Detecting Learning Disabilities in K-8 Students

A learning disability is a neurological problem that can trouble even the most intelligent child. Most learning disabilities will manifest during the elementary and middle school years. Read on to learn more.

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A learning disability is a neurological problem that can trouble even the most intelligent child and interfere with her ability to master specific learning skills. Some students have a hard time getting information into the brain. A child may struggle with sound input or visual input, or he may have difficulty integrating information that does get in. Some students face problems with keeping information in the correct order. Others struggle to infer meaning. Some have a hard time remembering. And some students have a hard time getting information out of the brain once it's there. This could be caused by problems getting information from the brain to the muscles that hold the pencil or work the keyboard. A child may struggle with writing and representing information through spelling and grammar, the proper use of syntax, or just the inability to organize thoughts.

Most learning-disabled children exhibit symptoms in more than one area of difficulty. In fact it's rare for a child to exhibit only one. No single characteristic defines a learning-disabled child. Still, there are some tell-tale signs that parents should be aware of.

Symptoms to Watch For in Preschoolers

  • Slow language development, difficulty with speech, problems communicating thoughts or understanding others
  • Poor coordination, uneven motor development (in learning to sit, walk, color, use scissors, etc.)
  • Difficulty with memory and routine (remembering specifics of daily activities or understanding instructions).
  • Delays in socialization (playing and interacting with other children).

What to Look For in an Elementary School Student

  • Problems learning individual word sounds, letters and numbers; difficulty blending sounds and letters to sound out words; struggles with remembering familiar words by sight
  • Problems forming letters and numbers on paper, difficulty with spelling and grammar
  • Difficulty learning math skills, doing math calculations
  • Difficulty with organization of materials (notebooks or papers), of information or of concepts
  • Losing or forgetting materials, or doing work but forgetting to turn it into the teacher

There is a three part evaluation process available to help pin point any problems. It consists of an IQ test to assess the child's intelligence; several achievement tests for reading, writing and math; and tests for evaluating various processing skills. For more information contact the Learning Disabilities Association of America at

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