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Is your child having difficulties learning?

There are a variety of things that may indicate that your child might be struggling at school.  Behavioural problems, inability to follow instructions or avoiding taking part in activities are just some of the clues that might point to a learning difficulty.

A child with a learning difficulty typically has an average to above average IQ but is reading at least 18 months below their chronological age. These children are often very articulate and imaginative, but their school work does not reflect their ability. Learning difficulties often run in families and research indicates that more boys than girls are affected.

Here is a checklist of signals for parents concerned that their child is having problems at school.

Homework – Does your child take longer than their peers to complete homework?  Do they need you to read written instructions to them?

Oral language – Can your child explain something clearly so you can understand without having to ask a lot of questions?  Do they use words such as ‘thing’ or ‘sort of’ and describe an object rather than name it?  Does your child have difficulty organising their ideas sequentially?  Do they have articulation problems (difficulty saying certain sounds or getting words wrong)?

Attention – Is your child flighty and finds it hard to settle and complete tasks, even though they can concentrate really well when doing something they like?  Do they constantly ask someone else what to do next?

Understanding Language – Can your child follow a set of two or three instructions? Do they constantly ask for clarification or say ‘what do you mean’?  Do they have difficulty with prepositions such as next to, under, left or right?  Do they find it hard to follow the story line in a movie or video?  Do they understand jokes and metaphors in language e.g. green with envy?

Avoidance Tactics – Does your child avoid taking part in activities such as puzzles and games?  Can they tell you a great story and produce a wonderful, multi-coloured heading but don’t write anything on the page?

Organisation – Does your child constantly mislay or forget things?  Is their desk and bag a mess? Do they have difficulty beginning tasks? Do you complain that they leave everything to the last minute?

Social Skills – Does your child seem to lack confidence or are they stressed and anxious? Do they relate appropriately to the others in their class? Are they constantly in trouble?  Do they fail to join in class discussions and dislike group activities?

Behavioural Changes – Has your child’s behaviour changed markedly during the year without any apparent reason? Do they seem more anxious, tearful or aggressive? If there have been no major changes at home such as a divorce, illness, moving house or a new baby, these behaviours may indicate that they are having trouble learning.

Reading Difficulties – Is your child reluctant to read, reads very slowly and is very dependent on sounding out words? Do they have difficulty remembering words? Can they segment, then blend sounds to read an unknown word?  Have they developed phonological skills such as identifying and producing rhyming words? Can your child identify the initial and final sounds in words? Are they able to read the words, but have do not understand the story?

Written Work – Does your child avoid written activities? When they write, are the sentences incomplete? Can they write on the line with appropriate spacing between the words and letters? Do they have a major difficulty with spelling?

These are some common indicators which may mean that your child is having difficulties with learning. If you are concerned we recommend that you discuss your concerns with their teacher.

By Molly Tweedie, Former Educational Psychologist, Learning Links*