Special needs

How to spot a learning disability

It's possible to spot signs of learning difficulties early on; here's what parents and teachers should look out for.

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When your kid initially starts school, especially if he’s your first, you don’t have a good sense of what is normal and when to worry. No one wants to be the parent freaking out about her kid’s academics—in kindergarten. But registered psychologist Lynne Wawryk-Epp says it is possible to spot signs of learning difficulties early on, and parents and teachers would be wise to look out for them. “We need to be much better at screening kids in kindergarten and grade one who are at risk for learning disabilities,” she says, adding that early intervention can make a huge difference in a kid’s self-esteem and can help bridge the learning gap sooner. Learning challenges are not typically recognized until an assessment is done in grade three or four, Wawryk-Epp says. In the meantime, many teachers and parents just assume it will eventually “click”—but by this point, your kid can be trailing far behind his peers. Here are some very early signs to watch out for in your kindergartner.

1. She has trouble with rhyming. For example, you say, “Jack and Jill went up the…” and she can’t fill in the blank, even though you’ve said the rhyme many times before.

2. She can’t remember her date of birth.

3. She can’t recite the alphabet in kindergarten (especially if she’s been exposed to it at home, preschool or daycare).

4. She can’t identify or name letters by the time she leaves kindergarten.

5. In grade one (or later grades), she can’t remember all the months of the year or days of the week.


A version of this article appeared in our October 2016 issue with the headline, "A hand-holding guide to IEPS," p. 66.

Read more: A hand-holding guide to IEPs
When your kid is diagnosed with dyslexia Coming to terms with my daughter’s learning disability

This article was originally published on Oct 05, 2016

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