Recognizing and Addressing Learning Disabilities in Children

Education is one of the main keys to success for children. However, while school and learning comes easily to some children, others may struggle with paying attention, reading, comprehending concepts, or other things. These issues can make school a constant challenge for these students if they aren’t properly addressed. We sat down with Lisa Moss, an experienced elementary educator, to discuss the most common learning disabilities and how parents can recognize and best address them in order to help their child reach their full potential.

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1. What are some of the most common learning disorders you see in elementary children?

There are several learning disorders that are common among elementary children. Some of them include:

ADD/ADHD (Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder)- Children with this disorder exhibit developmentally inappropriate inattention, impulsivity, and in some cases, hyperactivity.

Dyslexia-a brain-based disorder where children show difficulty in learning to read, write, or spell despite conventional instruction, adequate intelligence, and socio-cultural opportunity.

Auditory processing disorder-this affects children’s ability to process what they hear and causes difficulty in listening comprehension

Visual processing disorder-these children have difficulty distinguishing between letters and shapes and are sometimes unable to sequence symbols

Dysgraphia-these children have trouble putting thoughts on paper and sometimes struggle with handwriting

Dyscalculia-children with this deficit exhibit a weakness for making sense of numbers and how they work

Reading comprehension deficits-students with this disability have issues with language, difficulty making inferences, and have trouble with individual word meanings

Reading fluency disability- this processing disorder causes them to be slow in reading and comprehending information they have read.

2. What types of disadvantages do children face when their learning disabilities go unnoticed, or they do not receive modifications?

When childrens’ disabilities are not diagnosed in a timely manner and they do not receive targeted, specific, multisensory instruction, the children often experience lack of success in school, lower self-esteem, anxiety, lack of motivation, anger, and depression.

3. What signs should a parent look for if they suspect their child has a learning disability?

Signs to look for in a child with a possible learning disability include: delay in learning to talk, difficulty repeating chants and nursery rhymes, difficulty adding new words to their vocabulary, spelling challenges, trouble remembering basic sight words, avoidance of reading or doing math problems, poor grades in math, spelling, reading, or writing, and difficulty completing assignments. Most children with learning disabilities show an unexpectedness in their learning. For instance, they seem to have average
or above average intelligence yet struggle with another subject. They may have above average listening comprehension skills, yet have trouble reading or spelling words correctly.

4. If a parent suspects their child has a learning disability, what action should they take to notify the school/teacher to get the child the support they need?

If a parent suspects their child has a learning disorder, they should contact their child’s teacher to discuss avenues to begin testing procedures. Parents can also directly contact their child’s principal in writing to request testing, stating specific educational concerns that they see in their child. If the school agrees that the child should be tested, parents should ask for a full and complete battery of tests. If a parent suspects their child has ADD/ADHD, they should contact their primary care pediatrician for testing information.

5. How can parents support children with learning disabilities at home?

If parents suspect their child has a learning disability, they should strive to get help for their child at the earliest possible time. Early intervention is the key to success. Parents should realize that the success they will see takes time and they should work with their child on his ability level and at a pace that is comfortable for the child. Asking the child to do more than they are capable of will lead to frustration for both the parent and child. Parents should take every opportunity to point out people who have overcome difficulties to become successful. Above all else, they should reinforce the uniqueness of the child and the special gifts and talents they possess that will help them to succeed in life.

Additional resources for parents and educators are CHADD (Children & Adults with ADHD) and Neuhaus Education Center.

About the Author:

Lisa Moss is a Dyslexia Interventionist at Chapel Hill ISD in Tyler, Texas. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from East Texas Baptist University, and a Master’s of Education from Stephen F Austin State University. She has taught elementary students for 22 years. Lisa has been married for 27 years and has two adult daughters. She enjoys cooking, being with her family, and traveling.