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Learning Disabilities in Children: Recognizing Symptoms & Coping Skills

Updated on February 2, 2018

Feeling Different-Unable to fit in


Symptoms & Early Indicators

It has probably been a good 20 years since I dealt with my own son's "learning disabilities", a term, by the way, that I have grown to dislike over the years, simply because it is constantly overused and misunderstood, further complicating a parent's attempt to make sense of and help their own child achieve success despite problems learning. For me, there were indicators, bright red flags, early on that my son, even as a baby, seemed overly agitated and seemed to cry more than other babies but there were then further symptoms as he grew that told me that there was definitely something going on that warranted concern. He did not have any interest in reading books, could not sit quietly for any sufficient length of time and he was barely able to write his own name and address by Kindergarten. The worst part was that he became so irritated when it came time to do any sort of writing or reading exercises, it was impossible for me to help him in the very areas that he so desperately needed assistance with.

The news that your child may have a learning disability is without a doubt, a difficult adjustment for any family, but for a single Mother, attempting to understand what is and isn't "normal" behavior for a first born child, can be overwhelming. As a parent, the thought that something may stand in the way of your child's success can be quite unsettling. Whether they have a learning disability or not however, keep in mind that the way that a parent behaves has a huge impact on their child's chances of success. A good attitude won't solve the problem but it can demonstrate hope and confidence to a child that probably already feels different and isolated. My son spent so much energy trying to hide his inability to understand what the teacher was saying that he probably missed the lesson itself entirely.

As difficult as it was, life went on, one year, one week and one day at a time. The problem in our case was that because my son felt so different, isolated from his original classmates in his new Special Ed Trailer, he began to act out even more, taking the focus off being "stupid" as he was frequently called. He eventually attended a private school in another city and as luck would have it, he met a wonderful teacher who shared his love of sports. This teacher encouraged my son to create a sports program at the school and assisted in him in getting it accomplished. A problem that many privately run schools had was a lack of any organized sports program--the one thing that gave my son a desperately needed ego-boost. With their new football and basketball programs now in place, it really helped to change my son's attitude about school. Although reading and writing will always be difficult and a source of frustration for my son, he made it through high school, has a job that he tolerates and just married his girlfriend last July. Ironically, she teaches 7th grade and specializes in family counseling and working with children who have learning problems.

Fortunately, many things have changed since my own journey through the world of special education.Thanks to the Internet, there are countless resources now, however it can still be incredibly confusing from the parental perspective. I would suggest a support group for parents that are in similar situations. One Small Step for Parents is an online community started by our own accomplished Author, Hubber and Mother Enelle Lamb. There is information, resources and support for parents raising children with ADHD and its attendant disorders. You can also read more about my own experience.

How to Cope

Keep Things in Perspective: Try not to be intimidated by news that your child may have a learning disability. All people learn differently! Your first priority is to support your child to keep their self esteem in tact. Provide emotional, educational and moral support, don't get caught up in testing, school bureaucracy and paperwork distract you!

Do Your own Research: Learn about new developments in learning disabilities. New programs and techniques that could make an impact with your child. Instinctively, we all look to others for solutions, teachers, counselors, doctors, but when it comes to finding the tools your child needs to survive, you know best so don't be afraid to take charge.

Be an Advocate for your Child You may need to speak up - frequently - to get the answers and special help you need for your child. Take a proactive role as a parent and work on improving your communication skills. Your child's success may depend on it.

Remember that Your Influence on Your Child is Paramount Your child will follow your lead. If you approach the learning challenges with optimism, hard work and an essential sense of humor then your child is much more likely to embrace your perspective. The school situation may not be perfect but try to look for things that your child enjoys, like a love of sports or animals and focus on that instead of on the negative.

Recognizing Symtoms

Does/Did your elementary school child:

1.) Get a late start developing language skills as a toddler?

2.) Have trouble learning the alphabet or each letter's sound?

3.) Struggle to express their ideas when writing?

4.) Seem to be unable to follow the story line of what they have just read?

5.) Seem to have a limited vocabulary for age or grade level?

6.) Have trouble remembering sounds that letters make or cannot hear slight differences between words?

7.) Have trouble choosing words or organizing their ideas during a conversation or in writing

8.) Struggle with where to begin a task or how to proceed once the task is underway?

9.) Have trouble retelling the events of a story in the proper order?

10.) Have obvious real trouble with spelling, even after practice and study?

11.) Have poor handwriting or hold pen/pencil awkwardly?

12.) Misread numbers or confuse math symbols?

13.) Mispronounce words or use a wrong word that sounds similar?

14.) Have trouble understanding jokes, comics or sarcasm?

15.) Have trouble following direction?

16.) Consistently violate "social rules" of conversation? (interrupting, disrupting, etc.)

17.) Constantly avoid or refuse doing homework?



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    • Chatkath profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from California

      Thanks VV- Yes, it sounds like you witnessed the same frustration, which on one hand makes you want to "help" but it is hard to know when to back off and let them struggle through it. Sounds like the after school sessions were very helpful, even if you help just one student I think it's worthwhile and I am so glad that you chose to be part of that.

      Thanks for your visit and your comments! You are truly beyond your years!

    • VendettaVixen profile image


      7 years ago from Ireland

      Excellent hub, Chatkath. I used to stay behind after school sometimes to help out with a sort of homework club we had. A lot of the students there had ADHD or dyslexia. I found that really all they wanted was someone to listen to them patiently and clearly explain things to them.

      One girl kept asking me not to do the homework for her (which I wouldn't do, of course) - she was so determined to figure it out for herself, even though it would frustrate her.

      I'm glad your son found teachers who understood him, and were willing to help him. It sounds like that, paired with the fact that he had such a great mother to help him through school, made all the difference.

    • Chatkath profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from California

      Thanks Katie-

      So difficult to deal with as parents because we always want to make it better and it's tough when we are unable to do so. I always felt very guilty, which made it worse since kids seem to pick up on everything.

      You are so right Katie, as parents we must be their support whatever the obstacle is!

    • katiem2 profile image

      Katie McMurray 

      8 years ago from Westerville

      Great job on relating your experience with so many of us parents who know something is going on and yet we don't want to label our child or worse yet not believe in them, it sometimes felt for me that I didn't believe in my child when in fact the polar opposite was true. I later learned it was the pain that held me back, the pain of knowing my child could not see what others saw when she looked at a book, recipe, number, the horror of my child having a challenge like that was painful as I could not fix it, make it go away.

      This article is great, it proves we must look at the truth and realize it is the only truth our child has ever known and get to work helping them to learn, grow and develop regardless of it and still work with it, a balancing act no doubt.

      Proud of you well done as Mum and well written! :) Katie

    • Chatkath profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from California

      Thank you Epi-

      See - this is an excellent example of what could have been a potential disaster! A poetic genius with a learning disability - ironically, not that uncommon. But in your case, parental support proved essential in developing the creative successful man that we know and love!

    • epigramman profile image


      8 years ago mum and dad were led to believe their son (me) was perhaps suffering from a learning disability - the prognosis turned out to be wrong - and my parents stood by my side during these pivotal years - and the rest they say is history - and look out how I turned out - lol. So the moral of this story is - be patient - be strong - and show your support - love and understanding is an amazing combination - and it certainly made me the man that I am today - because of it!

    • Chatkath profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from California

      Well thank you fastfreta, and I do mean fast with all those followers you have accumulated in a relatively short amount of time! Congratulations on your accomplishment BTW.

      I am so relieved that things with my son turned out so well-when you consider what happens with so many children that just quit school altogether at a very young age, then what? Uneducated with no self esteem, the outcome is bleak!

      So, have you done a how-to hub on your socializing techniques? I must go see.(LOL)Thanks for stopping in.

    • fastfreta profile image

      Alfreta Sailor 

      8 years ago from Southern California

      What a wonderful outcome for your son. Not all will have that outcome, but your hub might help some parents, to spot the signs sooner than later, and possibly get help before it's too late. Very good Chatkath, voted up/useful/awesome/beautiful. Also, I liked it on Facebook.

    • Chatkath profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from California

      Thanks so much for sharing this Nell - I know exactly what you mean, I remember when I was a kid the children that did not keep up with the so called curriculum, were just kept back, so you can imagine what that did to their little egos growing up...It was better for my son, but still problematic, maybe some day we will be able to teach kids on a more individualized basis with newer technology that would allow us to accurately diagnose the learning "issue" and correct it, paying teachers what they deserve and have more parental involvement so everyone works as a team! Some day maybe :)

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      8 years ago from England

      Hi, I recently watched a TV programme about an actress, on English TV, who grew up with dislexia. She was so bad that when she learned her lines she had to write them out at least 100 times to get them into her head! so, at the age of 23, I think, they took her to a learning centre where these days they are aware of the problem instead of calling them stupid, and it was amazing! along with colour therapy, she now wears green glasses that make her see perfectly each letter and word!, she also learned how to make the words go into her head, it was amazing to watch, if only they did this in all schools, maybe children would grow up with more confidence and care, whether it is ADHD or dislexia, there is help out there, cheers nell

    • Chatkath profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from California

      Thankyou Prasetio- your perpective is really important as I am sure you see and hear things daily that relate to this. So glad you commented!

    • Chatkath profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from California

      Thanks Genna-

      Thanks, it is definately something to be aware of with school age children. Appreciate your feedback.

    • prasetio30 profile image


      8 years ago from malang-indonesia

      As a teacher, I really give much appreciation to this information. Thanks for writing this. I give my vote to you. Have a nice weekend!


    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 

      8 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Wonderful article. Too often, disabilities are overlooked and are labeled as something else. Thank you for sharing this information!

    • Chatkath profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from California

      Thank you Sharyn, I couldn't agree with you more, although I know it is hard to maintain a positive attitude, some parents just have a harder time with it than others, something the kids pick up no doubt! If they feel good about themselves they are much more likely to try and fit in-so important during those teenage years (I don't miss that part at all:)

      Your comments are right on target! Thanks!

    • Sharyn's Slant profile image

      Sharon Smith 

      8 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

      This is a great article CK. Two (out of 7 nieces and nephews) of my nephews have learning disabilities and ADHD. I have 2 sisters. Each nephew is the son of a different sister. I can see now that each of my sisters handled the situation very differently. My one nephew is 24 years old now and has a difficult time with "life." He acts out, can't hold a job, etc. I believe how his parents handled (or didn't handle) his learning disabilities made a big difference. He did not receive the confidence he needed in his earlier years. The other nephew is 16 years old now and very well adjusted. He is happy, thriving in school, and becoming a great football and basketball player. That sister and her husband handled his situation so differently. They never made him feel like he was different even though he attended special classes. They were always positive and optimistic.

      To me, the pieces in your "How To Cope" section are so critical for parents to keep in mind. This is really important information you have shared. Thanks!


    • Chatkath profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from California

      Thanks Katie-

      Yet another example of the extreme differences in all of us-even with the same parents! It sounds like you have had your hands full but it also sounds like you have tapped into the your daughter's creativity, an asset which will no doubt balance any negatives! Good job, thanks for stopping in!

    • katiem2 profile image

      Katie McMurray 

      8 years ago from Westerville

      Oh my how powerful this is, My first born is gifted and the perfect example of that, she began talking at six months, people freaked, reading by 11 months and reading fluently by 2, she test upper five percentile in the nation in all areas, math, reading, science and on and on...

      My youngest came two years and two months later...

      My youngest daughter is both gifted, dyslexic and hyper. Did I ever get slapped in the face with a huge difference.

      Oh my what a struggle we've had learning to translate the reality of the classroom with the way her brain see's it. We've learned that what is really a b to the world is in fact a b and not a d as Sarah sees it. Its confusing but in time she has learned to translate. She's a straight A student with some amazed teachers who constantly ask how we do it. Clearly she is dyslexic and hyper, she's all over the place and extremely creative. These kids are amazingly gifted people we just have to learn to keep up and pay attention.

      Thanks so much for your amazing piece on learning disabilities in children recognizing symtoms coping skills as both are vital.

    • Chatkath profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from California

      Thanks Alicia - I think we all know someone who has experienced this - usually not much fun....I appreciate your visit!

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      8 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I can relate to a lot of what you have written, since my sister has a learning disability and had a difficult time at school. Thank you for an important and informative hub.

    • Chatkath profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from California

      Thanks Green Lotus, you are so right! Hard to remember how the child might feel when you are hit with something like this! I appreciate your comment!

    • Green Lotus profile image


      8 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Well done Chatkath. This is important information and a comfort to many families. I believe everyone shines at something. Too often the school systems don't make the effort to discover each child's greatest talent and strength. It takes smart parenting too. rated up

    • Chatkath profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from California

      Thanks Darski, I know you are just the busiest girl these days, but that's great! You have so much to contribute where ever you go, now I know I'll never lose touch with you :-)

    • Darlene Sabella profile image

      Darlene Sabella 

      8 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

      Hello my dearest friends, this is so funny I just wrote something about disabilies, and here we are. LOL for this hub, fine minds think alike, I am writing on hubgages again, but tabbing into other sites as well. I till love to write here on hub. rate this up up up love & peace darski


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