5 Early Signs Your Child Might Have a Learning Disability

You know your child is bright, so why is he having so much trouble learning? The National Center for Learning Disabilities estimates that one in five children has some sort of learning disability, but signs of learning disabilities are often mistaken for other issues. The signals don't just show up at school; there are things to watch out for at home, too.

What Is a Learning Disability?

There are a number of different types of learning disabilities, so your child's struggles may look different than another's, but moms say it's important to pay attention to your instincts. Circle of Moms member Deborah D. wasn't comfortable with people telling her that the things she thought her 3-year-old son should already know would come with age.

She says he's "smart as a whip" but can't seem to learn certain basic skills. Another mom, Theresa, who has a child with a learning disability, says Deborah's son might just learn in a different way than other kids.

Use a "Disability Perspective" to Look at Your Child's Skills

That's a good way of describing what a learning disability is: learning in a different way. A learning disability is a neurological difference in the way your child processes, uses, holds onto, or recalls the information that comes at him. LDOnline.org puts it more simply, saying it's a difference in how your child's brain is "wired."

As mom Kristin G. points out, preschoolers can be "obstinate," so it's sometimes hard to tell if what you're seeing is an inability to do something or an unwillingness to do it. That's where what Circle of Moms member Eva calls a "disability perspective" comes in handy, remembering that kids want to do things well and will if they can.

Early Warning Signs Your Child May Have a Learning Disability

Among other things, learning disabilities can affect the way your child uses and understands language and the way he organizes information. In your preschooler or young school-age child, early warning signs to look for include:

  1. Your child doesn't speak as early or as clearly as other kids. He may also have a small vocabulary and have trouble finding the right word for things when talking, almost as though it's right on the tip of the tongue.
  2. Your child has trouble learning ideas about relationships between things. Ideas like up and down, before and after, or first and last are hard to learn, but a child with a learning disability may have more trouble than usual getting those connections. Children with learning disabilities may also be impulsive because they don't see the connection between what they do and what happens next.
  3. Your child doesn't seem able to learn and recognize letters. Mom Linda S., whose son was diagnosed with a learning disability, explains one possible reason: "My son sees letters as objects, where b, d, p, or q could be the same thing just turned in a different direction."
  4. Your child is restless, easily distracted, and has trouble following directions. A number of moms said that this comes across as though their child just isn't listening to them or won't focus.
  5. Your child is physically awkward or clumsy. Your child might have trouble running, skipping, jumping, catching, or throwing or bump into things and fall down more often than other kids her age. She may also have a lot of trouble with things like using scissors or zipping, buttoning, or snapping clothing.

If you're concerned your child might have a learning disability, the best thing to do is to speak with your pediatrician about your concerns. The earlier you intervene, the easier it will be to find ways to support your child's learning needs.