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Testing for Learning Disabilities

Elementary School Expert Advice from Barbara Potts

Q: My son is seven years old and is having a hard time in school. It took him two years to learn how to write his name. Last year in first grade he was learning to read one to two words a week to other kids' five words. He's having trouble with concepts and skills, like how to add anything above ten. The teachers and I both tried explaining it to him with no luck. What can I do to help him overcome these problems? He will be repeating first grade.

A: It sounds like you and your son are tremendously frustrated, and with good reason. Learning at this age should be fun, and should come fairly easily to a child, barring other problems. Your son is learning to read and to write, but very slowly.

If the school has not already suggested it, you should ask that testing for learning disabilities be done as soon as possible. No parent ever wants his or her child "labeled," but determining if there are learning disabilities present is the first step to getting him the help that he needs.

Teachers of exceptional children are trained in methods of teaching that can help children with learning problems, plus they have access to additional resources and materials that could help your son.

Neither you nor the school wants your son to repeat another grade. The research on school retention says that retaining a child does not help over the long run and may set the child up for problems later on. If a child is going to be retained, however, kindergarten or first grade is the time to do it.

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Barbara Potts has worked as an elementary school counselor for many years. She has a BA in psychology from Wake Forest University, and an M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.


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