ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How to Recognize Early Warning Signs of Learning Disabilities

Updated on January 10, 2015
Each child learns at their own pace, but delays can indicate a learning disability.
Each child learns at their own pace, but delays can indicate a learning disability. | Source

Learning disabilities, also known as learning differences or LD, are rooted in a person’s neurology. Although most LDs are diagnosed after a year or two of school, some signs indicate this type of wiring early on.

What Causes Learning Disabilities?

It’s important to know about what can contribute to having a learning difference. Although there’s no definitive cause behind why some kids have LDs and why others don’t, some factors that make it more likely.

Family History

Most learning differences run in families. For example, my dad, grandmother and youngest sister all have dyslexia, just like I do. This applies to a wide variety of other learning problems in other families as well.

Prenatal Risk Factors

This includes things like poor prenatal medical care, maternal drug abuse or if the mother is malnourished while she’s pregnant. It’s possible that these factors could influence the fetus’s developing brain just enough to alter how the eventual child will perceive the world and process information.

Difficult Birth or Birth Injury

Even if the baby seems healthy despite the trauma or heals quickly, its delicate brain may develop differently than the majority as a result.

The black mold is near the top of the wall of this house which was devastated by flooding.
The black mold is near the top of the wall of this house which was devastated by flooding. | Source

Toxic Types of Mold and Lead

Early exposure to these contaminants could make a child very ill and have lasting effects on how their brain functions. Free lead screenings are available through most counties, and if you suspect mold growth in your home, get it checked out as soon as possible.

Abuse or Neglect

One of the many problems that can result from being subjected to injury or neglect is the invisible damage done to the brain.

I’ve seen here and there that poverty is listed as a cause of learning disabilities as well. I don’t believe that poverty itself is an actual cause; so much as something that makes things like poor nutrition, lack of medical care, or exposure to harmful substances more likely. It’s also a contributing factor to lack of educational resources.

However, low income does not necessitate these problems when the family is able to provide adequate care to mom while she’s pregnant and after the baby is born.

Early Childhood

The most important thing to remember when watching for signs of LD is that there is a range of normal development when it comes to the stages of a child’s growth. Pediatricians can educate you about when these benchmarks should be reached, plus there are multiple online sources that can help you out.

Many of these indicators may seem troubling, even when they fall into the normal range.

Delays in Pulling Up, Standing and Walking

Provided there’s nothing physically wrong with you’re child’s feet, ankles, legs or back, this delay indicates a problem with their large muscle control, or gross motor control. This is a red flag because many LD children have problems with sports later on in life because of this difficulty.

Early Childhood Development Stages

Using Fingers and Toes

If the child has problems gripping or grabbing things, this may be an indication of a problem with fine motor control. This is another common problem that kids with LD deal with. Later on, it’ll be difficult to teach them how to hold a pencil properly, which adds to the difficulty in learning how to write.

Speech Delay

There are many things that can cause delayed speech. For some kids, it’s a problem with differentiating different sounds, so they can’t duplicate them like other children. For others, it has to do with short term or working memory. The memory problem manifests in the form of being unable to remember what sounds are long enough to generate them.

Slower Problem Solving

If your child is slower with solving problems that a child in their age group should be able to complete, that doesn’t mean they’re less intelligent than other kids. This could be another way of finding out if there’s something going on with their sensory perception and memory.

Lack of Social Skills

There’s a broad range of how long it takes some kids to reach emotional maturity and learn how to interact appropriately with others. Many things can cause this from inability to recognize the meanings behind facial expressions to difficulty filtering surrounding noise, sensation or things in their field of vision.

Problems With Rhyming or Word Recall

One of the most fun games to play with a kid to increase their vocabulary is the rhyming game. If they have problems with these sorts of games, it could indicate poor working memory or an auditory processing problem.

Elementary School – Grades K-5

Although many LD kids experience one or more of the above delays, not all of them do. Sometimes, blatant signs don’t become obvious until they enter a schooling environment. These are some signs to watch for in the early years.

Again, some of these issues are normal for a period of time.

Success with Occupational Therapy

Problems Holding Pencil

If the child holds their pencil awkwardly and eventually holds it in a fist instead of a normal posture long after the other kids have mastered the skill, it may indicate problems with fine motor control.

Can’t Cut In a Straight Line

This could also be because of poor fine motor control, but it could also have to do with how they perceive the line. The cut won't be straight if the guide doesn’t seem to stay straight or intact for them.

Often, as shown in the video, occupational therapy is used to help children past these issues.


This is an extension of the problem of poor gross muscle control, or issues with sensory perception. Often, kids with LD have problems differentiating important noises from background sounds or don’t register everything visually that they need to.

Lack of Letter Connection to Sounds

This could be a reading disorder in the making or a signal of auditory sensory problem. This later leads to a deep insecurity about reading aloud.

A sample of my writing from the 5th grade. Notice the creative spelling.
A sample of my writing from the 5th grade. Notice the creative spelling. | Source

Letter Reversal and Low Reading Level

When they’re writing, constant letter reversal can indicate dyslexia. Often, these kids also spell very creatively, and may misspell the same word in numerous ways throughout the whole document.

Similarly, if they can’t read at the grade level they’re in, this is a red flag that there’s an issue, whether it has to do with how they process information or if there’s something wrong with their vision.

Problems With Following Directions

This could seem like a sign of willfulness, but if the child’s short term memory is at fault, they may have problems remembering the sequence of events or the instructions being delivered early on.

Communication Issues

Many LDs manifest in the realm of communication. If a child can’t decipher what others are saying, their auditory processing might be to blame. Similarly, eye contact and the like can be difficult to master.

What to Do If You Suspect a Problem

If your child demonstrates these issues, keep a journal of their problems and samples of their school work. Also, write down any questions you have and keep a file of paperwork.

Once you’re ready, contact your child’s school to speak with their teachers about getting them evaluated for learning disabilities. If your child is enrolled in a public school, the school must pay for testing, and eventually, the IEP.

If you suspect the problem may be visual, talk to your pediatrician about possibilities. Show them the child’s work as well to see what kind of input they might have.

The earlier you can get your child help, the more likely they are to succeed in school. In fact, the National Institutes of Health states that 67% of kids at risk for learning problems consistently performed at an average or above average level when intervention was early.

While some of these signals are normal parts of a child’s development, if they’re severe enough, it may be worth checking out options for early intervention.

The Dyslexic Advantage: Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain
The Dyslexic Advantage: Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain
This is an amazing book which highlights the strengths of dyslexia, and offers ways to work on weaknesses using that knowledge. It changed my life for the better.
In Their Own Way: Discovering and Encouraging Your Child's Multiple Intelligences
In Their Own Way: Discovering and Encouraging Your Child's Multiple Intelligences
This book highlights the method of teaching to a child's unique intelligence.


Submit a Comment
  • ESPeck1919 profile imageAUTHOR

    Emilie S Peck 

    6 years ago from Minneapolis, MN

    I know how you feel, insofar as performing better on tests than I thought I would. My dyslexia was only caught early because I was lucky enough to be sent to a Montessori school that worked with the families of war vets. I later got put into public school, which ended up being a very mixed blessing. Once high school hit, and I was able to study subjects more tailored to my way of thinking, I had a hard time believing I got the right answers, too.

    Good luck with your little ones! Whether they have a learning disability or not, I wish them all the best in their academic journeys.

  • noner profile image


    6 years ago

    I grew up in poverty, and was lucky enough to have an average intelligence. Early tests said I had an above average intelligence and they put me in a special course (they called it Discover) for smarter kids. I always thought it was a mistake, and I just accidentally guessed a bunch of questions right. lol

    My kids seem to be on par for their age, but I'll be watching them closely.

  • ESPeck1919 profile imageAUTHOR

    Emilie S Peck 

    8 years ago from Minneapolis, MN

    You're very welcome and thanks so much for the kind words!

    Very happy you enjoyed it, and it's great to know I'm not alone in seeing how important early detection is.

  • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

    Chitrangada Sharan 

    8 years ago from New Delhi, India

    Thanks so much for writing on an important subject, concerning LD kids. Very well written! You are right, many problems or disabilities get detected, only after joining school---have seen many examples.

    Thanks for sharing this useful hub!

  • Karen Hellier profile image

    Karen Hellier 

    8 years ago from Georgia

    Aw gee, thanks but it was really my pleasure to help those kids!

  • ESPeck1919 profile imageAUTHOR

    Emilie S Peck 

    8 years ago from Minneapolis, MN

    Thanks so much for the feedback and confirmation!

    Also, thanks for helping so many kids through the years. :)

  • Karen Hellier profile image

    Karen Hellier 

    8 years ago from Georgia

    This was very well written and thorough. Having worked with children with learning disabilities for the past 8 years, I found it on target.Good job. Voted up and interesting.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)