Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Understanding Early Warning Signs

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Understanding Early Warning Signs

Article excerpt

The National Center for Learning Disabilities offers useful tips on how to check for learning disabilities and what to do if you discover them.

Early intervention can make a substantial difference for children with learning disabilities (LD). While parents are advised to be concerned about the potential risk of mislabeling, early attention, and careful observation reduce this risk and ensure that real concerns do not go unnoticed. The following areas are of special concern for those caring for young children.

Consider medical issues

Maternal substance abuse, cigarette smoking, and poor nutrition are all associated with early risk for language and learning disorders. Low birth weight babies and those who have ingested lead-based paint are also at significant risk for learning delays.

Observe and record behavioral patterns

One of the most consistent features of children with learning disabilities is an unevenness in development. These differences are often most pronounced in preschool and school-age children with learning disabilities. However, parents and teachers should not make hasty judgments because developmental variations exist among all children.

Examples of at-risk behaviors include:

LANGUAGE: Slow development of speech; difficulty in learning new vocabulary or naming familiar items; uses two- or three-word phrases instead of strings of words; speech is hard to understand; does not seem to understand directions or questions; difficulty expressing wants or needs; trouble following even simple directions;

MOTOR: Difficulty manipulating small objects (using pencil, crayon); poor balance; awkwardness with jumping, running or climbing; poor sense of personal space;

SOCIAL: Difficulty with (or disinterest in) peer socialization; overly aggressive or withdrawn; sudden and extreme mood changes; frequent crying or tantrums; poor frustration tolerance;

COGNITIVE: Difficulty understanding cause and effect; problems with sequencing one-to-one correspondence; difficulty with basic concepts (size, shape, color);

SELF-HELP: Difficulty with washing, dressing, self-feeding;

ATTENTION: Easily distracted; acts impulsively; poor organizational skills.

Seek an evaluation/know your rights

If parents observe multiple areas of delay or suspect a problem that will compromise learning, they can request that their child be evaluated. …

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