signs of a learning disability

How Do You Know If Your Child Has A Learning Disability and What Can You Do? (With Interactive Checklist)

In Educators, Learning Disabilities, Parents, Screening Tools by Rachel Wise3 Comments

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What Is a Learning Disability?

A learning disability interferes with one’s ability to receive, process, recall, or communicate information. Learning disabilities can primarily affect an individual in the areas of reading, writing, math, speaking, and listening. Focus, reasoning, memory, coordination, social skills, and behavior may also be impacted as a result of a learning disability. Research shows that students who display signs of learning disabilities benefit from extra instruction and support. To read more about this research see Intensive Interventions for Student Struggling in Reading and Mathematics.

What Can You Do if You Have Concerns About Your Child’s Learning?

If you have concerns about your child’s learning, speak to your child’s school and their doctor. (For public schools) Your child’s school can put interventions into place to work with your child in their area(s) of need (some private schools may do this as well – talk to the school to find out what support they offer).

Public schools also have school psychologists that can evaluate your child for a learning disability. If your child is in private school, the school will coordinate with the school district or other local agency to get a school psychologist to evaluate your child.

After the evaluation is complete, review it thoroughly with the school team, and ask questions about anything you don’t understand or want to know more about.

Side Note: Many times, schools like to try academic interventions to see if they can help your child make significant progress before referring them to a school psychologist for an evaluation.

If you want your child to be evaluated by a school psychologist immediately, without having the school try interventions first, let your child’s school know that. Work with the team to determine the best course of action. The school can still put interventions into place while you wait for the results of the school psychologist’s evaluation.

You can ask about the type of intervention they are using and whether the intervention is backed by research. You can also ask the school to keep you posted on your child’s progress periodically throughout the intervention period.

Keep in mind that it in some cases it may be difficult to determine the presence of a learning disability without prior interventions. If you have learning concerns for a preschool age child, contact your state’s early intervention department, which you can find through a Google search. They will provide you with a free evaluation. They will not evaluate for a learning disability at that young age, but they can provide support if your child shows significant learning delays.

What Happens if My Child is Found to Have a Learning Disability?

If your child is found to have a learning disability after an evaluation by a school psychologist, and that disability is found to have a negative impact on their progress in school, your child will be entitled to an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

Related Article: How Do You Know if Your Child Needs and IEP?

An IEP is a written document that will provide your child with specialized educational services, including accommodations and academic goals, that public schools in the United States are legally required to put into place (again, if your child attends private school or school outside the United States, you may need to ask which supports they provide).

Your child’s IEP will also entitle your child to receive intensive instruction by a special education teacher in their area(s) of need. Special education does not always require a student to go into a special class or smaller classroom. Depending on your child’s needs, he may be able to stay in the general education setting, while receiving small group instruction from a special education teacher, either within the classroom, in a small group outside of the classroom (during certain times of the day), or virtually.
how do i know if my child has a learning disability

You are part of the IEP team and have input into your child’s accommodations, goals, and placement. You and the rest of the IEP team will meet when the IEP is first implemented and once a year thereafter.

If you have questions about anything regarding the IEP ask and if you have concerns make them known. If you think changes need to be made to the IEP or if you have concerns, you can call for an IEP meeting prior to the annual meeting.

Some Possible Accommodations for Students with Learning Disabilities Include:
  • extra time to complete assignments, projects, quizzes, and tests
  • allowed to revise writing assignments before final grading
  • provided with audiobooks to supplement reading material
  • having test questions read aloud by a teacher
  • having math word problems read aloud by a math teacher
  • modification or clarification of directions as often as needed
  • use of graphic organizers for writing assignments
  • having multiple-choice tests include three choices per question instead of four
  • use of a calculator
  • speech to text and text to speech programs
  • providing materials at the students instructional level
What is an Educational Advocate?

If you want support from a knowledgeable professional at your IEP meeting or other related meetings, you can bring an educational advocate. Search for an advocate in your area through Google or the Yellow Pages. For more tips on finding an advocate check out How Can I Find an Advocate?

What Are Your Rights?

As a parent having a child evaluated for a disability in school, you are entitled to certain rights, such as the right to dispute the findings of the evaluation and your child’s accommodations and/or placement as described in the IEP. Your child’s school should give you a copy of these rights when you sign the permission form for the evaluation.

As stated previously, also tell your child’s doctor if you are concerned that your child may have a learning disability. They can refer you to a specialist to evaluate your child, such as a child psychologist, to determine the presence of a learning disability or other possible reasons for any difficulty your child is experiencing.

You can also find your own child psychologist by doing a Google search for child psychologists in your area or by contacting your child’s insurance provider.

If a child psychologist or other related professional determines that your child has a learning disability, share the results with your child’s school and ask for recommendations to support your child at home. The school will likely conduct their own evaluation, with your permission, to determine how to meet your child’s needs in the school setting.

Professionals utilize a number of measures to determine whether or not a child meets criteria for a learning disability. To read more about what measures are utilized see Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): Identification of Specific Learning Disabilities.

What Can Teachers Do if They Suspect a Learning Disability?

If you are an educator and have concerns about one of your student’s learning, speak to your school team and your student’s parents to see what steps need to be taken to get your student help.

Keep in mind that young children, such as those in preschool and kindergarten, develop at different rates. For example, some children may struggle with learning to add numbers in kindergarten, but catch up in first grade.

If you have concerns of a learning disability for a child in kindergarten, your child’s school psychologist or a private evaluator (e.g., child psychologist) may not have enough evidence to support a learning disability, and may recommend more academic instruction and possibly that academic interventions take place in school for a certain amount of time (e.g., until the middle or end of kindergarten or first grade). If the child is still struggling with learning at that time, the psychologist may re-evaluate for a learning disability.

Interactive Checklist for Learning Disability Concerns

Below you will find a checklist with signs that may indicate a learning disability. You can print out the form, complete it, and take it to your child’s school, doctor, or early intervention team to discuss your concerns.

Side note: It is very common to see one or more of these signs in a child and it does not necessarily indicate a disability. You should look into getting support for your child if you see several of these signs over a long period of time (e.g., six months or more) despite continuous instruction at school or at home.

Instructions for Use:
For older children, you can check any difficulties you currently observe or have previously observed, that are listed in the younger grade categories. After completing this form you can print it out to take along with you to your child’s school, doctor, or early intervention team.

Learning Disability Interactive Checklist
Date :
Child’s name :



speech came later than most children

difficulty with vocabulary (e.g., often has trouble finding the right word)

difficulty learning the alphabet, days of the week, numbers, shapes, and colors

difficulty understanding the concept of rhyming words

difficulty understanding directions, questions, or information given by others

trouble using language to express wants and needs or to share information

trouble with fine motor skills (e.g., difficulty using playdough to make balls, difficulty cutting across a
piece of paper, difficulty feeding self with spoon and fork, etc.)

Grades K – 4

trouble learning the connection between letters and sounds

consistently makes reading and spelling errors such as letter reversals (b/d), inversions (m/w),
transpositions (leave/laeve), and substitutions (house/home)

trouble understanding what he/she reads

transposes number sequences (e.g., 17 for 71)

confuses arithmetic signs (+, -, x, /, =)

trouble remembering math facts (e.g.,trouble remembering the sum of simple addition problems, such
as 2 + 1 or 5 + 5, without having to count on fingers, draw lines, or use objects to represent the
problem). Consider age and grade level. Younger students (e.g., grades k and 1) are learning basic
math facts and need time before they have them memorized.

trouble learning about telling time

difficulty planning the steps to complete an assignment or project

Grades 5 – 8

frequently reverses letters sequences when spelling (e.g., reverse/reserve, special/specail)

trouble learning prefixes, suffixes, root words, and other spelling strategies

trouble understanding what he/she reads

avoids reading out loud

avoids assignments that require writing

trouble recalling math facts (e.g., trouble remembering times table)

trouble understanding math word problems

High School Students and Adults

frequently reads words incorrectly

trouble understanding what he/she reads

spells the same word more than one way in the same piece of writing

frequently spells words incorrectly

trouble using writing to summarize information

dislikes or avoids writing

trouble answering open-ended questions in a writing assignment (e.g., “what did you think of….?”
“what happened in the story?” “what is your opinion on…?)

trouble remembering previously learned information or concepts

Type Additional Concerns Here: