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Learning Disabilities and Your Child

The Early Years
"Although my son walked at the appropriate age and reached other milestones at the right time, I felt that something was not quite right," says Yvette Moran, parent. "His social skills were lacking around other kids. We observed him carefully for a period of time and at age two and a half he was diagnosed with a learning disability." No one knows your child like you do. Trust your instincts and observations. If something "just seems wrong" and your child displays several of the following problems consistently, you might want to consider the existence of a learning disability.

  • Problems with following routines or directions
  • Fine motor skills slow to develop
  • Difficulty rhyming words
  • Speaks later than peers
  • Problems with pronunciation
  • Problems with vocabulary, trouble finding the right word
  • Extremely restless and distracted easily
  • Trouble with social skills
  • Trouble learning colors, shapes, days of week, numbers, alphabet
A full evaluation by trained professionals is the next step in helping your child. Your pediatrician can refer you to a number of specialists trained in the area of difficulty. Working with a team of professionals and joining with other parents can provide your family with a valuable support system.

The Elementary Years
"When my son started kindergarten I noticed that he had problems with coordination when performing simple tasks such as tying his shoes or combing his hair," says Carol McGaffigan. "We worked consistently with him for many years. The hard work paid off with some terrific dividends. Our son developed a photographic memory that amazed his teachers." Coordination problems can be a warning sign of a learning disability. If your child exhibits several of the following characteristics over a long period of time, you might want to have her tested.

  • Unstable pencil grip
  • Trouble learning about time
  • Difficulty remembering facts
  • Confuses basic words (dog, cat, run)
  • Difficulty learning new skills, relying on memorization
  • Poor coordination, "accident prone", unaware of physical surroundings
  • Difficulty learning the connection between letters and sounds
  • Spelling and reading errors such as substitutions (house/home), letter reversals (b/d), inversions (m/w) and transpositions (felt/left).
  • Problems with planning, impulsive
  • Transposes number sequences and confuses arithmetic signs (x,/,=/+/-)
Speak with your child's teacher and arrange for a comprehensive evaluation of your child's difficulties. This will enable you and a group of professionals to correctly assess areas of strengths and weaknesses, and thus decide upon the best course of action to help your child. Offering constant support to your child is your best strategy.

The Middle Years
"When a child is dealing with the difficulties of a learning disability and has not been diagnosed, he or she may feel dumb or worthless," says Dr. Matthew Brewer, pediatrician. "This frustration can lead the child to destructive behaviors such as violence or drug abuse." Students with LD must be reassured that they are bright people who are only having problems because their minds process information differently. If you notice any of the following characteristics in your middle school student talk to your child and contact a professional as soon as possible.

  • Trouble recalling facts
  • Problems making friends
  • Difficulty with word problems
  • Avoids reading aloud
  • Reverses letter sequences (soiled/solid, left/felt)
  • Tight or awkward pencil grip
  • Difficulty understanding facial expressions or body language
  • Problems with handwriting
  • Problems with learning prefixes, suffixes, root words and other spelling strategies
  • Avoids writing assignments
Before you can solve your child's problems you need to know what you are dealing with. Contact your school and arrange for a complete evaluation. You will be referred to professionals who specialize in your child's area of difficulty. Working with professionals and offering constant support is your best strategy to help your child.

The High School Years
"When a student reaches the high school level with an undiagnosed learning disability, their self esteem is very low," says Dr. Matthew Brewer, pediatrician. "The student is usually failing classes, does not want to cooperate, and creates a challenging situation for everyone involved." Learning disabilities and the frustrations that accompany them are a major reason that kids drop out of high school. Solid support from parents and professionals is vital to a student reaching his or her full potential. If your child displays any of the following signs repeatedly speak with a school professional at once.

  • Problems adjusting to new settings
  • Poor memory skills
  • Problems with open-ended questions on tests
  • Avoids reading and writing assignments
  • Difficulty summarizing
  • Spelling problems, such as spelling the same word differently in a single composition
  • Misreads information
  • Poor grasp of abstract concepts
  • Either pays too little or too much attention to details
  • Works slowly
Have your school do a full evaluation of your child. Once the problems are identified and understood, then accommodations can be put in place to help your child learn.
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