Early signs of learning disabilities can sometimes be overlooked and unfortunately, many students are not diagnosed until students have been in school for about two years.
There are often early signs of learning disabilities that parents and teachers may notice. The June/July assessment period has passed and parents are frantically making enquiries and applying at schools for Grade 1. Some students will simply not cope if classes are too big and if the pace is too fast.
1. Causes of Learning Disabilities are varied
Check the clinic card of students and know their background and history. The presence of risk factors may indicate a need to monitor for early intervention needs.
- Family history of learning disabilities;
- Parental pre-natal risk factors;
- Substance abuse;
- Poor prenatal medical care and nutrition;
- Prenatal brain injury or delivery complications;
- Exposure to environmental toxins such as lead or toxic mold;
- Developmental differences and delays;
- Poverty; and
- Abuse and neglect.
2. Observe the Child's Early Development for Signs of Learning Disabilities
Developmental delays in any of the following can suggest the potential for learning disabilities:
- Gross Motor - Large muscle movements such as standing, walking, or pulling up;
- Fine Motor - Small muscle movements such as grasping objects, moving fingers and toes;
- Communication and Early Language- Ability to understand words or to use speech;
- Cognitive Skills - Ability to think and solve problems; and
- Social/Emotional - Ability to interact appropriately with others and show appropriate emotional responses.
3. Watch for Delays in Reading, Language, and Maths
Children continue to develop at different rates in primary school years. By the third year, children should be able to read simple chapter books at grade level, write simple sentences, add, subtract, and begin to multiply. Students may not perform these tasks with complete accuracy. It is normal for some letter reversals and mirror writing to appear in their work. Most students will learn to correct these errors with instruction. A small percentage of children will continue to have difficulty and will develop learning disabilities.
4. Grade 3 is a Critical Year for Identifying Disabilities
Suspect a problem when the child:
- Does not connect letters and sounds;
- Cannot read grade-level text;
- Cannot understand what he reads;
- Cannot understanding number concepts;
- Cannot form letters or remember which letters stand for which sounds;
- Has difficulty following directions, even with help;
- Has poor memory;
- Cannot repeat information or copy items;
- Has difficulty following lines when cutting; and
- Has difficulty with attention or behavior.
Children with these types of problems may be referred for an assessment to diagnose or rule out a learning disability.
5. Where to Get Help for Assessment of Learning Disabilities
If you suspect the child has a disability, ask for an assessment. Do not adopt a “wait and see” approach. Go with your gut-feel. A late bloomer often wilts.