does my child have a learning disability?

As parents, we are all concerned about our children’s learning. I thought my children were off to a good start. Then the first grade report card arrived for my middle child, and I realized she had mastered 30% of what had been taught. As a professional who works with children with learning differences, I shamed myself for months for not paying attention to the warning signs.

According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, “A learning disability is a neurological condition that interferes with a person’s ability to store, process, or produce information.” Learning disabilities can affect a child’s ability to read, write, speak, spell, compute math, and reason and may also affect a child’s attention, memory, coordination, social skills and emotional maturity.

Learning Disabilities do not include autism, mental retardation, hearing impairment, blindness or behavioral disorders.

While there is no one single “marker” for a learning disability, there are “signs” that would indicate the possibility of a learning disability. These “signs” can appear anywhere along the developmental continuum (preschool-high school).

Below is a list of symptoms that may indicate a learning disability:


  • Develops language later than most children
  • Pronounces words incorrectly (speech problems)
  • Difficulty finding the right word when speaking
  • Difficulty rhyming words
  • Difficulty learning numbers, letters, days of the week, colors, shapes
  • Restless or easily distracted
  • Difficulty interacting with peers
  • Difficulty following directions or routines
  • Slow to develop pencil/paper skills

Grades K-4

  • Difficulty learning the connection between sounds and letters
  • Confuses basic words when reading (want/went, was/saw)
  • Makes consistent reading errors
  • Reads slowly (word by word)
  • Reverses letters in writing after age 7 (b/d)
  • Transposes number sequences
  • Confuses arithmetic signs (+, -, x, /, =)
  • Slow to remember facts
  • Impulsive, difficulty planning
  • Unstable pencil grip
  • Difficulty learning about time
  • Poor coordination, prone to accidents

Grades 5-8

  • Difficulty with letter sequences in words (felt/left)
  • Slow to learn prefixes, suffixes, root words, and other spelling strategies
  • Avoids reading aloud
  • Labored or slow reading
  • Difficulty with word problems
  • 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

High School Students and Adults

  • Continues to spell incorrectly
  • Avoids and/or dislikes reading and writing
  • Difficulty summarizing
  • Difficulty with essay questions on tests
  • Difficulty memorizing
  • Difficulty adjusting to new situations
  • Works slowly
  • Difficulty understanding abstract concepts
  • Misreads information

Educational Testing is the best way to determine whether or not a learning disability is present. School districts offer this service at the request of the parent. Psychologists, Speech-Language Pathologists, and Educational specialists are also instrumental in a diagnosis. The good news is, there is help if a problem is suspected. The sooner a diagnosis is made the better the long term outcomes. A recent study conducted by the National Institutes of Health showed that 67 percent of young students who were at risk for reading difficulties became average or above average readers after receiving help in the early grades.

Putting my shame aside, I had my child tested, and learned that she had Developmental Dyslexia. Immediate progress was noted with the initiation of intervention. Incidentally, she recently graduated from college with honors, and has applied to graduate school. Early diagnosis and treatment can remediate the problem.


Powered By DT Author Box

Written by Maureen Spencer

Maureen is a Speech-Language Pathologist and President of LexiaTech. For the last 14 years, she was the Executive Director of Basics Plus, a private practice in New Orleans that specializes in treatment of dyslexia and other learning disabilities. Maureen was a national trainer in an intervention curriculum for individuals with reading deficits. She continues to teach graduate courses in language-learning disabilities at LSU Medical Center.


  1. Maureen,

    I am having a difficult time getting the Jefferson Parish School system to evaluate my daughter for suspected dyslexia, even after their global screening showed that she is, in fact, most likely dyslexic. Do you have any advice as to where, outside the school system, I could seek help locally?

    Thank you!

Skip to toolbar