5 Signs that help Recognize Learning Disabilities in Students

Learning disabilities are not always obvious. They can present in various ways. When children struggle or are behind their peers, it can seem like they just need to work a little harder to catch up. Some parents blame themselves when their children can’t keep up with their schoolwork or have trouble learning new things.Even when parents suspect a learning disability, they may be afraid that “labeling’ their children as learning disabled can change how they are perceived or limit their academic or career options. That’s not likely to be the case. Learning disabilities are surprisingly common. The National Center for Learning Disabilities estimates that 1 in 5 children in the US has a learning disability.

The sooner you take action to find out what is going on with your child, the better the chance
of improving their learning experience and getting them on track. It’s never too soon or too late to get your child evaluated for learning disabilities. Here are some signs that parents and
teachers should watch for. Potential Signs Present in Learning-Disabled Students Parents or teachers of learning-disabled students can use the signs listed below to determine if their child or student may have a learning disability. Keep in mind that, in most cases, it’s a
matter of degree. Many children are messy or dawdle over homework or have sloppy
handwriting. Those with learning disabilities can’t seem to help themselves, no matter how
hard they try. If you observe these signs, a professional evaluation is in order.

1. Being Disorganized and Messy

Organization doesn’t come naturally. Children learn through their parents and
caregivers early. Stacking blocks, sorting shapes, or returning toys to the proper bins is
all part of being organized. These lessons carry over to keeping school papers in order
and their desks tidy. Organizing their thoughts and research for large projects gets more
challenging as their schoolwork gets more complex. It comes naturally to some children,
not to all, but that’s okay. They can manage to organize themselves if they have to or if
the cost of disorganization outweighs the benefits. But not so for children with learning

They can’t organize themselves or control their mess no matter what the consequences
or how hard they try. They can be smart and excel in other areas, but it just gets away from them. These are the kids who always seem to be missing items they need for class.
They forget their gloves for baseball practice. They complete their homework but fail to
turn it in. As time goes on, they feel continually frustrated. They know they’re doing
their best, but it doesn’t look like it. Their confidence and self-esteem end up in tatters, and they don’t want to try anymore.

These difficulties may indicate they have Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity
Disorder (ADHD), an executive function disorder, that affects more than 6.4 million

2. Spending TOO much time on homework and assignments

When you see a child diligently working on their homework night after night, your first
thought may be how proud you are of their effort. But when all that effort fails to be
reflected on their report card, you have to wonder where the disconnect is.
They may be spending a lot of time on their homework because they are having trouble
with reading, writing, or organizing their thoughts or work because of a learning
disability. They could be unable to focus or just staring at the page in frustration.
Homework which should be a task to complete before spending time with friends and
family or hobbies and sports, ends up being a marathon.

As a parent, you may be to assume the child is being lazy or stubborn. After all –
homework is boring. But, when it goes on night after night and the time invested
doesn’t pay off, it’s worth investigating. If you notice your child is spending an
inordinate amount of time on their schoolwork but not seeing commensurate results in
their grades, it may be time to take them for a learning disability evaluation.
It can indicate a number of learning difficulties, including Dyslexia, Dyscalculia,
Dysgraphia, or an Auditory Processing Disorder.

3. Hates Reading and has Poor Handwriting

Not everyone loves to read. Some kids are more interested in sports than sitting quietly
and reading. But for some students, reading is fraught with stress and anxiety,
particularly those with dyslexia. When a typical person reads, they recognize some
words and sound out the ones they don’t. With dyslexia, that doesn’t work. For them,
even words they use in daily conversation may as well be another language. They struggle with understanding and begin to avoid reading entirely. Dyslexia can cause
students to have fluency, spelling, and comprehension difficulties.

A lack of training or rushing can cause poor handwriting. In very young children, eye-
hand coordination may still be developing. Left-handed children are more likely to have
difficulty writing legibly. Those who spend a lot of time on screens and little time using a
pen or pencil may simply not have enough practice. But if none of these factors seem to
be the case, your child may have dysgraphia, a learning disability that causes difficulty
with written expression. These students may have trouble forming letters or fitting their
writing into small spaces. They may also need help organizing their thoughts on paper or
understanding sentence structure and grammar rules.
Children who struggle with reading and writing should be tested for learning differences
as early as possible. Perhaps, their struggles are something they will grow out of, but if
not, the sooner they can get into a program designed for their specific challenges, the

4. Poor Social Skills

Children and teens with ADHD or other neurological disorders may have trouble
socializing and making friends. Impulse control can be a large part of the struggle. They
can have trouble waiting for their turn in games and sports. They may interrupt or blurt
out remarks that are inappropriate or poorly timed. Speaking too fast, with too much
detail, or rambling is common.

Executive dysfunction makes the normal give and take of social interaction difficult.
They may not recognize social cues or listen to others.

They are easily overwhelmed and may experience rejection-sensitive dysphoria (RSD),
meaning they have trouble managing their emotions or handling rejection. To their
peers, they can appear too sensitive or volatile. Their fear of rejection can lead to actual
rejection. Difficulty with social skills or making friends becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
While ADHD is not always classified as a learning disorder, early testing and treatment
are essential to their success in school, at home and in social situations. A private school
for learning disabilities can help students who have ADHD.

5. Does not Perform Well in Standardized Tests

Standardized testing is pervasive throughout the American educational experience,
from early elementary school through the graduate level. The results are used for
everything from placement to funding through admission to college and post-graduate
programs. Even children who otherwise do fine with their schoolwork can struggle with
the structure and demands of standardized testing.

For students with learning difficulties, these tests can be a nightmare. Depending on the
nature of their disability, they may need more time than is permitted to complete the
exam. They could struggle with understanding the instructions, reading the questions,
completing mathematical equations, or filling in the form as required. Parents and
teachers should keep a close eye on students who are not doing well in Common Core
exams, PSATs, or any other standardized tests. It could be a learning disability. Their test
results should be pretty close to their known abilities. If it’s significantly lower or they
are unable to complete the test, further investigation is warranted.

Next Steps-Connect with a Private School for Learning Disabilities for an Evaluation

For many students, a private school for learning disabilities can be the key to their success.
While most public schools do their best with the resources available to them, but children with
learning difficulties can easily slip through the cracks. Class sizes are larger and teachers can’t spend the time they would like with children who need one-on-one attention. Students may try to conceal their difficulties or refuse help because they don’t want to appear different to their peers. Your child may resist getting the proper diagnosis for a learning disability, but it will make a significant difference to what they are able to get from their educational experience.

Why Choose The Gow School for Your Child

The Gow School is a learning disabilities school in NY that can give students the support and
attention they need to succeed. Since 1926, Gow has helped children with dyslexia,
dyspraxia, CAPD (central auditory processing disorder), dyscalculia, dysgraphia, ADHD)
or executive function difficulties achieve their true potential.
Our boarding school for learning disabilities in NY accommodates students from 6 th through 12th grade. We have been trusted by parents and students from 50 states and 22 countries for nearly 100 years. Gow alumni include architects, artists, chefs, doctors, engineers,
entrepreneurs, lawyers, and even an Olympic athlete. 

See what a Day in the Life of a Student at a Learning Differences Boarding School is like, then learn about our approach to learning disabilities or request information.

Additional Resources:
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
U.S. Department of Education
Learning Disabilities Association of America
National Center for Learning Disabilities
Social Thinking