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Signs of Learning Disabilities in Pre-K Kids

Developmental challenges can be spotted in children at a young age and early intervention is important.

As parents encounter behavior from young children that rattles their expectations, how are they to know if it signals a learning challenge?

Potential development challenges can be spotted at a very young age, says Dr. Anna Osipova, assistant professor in the Division of Special Education and Counseling at California State University, Los Angeles. She divides these benchmarks into four categories.

Behavior at 3 years or younger

  1. Mostly plays alone. 

  2. Uses toys with a specific function, like a car, for a different purpose, such as spinning the wheels. 

  3. Has difficulty with directions. 

  4. Throws frequent tantrums.
Gets easily frustrated and gives up easily.

  6. Has a hard time with changes in activities, plans, routines.

Language between 3 and 5 years

  1. Doesn’t add “s” for plurals or verbs but adds “ed” incorrectly, like “runned.”
  2. Has trouble with articulation, rhymes.
  3. Is slow to build vocabulary.
  4. Shows difficulty recalling a word he 
  5. Struggles with multi-step directions, forming questions, following or creating narratives.

Cognition by 5 years

  1. Finds it difficult to recall words, routines, rules.
  2. Can’t count in patterns, like by 2s, 5s, or backwards.
  3. Struggles to organize and sort objects.
  4. Does not grasp concepts of size, color, shape.
  5. Finds it hard to focus attention for 5 or 10 minutes.

Literacy and academics by kindergarten

  1. Struggles with rhymes, songs, colors, days of the week, and the alphabet.
  2. Is slow to name objects and characters in stories.
  3. Shows a delayed response to tasks and questions.
  4. Has difficulty with letter sounds or blending sounds to form words.
  5. Lacks interest in books.

Osipova, who teaches university-level courses in language and literacy development for students with special needs, says it is important for parents to bring up any concerns with their child’s pediatrician, who can screen for autism and language development as early as 18 months.

“The earlier the parents discuss their concerns with their pediatricians the better the chances are for effective intervention,” says Osipova. “I think it’s important for parents and educators to keep in mind that behavior, language, and later academic skills, including literacy, are interconnected with language skills often as the root of children’s strengths and difficulties.

“Language-based interventions at home and at school are likely to lead to improved behavior and academic skills.”

Kathryn Streeter is a freelance writer.

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