Disability Advice

Specific Learning Differences, ADHD and Autism

What are Specific Learning Differences(SpLDs)?  

Specific learning differences, sometimes referred to as ‘Specific learning difficulties’ or ‘SpLD’ is an umbrella term that is used to describe the different strengths and challenges that people experience when they are learning or processing information. You will often hear dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, Autism, AD(H)D and other neurodiversity referred to as SpLDs. 

At Arden, we use the term ‘Learning Difference’ rather than ‘Learning Difficulty’ because the use of ‘difficulty’ focuses on the individual rather than the barriers an individual experiences in a non-inclusive environment. ‘Learning difference’ recognises the value of diversity of thought and the strengths that this can bring.  

If you’d like to find out more about SpLDs, you are welcome to talk to us in the Inclusion Services team and we are happy to provide information, signposting and access to support if appropriate.   Email inclusion@arden.ac.uk and check back here for further updates and support.



Adjustments & Support  

There are lots of different types of support and ‘reasonable adjustments’ available to Arden students who have a mental health condition, disability, long term illness and/or learning difference. 

When we put in place support, we will talk to you about the barriers you experience and offer a range of different reasonable adjustments to enable you to thrive during your studies at Arden. The support we provide is based on your individual needs but some examples include: 

  • Extra time or rest breaks in exams  

  • Extensions on coursework 

  • Support with applications to the Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) for eligible students (you can find out more about the DSA in this helpful ‘find your way’ guide put together by D&A 

  • DSA support includes things like weekly specialist mentoring and study skills support; access to equipment and software. 

  • Having access to readings in advance and to audiobooks 

We are currently strengthening our Inclusion Services provision to ensure our support is as enabling as possible. We will also be able to offer the following services soon: 

  • Signposting and training in free software eg speech-to-text and mind-mapping software that can help with academic tasks like reading and essay writing 

  • Training and workshops for students to share strategies for studying, based around specific barriers or challenges e.g. organisation or reading. 

For more information about Reasonable Adjustments please see our policy here


Anyone is welcome to share the barriers they experience with us in the Inclusion Services team. If you would like to access reasonable adjustments or support at Arden as a direct impact of a learning difference, mental health condition, disability, and/or long-term illness, please do get in touch and we can explore the options available to you.  

To put some types of support or specific reasonable adjustments in place, we usually need to see medical evidence (for example a letter from your Doctor or Specialist; or a diagnostic assessment). If you already have evidence, please send these to inclusion@arden.ac.uk.   Please put the word  EVIDENCE in the subject heading when you send the evidence.   

To access support through the DSA, you will need to provide evidence for them  (This can be the same evidence you send to us at Arden) . We are happy to advise on whether your evidence is likely to be accepted or whether additional evidence may be required. Typically, the DSA will ask for evidence from this list: 

Evidence accepted by the DSA: 

For mental health conditions, disability, and/or long-term illness:  signed form or letter from your GP or Specialist that details: 

  • The condition/disability that you experience e.g. diabetes or anxiety  

  • That this impacts your studies 

  • That this is has lasted for a year or more or is likely to last a year (where this is not immediately clear) 

For learning differences: 

  • A diagnostic assessment that was undertaken by an Educational Psychologist or Specialist Assessor (This needs to meet specific standards) 

For advice on whether your evidence is likely to be accepted, please do contact the Inclusion Services team. 

You can still disclose or share a disability if you do not have access to any supporting evidence or are awaiting medical evidence or diagnostics. The Inclusion Services team will then be able to advise on access to support or reasonable adjustments that may be available to you. 


DSA Introduction

If your ability to access your studies is impacted by a mental health condition, disability, long term illness, and/or learning difference, you will be entitled to access Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA).

The DSA is a grant that you don’t need to pay back. It funds specialist support and equipment that will help remove the study and wellbeing barriers that you may otherwise have experienced. The DSA does not need to be repaid and is given in addition to student finance. The amount of funding you receive is not means-tested; it is based on your individual needs. 

To find out more about the DSA, have a look at the Diversity and Ability Find your Way guide. This step-by-step guide aims to demystify the DSA application process and explains more about what support is available and how it can be accessed.

Diversity and Ability are an award-winning social enterprise led by and for disabled people, that aims to create more inclusive cultures in higher education, where diversity is valued, and students can thrive.


Frequently asked questions 


When should I apply for the DSA? 
  • You can apply for the DSA as soon as you have your place confirmed with UCAS. By applying early, you will have everything sorted way ahead of time. 
What support can the DSA fund?
  • The DSA can fund specialist 1:1 support such as Assistive Technology Training, Specialist Mentoring, Notetaking, BSL Interpretation or Study Skills Tutoring.
Do I need to pay the DSA back? 
  • No, DSA is a non-repayable grant. Your support costs will be paid directly to the supplier. For example, if you receive ergonomic equipment, the supplier will be paid directly for this cost.
Can the DSA support with travel costs? 
  • Yes, the DSA can fund travel support where this is required to enable you to access and thrive at university. For example, you could be awarded a taxi allowance. Here, you would be required to contribute the equivalent cost of a journey on public transport to the taxi fare and the DSA would cover the rest. 
Are there any costs I need to know about when using the DSA?
  • There is a student contribution of £200 towards the provision of a laptop. We may be able to help with this through our Hardship fund if you are able to evidence financial hardship.


Key Terms and Acronyms 


Assistive Technology


Customer Reference Number


Letter sent by the funding body confirming their acceptance of your application for DSA


Letter sent by the funding body confirming their approval of DSA funded support (Notification of Entitlement)

EU Student

A student whose home address is in a country which is within the European Union

Home Student

A student whose home address is in a country which is within the United Kingdom


Mental Health


Needs Assessment


Needs Assessment Report


Non-medical Help


Student Loans Company






Disclosing or sharing that you have a disability with the Inclusion Services Team means letting us know if you have a mental health condition, disability, long term illness and/or learning difference. The earlier you let us know the better, ideally before you start your course. However, you can contact us at any time during your studies.

It’s important to know that sharing your disability will not affect your current or future studies at Arden but will simply allow you to access the variety of different support options available to you throughout your time at University. 

Telling us about your disability will allow the Inclusion Services Team to:

  • Understand any barriers you may experience and offer individualised support
  • Put in place any reasonable adjustments you may need
  • Liaise with your academic lecturers and tutors about any support needs (with your consent)


How to tell us about a disability

Telling us about a mental health condition, disability or long-term health condition and/or learning difference is a simple and easy process. 

There are a few ways to let us know. You can:

  • Select the relevant option on your application to study at Arden (through UCAS or postgraduate application). This allows us to get in touch before the start of your course. 
  • Contact the Inclusion Services Team at inclusion@arden.ac.uk

Just so you know, when you share your disability via your application form, this is classed as confidential personal information and this is covered by the Data Protection Act. Any information that you disclose to the Inclusion Services Team concerning your disability will be treated confidentially as sensitive personal data per the Data Protection Act. This will only be shared with your permission and on a need-to-know basis where it will enable you to access support. 

If you choose not to tell us about your disability or long-term health condition you may not receive the support you are entitled to. Making reasonable adjustments will also be difficult as we may not be able to book accessible rooms for lectures and tutorials at short notice. 

We are always happy to have an informal conversation with you about potential barriers you may face before officially disclosing or sharing a disability with the Inclusion Services Team.


‘Disability’ is an umbrella term that encompasses things like dyslexia, autism, physical differences, mental health challenges and long term health conditions.;

In UK law disability is defined as “a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities”

In this definition “substantial” refers to having a significant impact on a daily task and “long term” means 12 months or more.

The University embraces the social model of disability. The social model identifies that the challenges that an individual may experience are not caused by a specific ‘disability or by the disabled person but are instead, a result of barriers within society. As an example, the lack of access to a lift or a ramp for a wheelchair user or no access to a text-to-speech tool for a neurodiverse student is disabling. Barriers in society can most often be removed through the implementation of reasonable adjustments.




The Equality Act 2010 says that organisations such as the University must make “reasonable adjustments” to remove barriers that would mean that a disabled student was not able to fully participate in education, facilities and other services provided for students. At Arden, we work hard to put individual reasonable adjustments in place for disabled students. This can include adjustments to examinations, building accessibility and teaching and learning resources.


Changes in Terminology 

You may have received support from your sixth form or Further Education College where they may have used terminology such as “SEN” or “SEND” or “Additional learning needs”. While we don’t use this terminology at Arden, you will find similar support and services are available to you from the Inclusion Services Team. 



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