With school in full swing, kids and teens are quickly becoming occupied with worksheets, quizzes, homework, and projects. It might feel like the work will never end. The amount of work and learning that takes place each week can be overwhelming for any child, let alone one that is falling behind.

Learning disabilities usually present in children at a young age. However, that doesn’t always mean that a diagnosis will be provided. With teachers around these young minds for 8 hours of the day, in addition to their expertise, they’re able to pick up on learning disabilities a lot sooner than a parent may. Therefore, it’s important that parents and teachers work together to understand and identify learning problems in kids in teens.

Parents: Remember, this doesn’t mean if you don’t pick up on the signs that you’re a bad parent. It’s important that you listen to your child’s teacher when something is off and seek out professional help sooner rather than later. With the proper treatment plan and professional help, children with learning disabilities can learn well alongside their classmates.

Learning Disabilities and Autism Spectrum Disorder: What Do These Look Like?

Learning Disabilities

Learning disabilities interfere with learning basic skills such as reading, writing, and/or math. Having a learning disability does not mean that you are below average on the intelligence scale. In fact, most people with learning disabilities are average or above average. This is why it can sometimes be difficult to diagnose a child who has one.

Learning disabilities are a lifelong challenge. They don’t just simply “go away.” With the right support and education, though, someone with a learning disability can achieve great success in school, work, and their relationships. Some common early signs of learning disabilities include problems with reading, writing, and/or math; poor memory; trouble following directions, difficulty telling time; trouble staying organized; problems paying attention; and clumsiness. Different types of learning disabilities include:

  • Dyslexia: This presents in children as late talking, slowly learning new words, and a delay in their ability to read.
  • Dyscalculia: Dyscalculia affects a child’s ability to understand, learn, and perform math and number-based problems.
  • Dysgraphia: This learning disability predominately affects writing abilities. This includes spelling, bad handwriting, and trouble putting thoughts onto paper.
  • Non-Verbal: Children have problems with interpreting nonverbal cues such as facial expressions and body language.
  • Oral/Writing Language Disorder: Also known to be a specific reading comprehension deficit, this form of learning disability affects one’s ability to understand what they have read or heard and to recall on that knowledge.

Disorders such as ADHD, dyspraxia, and executive functioning are also known to be related to common learning disabilities.

Signs and Symptoms of Autism

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are developmental disabilities that affect one’s ability to communicate, interact, behave, and learn. The ASD scale ranges from people who are gifted to severely challenged. ASD starts presenting before the age of 3 and can continue to develop over time.

Autism is not just one thing. It ranges from person to person and can present more mild or severe depending on the situation. However, there are some common “red flags” to look out for in children. This includes avoiding eye contact, repeating words or phrases over and over, getting upset over minor changes, having obsessive interests, not responding to their name by 12 months old, having difficulty talking about their feelings or understanding others, and having unusual reactions to the way things sound, smell, taste, look, or feel.

Autism signs include a variety of areas that center on behavioral, cognitive, developmental, and emotional areas. Behavioral areas include inappropriate social interaction, poor eye contact, compulsive behavior, impulsivity, repetitive movements, self-harm, or persistent repetition of words or actions. They may also have developmental delays in speech and language in addition to fine and gross motor skills difficulties. Cognitive deficits can include intense interest in selected things or topics. Emotional signs of Autism focus on lack of eye contact, limited connection or awareness of others including siblings and peers, and emotional disconnect from parents and other family members.

Working with Educators

It’s important for teachers and parents to work together to create the best learning environment possible for the child. Dr. Tom DeGeorge, PhD of Thriveworks Counseling in Philadelphia, PA—specializing in children, adolescents, relationships, and families—says parents and teachers must create a healthy partnership when working with a child who has a learning disability.

“The best thing a parent can do to assist a teacher with their child is to establish a supportive and informative relationship, letting the teacher know that you want to work with him/her to provide support. By establishing an open dialogue early in the school year, avoids any miscommunications and both parties are better equipped to handle any future issues,” Dr. DeGeorge explains. “Sharing with your child’s teacher the areas of strengths and concern for your child allows that teacher to connect in a more positive manner. Appropriate connections allow both parties to stay connected throughout the school year and shows your child that you are invested in their education.”

Supporting Your Child Every Step of the Way

Whether you have a feeling or your child’s teacher has thoughts on a learning disability that may be affecting your child, the best thing you can do is get an accurate diagnosis. Psychological testing can provide you with a full range of knowledge as well as the best way to move forward that benefits your child the most. Schools and educators have the tools and ability to cater to your child’s specific needs in order to give them the best educational experience possible.

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Madison Bambini

Madison Bambini is a Communications Coordinator at Thriveworks. She received her bachelor's degree from VCU in mass communications, focusing on digital journalism and broadcast journalism. She also minored in gender, sexuality, and women's studies. Coupled with her love for writing, Madison enjoys producing content that is inclusive, empowering, and promotes the importance of mental health.

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