This paper examines aspects of intellectual, linguistic and academic abilities in children with learning difficulties who are being educated in two special schools. A profile of these abilities is presented and analysed. The reason for developing the profile is to test a hypothesis, derived from neo-Vygotskian theory, about the relation between communication skills and learning. If successful, the investigation will provide a rationale for mounting a long-term intervention study designed to develop these children's communication abilities. The profile will also provide us with a baseline model against which the effects of intervention on aspects of academic achievement can be assessed. In addition, the profile explores the relationships between several aspects of academic achievement and biographical factors such as age, gender, season of birth and I.Q. Profiles of abilities of 71 of the children are presented here. Statistical analysis reveals significant relationships between several of the variables investigated. Boys and summer-born children are over-represented in the sample in comparison to the general population. Both factors - season of birth and gender - correlate with IQ and season of birth correlates with reading accuracy, reading comprehension and communication skill. Reading comprehension ability is significantly correlated with reading accuracy, I.Q. and communication skill. The implications of this analysis for Vygotskian theory and educational practice are considered.