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  Determining Whether Your Child
"Learns Differently" And What To Do

If your child learns differently, that may indicate the presence of a learning disability. This page and What's Wrong? give you details that will help you both learn what's happening and how to pursue solutions.

When children have learning problems, parents are usually the first to notice that "something is just not right." Teachers often notice a child having trouble in class. Just as much as parents, teachers want reliable information so they can help their students.

The following characteristics may point to a learning disability. It's not unusual to see one or more of these warning signs occasionally in your children; however, if you see several of them over a longer  period, and especially after age seven, you should consider the possibility of a learning "challenge."

Does your child have a learning challenge? Consider these characteristics / "symptoms" of children with learning challenges:

Characteristics of "Learning Differently" in Preschool:
  • Speaks later than most children
  • Pronunciation problems
  • Slow vocabulary growth, often unable to find the right word
  • Difficulty rhyming words
  • Trouble learning numbers, alphabet, days of the week, colors, shapes
  • Extremely restless and easily distracted
  • Trouble interacting with peers
  • Difficulty following directions or routines
  • Fine motor skills slow to develop

Characteristics of "Learning Differently" in Grades K to 4:

  • Slow to learn the connection between letters and sounds
  • Confuses basic words (run, eat, want)
  • Makes consistent reading and spelling errors, including letter reversals (b/d), inversions (m/w), transpositions (felt/left) and substitutions (house/home)
  • Transposes number sequences and confuses arithmetic signs (+, -, x, /, =)
  • Slow to remember facts
  • Slow to learn new skills; relies heavily on memorization
  • Impulsive, difficulty with planning
  • Unstable pencil grip
  • Trouble learning about time
  • Poor co-ordination, unaware of physical surroundings, prone to accidents

Characteristics of "Learning Differently" in Grades 5 to 8:

  • Reverses letter sequences (soiled/solid, left/felt)
  • Slow to learn prefixes, suffixes, root words, and other spelling strategies
  • Avoids reading aloud
  • Trouble with word problems / exercises
  • Difficulty with handwriting
  • Awkward, fist-like or tight pencil grip
  • Avoids writing assignments
  • Slow or poor recall of facts
  • Difficulty making friends
  • Trouble understanding body language and facial expressions

Characteristics of "Learning Differently" in High School and as Adults:

  • Spells poorly, frequently varies misspellings within a single piece of writing
  • Avoids reading and writing tasks
  • Trouble summarizing
  • Trouble with open-ended test questions
  • Weak memory skills
  • Difficulty adjusting to new settings
  • Works slowly
  • Poor grasp of abstract concepts
  • Pays too little or too much attention to details
  • Misreads information

If your child suffers from a number of these problems over an extended period of time, please see What's Wrong? , our Resource Guide, What Kids Can Do Themselves, and Parents Helping Parents for general information, guidance, and help.


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