hyperactivity (ADHD)
Dyslexia. Contrary to popular misconception, dyslexia is not just about literacy, although weaknesses in literacy are often the most visible sign. Dyslexia affects the way information is processed, stored and retrieved, with problems with memory, processing speed, organization and sequencing.
Dyspraxia. It is the difficulty with coordination and organization of movement; thought processing may also be affected. There may be difficulties judging socially acceptable behavior, anxiety in unfamiliar situations, problems with orientation/place finding, and the experience of sensory overload. Articulation and pronunciation may also be affected.
As in dyslexia, there are organizational and memory weaknesses.
dyscalculia It is characterized by the inability to understand simple number concepts and master basic arithmetic skills. Difficulties are likely to arise in dealing with numbers at very elementary levels; this includes learning number facts and procedures, telling time, measuring time, understanding quantity, prices, and money. Difficulties with numbers and math are also common with dyslexia.
ADHD. Signs of Hyperactive disorder and attention deficit. They include inattention, restlessness, impulsiveness, erratic, unpredictable, and inappropriate behavior, making inappropriate comments, or excessive interruption. Some people seem unintentionally aggressive. Most do not make effective use of feedback. They often can't wait for a question to finish before they can begin to answer.
If there is no hyperactivity, the term Attention deficit disorder It assumes that these individuals have particular problems staying focused, so they may appear "dreamy" and inattentive. People with this condition are very easily distracted, lose track of what they are doing or saying, and have poor listening skills. If they don't pay attention to details, they may miss key points.
Please note that similar terminology can lead to confusion. For example, the term 'learning disabilities' is generally applied to people who are low in intelligence and often lack mental capacity. many people with difficulties specific learners tend to refer to themselves as having a specific way of learning.
The two terms should not be confused. It's not the same to have learning difficulties by intellectual disabilities which specific learning difficulties by Neurological disorders They do not affect intellectual capacity at all.
It is important to keep in mind that no two people with Specific Learning Difficulties have exactly the same profile of strengths and weaknesses. However, the areas of difficulty listed below are typical:
- Difficulties in assimilating information efficiently (this could be at the written or auditory level).
- Slow rate of information processing, such as a lag in which there is a gap in time between hearing something, understanding it, and responding to it.
- Poor short-term memory for facts, events, times, dates.
- Poor working memory; that is, difficulty retaining multiple pieces of information while performing a task, eg, taking notes while listening, coping with compound questions.
- Errors with routine information, for example, giving your age or the ages of your children, dates…
- Inability to retain information without consulting notes.
- Lack of verbal fluency and lack of precision in speech.
- Trouble finding words or incorrect use of the exact term.
- Inability to figure out what to say quickly enough.
- Misunderstandings or misinterpretations during oral exchanges.
- Speaks too loudly (which can seem aggressive) or mumbles that cannot be heard clearly.
- Sometimes a mispronunciation or speech impediment may be evident.
- Delay or difficulty in acquiring reading and writing skills. Some adults with dyslexia have severe literacy problems and may be functionally illiterate.
- When literacy is mastered, residual problems usually remain, such as erratic spelling, difficulty making sense of written material, difficulty with unfamiliar words, inability to scan or page through text.
- Special difficulty with unknown types of language, such as legal terminology, acronyms.
Sequencing, organization and time management
- Difficulty presenting a sequence of events in a logical and structured way.
- Incorrect sequencing of strings of numbers and letters.
- Tendency to misplace items; chronic disorganization.
- Poor time management: particular difficulties in estimating the passage of time.
address and location
- Difficulty finding your way to places or navigating in an unfamiliar building.
- Easy to get lost or wrong location
- Weak listening skills, limited attention span, trouble staying focused.
- Tendency to be easily distracted, inability to stay focused.
- Increased sensitivity to noise and visual stimuli.
- Poor ability to filter out background noise or motion.
- Feelings of mental overload / disconnection.
Lack of awareness
- Not realizing the consequences of their speech or actions.
- Disregard body language.
- Miss the implications of what they are told or interpret it literally.
- Some people with dyslexic difficulties may experience visual stress when reading.
- Text may appear distorted and words or letters appear to move or become blurred.
- White paper or backgrounds can look too dazzling and make the print hard to decipher.
It must be emphasized that individuals vary greatly in their profile of Specific Learning Difficulties. key variables are the seriousness of the difficulties and the individual's ability to identify and understand their difficulties and Develop and implement coping strategies successfully.
In adulthood, many people with Specific Learning Difficulties can compensate through technology, dependence on others and a series of self-help mechanisms, the operation of which requires sustained effort and energy. Unfortunately, these strategies tend to fail under stressful conditions that impinge on areas of weakness, for example: police interrogations, interviews with lawyers, or court hearings.
effects of stress
Both research and self-assessment agree that people with specific learning difficulties are particularly susceptible to stress compared to the general population, with the result that their deficiencies become even more pronounced. As a result of their difficulties, many people with Specific Learning Difficulties have low confidence and low self-esteem and the consequence is that they may not be credible.
areas of strength
On the positive side, specific learning difficulties are also related to a variety of abilities. These include 'big picture' thinking (they think in sometimes very detailed pictures), problem solving and lateral thinking skills, an instinctive understanding of how things work, originality, creativity and exceptional visual spatial abilities.
Some well-known people with specific learning difficulties include Einstein, Churchill, JFK, Agatha Christie, Richard Branson, James Dyson, Sir Jackie Stewart, prominent artists, architects, engineers, businessmen, athletes, and many stars of stage and screen.
Not all people with dyslexia and related difficulties will have outstanding talents, but all will have comparative strengths and will often demonstrate great perseverance and determination.