Developmental Disabilities are still poorly understood, from the cause to cure. However, there is one widely-accepted fact: Early and intensive intervention can have a profound impact on the quality of life for both children at risk and their families. The key is early detection, recognizing the first signs of a developmental delay or disorder. Resource links from FirstSigns.org and Preschool Language aptitude from LDOnline can help you recognize early signs.

Are you wondering if your child’s skills are reaching typical guideposts?

Here is a list (not comprehensive) of some of the first signs of learning disabilities

Preschool – Kindergarten Grades 1-3
Lower grades
Grades 4-5
Middle grades
Grades 6-8
Upper grades
Language Pronunciation problems.  Slow vocabulary growth.  Lack of interest in story telling. Delayed decoding abilities for reading.  Trouble following directions.  Poor spelling. Poor reading comprehension.  Lack
of verbal participation in class.  Trouble with word problems.
Weak grasp of explanations.  Foreign language problems.  Poor written expression.  Trouble summarizing.
Memory Trouble learning numbers, alphabet, days of week, etc.
Poor memory for routines.
Slow recall of  facts.  Organizational problems.  Slow acquisition of new skills.  Poor spelling. Slow or poor recall of math facts.  Failure of automatic recall. Trouble studying for tests.  Weak cumulative memory.  Slow work pace.
Attention Trouble sitting still.  Extreme restlessness.
Lack of persistence at tasks.
Impulsivity, lack of planning.  Careless errors.
Inconsistency.  Poor self-monitoring.
Poor ability to discern relevant detail.
Memory problems due to weak attention.  Mental fatigue.
Fine Motor Skills Trouble self-help skills (e.g.. tying shoelaces).  Clumsiness.  Reluctance to draw or trace. Unstable pencil grip.  Trouble with letter formation. Fist like or tight pencil grip.  Illegible, slow or inconsistent writing.  Reluctance to write. Lessening relevance of fine motor skills.
Other Trouble learning left from right. Possible visual-spatial confusion.  Trouble interacting.  Weak social skills. Trouble learning about time.
Temporal sequential disorganization.  Poor grasp of math concepts.
Poor learning strategies.
Disorganization in
time or space.
Peer rejection.
 Poor grasp of abstract   concepts.
Failure to elaborate.   Trouble taking tests,   multiple choice.

Adapted from Melvine Levine, M.D. F.A.A.P. – Their World, 1990.  This table are guideposts for parents and teachers.  They should not be used in isolation, but may lead you to seek further evaluations.

MA DOE Early Intervention (0-3) program information.

Does my child have a Learning Disability?

Does the student have the following:

  • Has an average to above average intelligence.
  • Exhibits unexpected discrepancy between potential and actual achievement.
  • Performs poorly because of difficulty in one or more of the following areas:
    •     Listening
    •     Speaking
    •     Reading
    •     Written expression
    •     Mathematics
    •     Reasoning
  • Difficulties in concentration and attention, memory and  social skills may also be seen in profiles of students with learning disabilities.   (From the National Center for Learning Disabilities.)

Why would a parent or teacher request that a child be evaluated?

  • Struggling academically or not performing at the same level as others in their class. We have found that children struggling to read is one of the major academic reasons children are refered for evaluation.
  • Behavioral difficulties at home or at school. Behavioral issues may indicate difficulties or stress in school. An evaluation may help you understand how a child’s behavior and learning are related.
  • Attentional issues. If these issues were raised, start learning about ADD/ADHD; the Hallowell books are a good place to start (i.e. Driven to Distraction, see our ‘Book Picks’ page for a description and other recommend books from our members).
  • Drop in performance or depression. A child may be avoiding work that is too difficult due to a learning disability. Is your child’s depression interfering with academic performance?
  • Memory difficulties. It is important to determine whether it is short term memory or long term. Can your child remember discrete units of information, such as digits, but not more complex information? Can your child remember the names of things? Are language difficulties related to memory difficulties?
  • Grade retention is suggested. An evaluation is important to better understand why your child has not acquired the necessary skills to be promoted to the next grade. Understand the student’s strengths and weakness, how they learn, and whether a change in teaching method may improve their progress.

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