Every parent wants their child to be comfortable learning, while most kids would rather play outside than do homework. This is what makes learning conditions difficult to navigate – it can be tough to figure out what’s a kid’s natural reluctance to do schoolwork and what’s a symptom of a potential learning disability. Because of this grey area, it’s important to recognize the symptoms of a learning disorder in your kids.
Learning conditions can be grouped into three general categories: conditions that affect a child’s ability to read, conditions that affect the ability to write, and conditions that interfere with a child’s ability to calculate. Problems with organization, comprehension, remembering, speaking, and focusing all seem to stem from or contribute to a child’s inability to function in any of these three categories.
Based on these general areas and what we know about symptoms of learning conditions, here are some ways to tell if your child might have a learning disability.
When trying to understand the learning capabilities of a child, it’s important to factor in the child’s environment. For instance, trauma from exposure to family or community violence has been known to negatively affect the academic abilities of children who witness these events. Aggressive behavior and lack of social confidence are just a few of the problems common among students from traumatic environments, and are known to be contributing factors to poor academic performance and learning disabilities.
Another environmental factor to consider is how your child does in the classroom. Pay attention to parent-teacher conferences and progress reports, as poor academic performance in class by an otherwise bright child could signal a learning impairment. If children at risk of a condition receive the necessary attention soon enough, they may be able to mitigate or avoid learning struggles later on.
Difficulty with Writing and Motor Skills
If your child has trouble with writing or with other motor skills, it may be due to a learning condition. Struggling to write legibly despite knowing exactly what they want to say, poor grasp of writing utensils, and poor coordination or balance are all symptoms of a learning condition pertaining to the child’s writing and motor skills. Two common learning conditions in this category are dysgraphia and dyspraxia.
Children with dysgraphia often strongly dislike writing or drawing, and may also experience sudden or rapid losses of energy while writing or drawing. A kid with dysgraphia might have trouble writing down thoughts in logical sequences, problems with grammar, or trouble writing ideas down in general.
Dyspraxia involves poor hand-eye coordination, poor organization of one’s self or things, clumsiness, trouble coloring within the lines, or poor balance while running or jumping. Further, children with this condition might also have trouble dressing themselves, such as difficulty buttoning a shirt.
If your child shows these symptoms, it might be a good idea to talk about the potential for dysgraphia or dyspraxia with their doctor.
Difficulty with Reading and Language
Problems in reading and language comprehension might also be indicators of a learning disability. Generally, struggles in this category include trouble identifying letters of the alphabet, pronunciation, difficulty learning or retaining new facts, or difficulty linking letter combinations with sounds. Further, trouble with listening or understanding directions might also be symptomatic of a reading or language disorder – if your kid has trouble with listening, they may have trouble understanding tasks presented to them.
Dyslexia is one common condition associated with struggles in reading and language comprehension. People with dyslexia often have trouble understanding verbal and written instructions, a delayed ability to speak, trouble learning new vocabulary or languages, or difficulty reading at a normal pace. Additionally, dysphasia affects fluency, the ability to recite facts or retell stories, understanding of the meanings of words or instructions, or comprehension of parts of speech.
All general academic skills can be affected by a kid’s inability to focus. After all, if a child can’t focus on the material, regardless of whether it’s reading, writing, or math, they’re not going to comprehend what’s being presented to them. A severe lack of focus – beyond what’s normal from an active kid – might be a signal of a learning condition such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD.
Children with ADHD often appear to be incapable of sitting still or focusing on a single concept for an extended period of time. They might also frequently display spontaneous or disruptive behavior while in class or during other inappropriate times. If a child cannot focus due to ADHD, they will not be able to listen, read, or understand what’s being conveyed to them.
Doctors are becoming more reluctant to diagnose kids with ADHD due to over-diagnosis in the past. However, if your child severely lacks focus – to the point that it’s negatively affecting your lives – ADHD is worth looking into as a potential issue.
While it’s important to remain vigilant for symptoms, it’s equally important to remember that having a learning condition doesn’t dictate intelligence. Instead, it simply means that a kid has trouble expressing their intelligence in certain ways. The good news: you can help your child express that intelligence through treatment for any conditions that might crop up, as long as you pay attention to the little issues.