Diagnosing learning difficulties in young children isn’t always ‘black and white’ – many conditions associated with learning difficulties are experienced by children who don’t have any significant learning problems. However, a pronounced difficulty in one or more of the areas mentioned in this article may indicate that a professional opinion is necessary to diagnose the problem.
Every child is different, but there are certain developmental milestones that indicate the age at which a child should be able to do something. If the child hasn’t reached the developmental milestone by the recommended age, this may indicate a learning difficulty of some kind.
By age one, a child should be able to:
- say “Mama”
- play ‘peek-a-boo’
- wave ‘bye-bye’
- respond to his name
- sit up on his own
Age two developmental milestones:
- say the names of a few toys
- imitate parents
- seem capable of identifying eyes, ears, nose and mouth
- walk unaided
Age three developmental milestones:
- repeat simple rhymes
- enjoy playing alone with toys
- understand simple stories
- navigate stairs
- talk in short sentences
- enjoy playing with other children
- give correct answers to simple questions
- balance on one foot
- understood outside the family
- sharing or taking turns
- understanding the words “yesterday,” “today” and “tomorrow”
- capable of throwing overhand
- catching a ball
Symptoms in youngsters and adults:
As children get older, it can actually become more difficult to accurately diagnose a learning difficulty, since the developmental milestones aren’t as rigid. However, there are signs one can look out for:
- He has difficulty understanding spoken directions.
- He has trouble pronouncing a word until someone says it for him.
- He tries to treat people well, but often says something inappropriate.
- He has difficulty following written instructions.
- In writing, he leaves out or reverses words or letters.
- He knows his way around town until a street is torn up or a building is removed.
- He usually mismatches clothes.
- He is disorganized and can’t find belongings.
- He is clumsy.
- He has poor coordination in writing or drawing.
- He is easily annoyed.
- He tends to act impulsively.
- He is either extremely over- or under-active.
- He has a short attention span.
If a combination of these characteristics is pronounced, it’s recommended that parents or teachers seek a diagnosis from a professional who specialises in learning disabilities and behavioural problems.