As a teacher, you are in a unique position to help identify students who may have learning disabilities. Because Learning Disabilities (LD) can affect any area of learning, it is important to be attuned to red flags in all areas of development. Here are five key areas to focus on:
1. Language and communication skills:
Language skills develop in a predictable sequence, with some skills building on others. For example, children learn to use gestures long before they learn to speak. Additionally, children typically acquire spoken language skills before they learn to read and write. However, there are significant individual differences in the rate at which children acquire these skills. Some children may develop language skills relatively slowly, while others may progress more quickly. If a child has difficulty understanding and using language, this may be a sign of an underlying learning disability (LD). Look for problems with speaking, listening, reading, writing, and using body language or gestures. If your child is having difficulty in any of these areas, it is important to seek professional help. A qualified psychologist or speech-language pathologist can assess your child’s skills and provide recommendations for intervention.
2. Cognition and executive function skills:
Difficulties in these areas may be a sign of LD. For example, a student with LD may have trouble completing a long-term project because he or she has difficulty planning and organizing the task. Or a student may have trouble completing assignments on time because he or she has difficulty with time management and self-control. In addition, a student with LD may have difficulty with multitasking and may need to complete tasks one at a time. These difficulties can impact academic performance and social interactions. However, students with LD can learn strategies to help them overcome these challenges. For example, they can learn to break down tasks into smaller steps, to use planners and organizers, and to set realistic goals. With support and practice, students with LD can develop the skills they need to succeed in school and in life.
3. Motor skills:
Motor skills are an important part of daily life. From writing and cutting with scissors to catching a ball or riding a bike, we rely on our motor skills to perform many everyday tasks. However, students with learning disabilities (LD) often have difficulty with motor skills. Fine motor skills, such as writing or cutting with scissors, can be especially challenging for these students. In addition, gross motor skills, such as catching a ball or riding a bike, can also be difficult for students with LD. While these challenges can be frustrating, there are ways to help students improve their motor skills. With practice and guidance, students with LD can learn to write more legibly, cut more accurately, and catch and throw a ball more effectively. In addition, biking and other physical activities can help improve gross motor skills. By understanding the challenges and providing appropriate support, we can help students with LD develop the motor skills they need to succeed in school and in life.
4. Social-emotional skills:
It is well-documented that children with learning disabilities (LD) often have difficulty with social-emotional skills. They may have trouble regulating their emotions, interacting with peers, and may even withdraw from social situations altogether. While every child is different, there are some common signs to look for that may indicate a social-emotional problem. For example, a child who is usually withdrawn or anxious in social situations may be avoiding them because they are afraid of being embarrassed or ridiculed. A child who is aggressive or disruptive may be acting out because they feel powerless or invisible. While these behaviors can be difficult to deal with, it’s important to remember that they are often a symptom of the underlying disability. With patience and understanding, you can help your child develop the skills they need to succeed in social situations.
5. Sensory processing skills:
Many people take their senses for granted, but for students with learning disabilities, sensory processing can be a real challenge. These students may be hypersensitive to certain sounds, textures, tastes, smells, or lights. As a result, they may have difficulty concentrating in noisy classrooms or crowded hallways. They may also have trouble processing information from their senses, which can make it difficult to “tune out” background noise or follow a conversation. While these difficulties can be frustrating for both students and teachers, there are ways to help. Sensory-friendly accommodations such as noise-canceling headphones or fidget toys can help students with LD focus on their work. In addition, social skills training can teach students how to cope with overwhelming sensory input. With the right support, students with LD can overcome challenges related to sensory processing.
If you notice any of these red flags in your students, don’t hesitate to reach out to parents or other professionals for help in determining whether there is a problem that needs to be addressed. With early intervention, many children with LD can go on to lead successful lives.