Early Warning Signs of Learning Difficulties
The interventions used at Pathfinders can help those of all ages, from young children all the way up to elderly adults. However, the sooner intervention takes place, the fewer years your child, your neighbor, or you need to struggle with learning difficulties. Today we’re going to discuss some early signs that can indicate future learning difficulties. Some signs can be observed even before your child enters preschool. Later, we’ll look at some signs of dyslexia and ADHD specifically.
Potential indicators of a learning difficulty can occur even before birth. Since we believe there is, at least in part, a hereditary factor for disorders like dyslexia and ADHD, a family history of learning difficulties is important to keep in mind. A traumatic pregnancy, including premature birth, cesarean section, and induced labor can contribute to developmental delays. Poor prenatal care, exposure to environmental toxins, abuse and neglect can also adversely affect a child’s development. These developmental delays are a major sign of learning difficulties.
Being aware of the many developmental milestones can greatly help you monitor your child’s expected growth and progress. If your child is not reaching those milestones at the normal ages or is even regressing on one of those behaviors, it’s possible she may continue to struggle without help. Observe your child in a group setting or speak to his preschool teacher. Is he behaving like the other children? Is he keeping up with classroom expectations? Here are some specific behaviors to look out for:
- Delayed speech development
- Slow vocabulary growth
- Mispronouncing words
- Failing to connect an item and its name
- Difficulty with rhyming
- Difficulty remembering the alphabet, numbers, days of the week, etc.
- Difficulty finding the right word; using vague language
- Difficulty recalling the events of a story
- Difficulty following multi-step directions
- A difficulty with fine motor skills, like coloring in the lines, using scissors, or buttoning and zipping clothing
- Awkward pencil grip
- Clumsiness; poor balance; cannot hop on one foot by age 4
- A difficulty with gross motor skills, like running and climbing
- Extreme hyperactivity or restlessness
- Injuries due to running too fast and being overly active
- Trouble understanding facial cues or tone of voice
- Difficulty following directions
- Overly aggressive play with peers (“doesn’t know his own strength)
- Often interrupting others
- Difficulty waiting their turn
- Avoiding play with peers
- Overly resistant to or emotional because of change to a routine
With dyslexia specifically, mispronouncing words, disconnect between an item and its name or letters and their sounds, inability to follow multi-step directions, trouble with rhyming and trouble with reading comprehension, are particularly important early signs. You might also see a reluctance to read, substituting one word for another (ex. “cat” for “kitty”), letter reversals (especially after age 7), word reversals, letter inversions and also transpositions. A child with dyslexia may also struggle to tell time, confuse arithmetic signs and have an awkward pencil grip.
Changing focus to ADHD, it can be difficult to discriminate between normal, energetic behavior with signs of the disorder. The simplest thing to do is observe your child with other children and see if there is a difference between them. Are they running around with other children or by themselves? Can they settle down once playtime is over? At home, can they sit still for story time or when eating? You might observe an inability to wait their turn, interrupting when others are speaking, climbing on things after they’ve been told not to, and often talking or making noises. They may also display aggressive play with other children and overly bold behavior, especially with strangers.
Whatever your child faces, the sooner you know, the sooner you can help them. The brain is amazingly flexible, especially in young children. Early intervention can make the transition to school or between grades easier and help your child feel confident and more successful. Advocate for your child. Listen to your intuition. No one knows your child’s needs better than you.
If you suspect your child might be exhibiting some of these early warning signs, talk to a learning and development professional. The experts at Pathfinders Learning are always here to answer any questions or offer support and guidance.