How can I tell if my child has a learning disability?

Children learn at different rates and with different styles during the kindergarten years; however, if your child has significant trouble learning numbers and letters or with speech, he may have a learning disability. Knowing the signs of learning disabilities and getting the necessary early intervention is key to the child’s success. imgresThe earlier the learning disability is detected, the better chance the child will have of succeeding in school and in life. Because the first years in school are crucial to a child, it is important to recognize signs of a learning disability early on. Difficulty with reading and language is the most common learning disability. Studies have shown that students who are at risk for reading difficulties were able to achieve average or above average reading ability when they received help early on. Parents can give their children the necessary skills for coping with and compensating for a learning disability, with early detection and intervention. Children with learning diimgressabilities process information differently, but are generally of average or above-average intelligence. A learning disability can affect a child’s ability to read, write, speak, do math, and build social relationships. Early warning signs commonly associated with learning disabilities between the preschool years and fourth grade are listed below. Many times, young children will exhibit one or two of these behaviors, but consistent problems with a group of behaviors are a good indication that your child may have a learning disability.

Early Warning Signs for Preschoolers:

  • Late talkers, compared to other children
  • Pronunciation problems
  • Slow vocabulary growth, often with word-finding difficulties
  • Difficulty identifying and producing rhyming words
  • Difficulty learning numbers, the alphabet, and days of the week
  • Extremely restless and easily distracted
  • Trouble interacting with peers
  • Poor ability to follow directions or routines
  • Poor fine motor skills

What should I do?

If you suspect that your child has a learning disability, a complete psychological evaluation will need to be completed in order to make a firm diagnosis. Speech-language-pathologists, occupational therapists, and physical therapists will be part of the team to give information to the psychologists on how the child performs in the areas of speech, language, motor, and sensory skills. Evaluations for each area of concern will be helpful in order to see what level your child is functioning at for each specific area. Many children with learning disabilities will require speech therapy in order to focus on goals to target improvement of speech and language skills, such as reading, understanding/using language, phonemic awareness tasks, following directions, etc. Children will not only make improvement toward each goal, but learn specific compensatory strategies in order to help them overcome these challenging areas. Children with learning disabilities may also require occupational therapy in order to focus on fine motor skills, such as cutting, gluing, grasping a pencil correctly, buttoning, zipping, and tying. A collaboration of therapies, along with tutoring may be required. Children with learning disabilities can be successful in school and life with early intervention and team collaboration approach!

Your child might benefit from PT if they:

  • Have poor coordination: if they fall often, trip or run into objects frequently
  • Have increase muscle tone or decrease muscle tone
  • Demonstrate poor balance
  • Have delayed gross motor skills development
  • Have poor trunk strength: seem to slouch or “W” sit frequently, have trouble staying in a chair or sitting upright on the floor
  • As an infant, seem to only be looking one way or have a tilted head position
  • Have suffered an injury and are having difficulty recovering on their own
  • Seem weaker than peers or have trouble keeping up with peers at school (such as in PE ex: difficult with jumping jacks or climbing monkey bars)
  • Walk on toes frequently (tightness in heels)
  • Complain of pain such as in back, foot, etc.


Activities to support gross motor skills

Gross motor skills involve larger movements and control of the arms, legs, head, and trunk

Summer is just around the corner! Here are some fun activities parents can help develop their children’s gross motor skills while living a healthy, active lifestyle.  Remember to visit playgrounds often! When children are exposed to slides, swings, monkey bars, and seesaws they naturally want to explore, swing, climb, etc.

  • Running
  • Throwing and catching a ball (use a variety of different size balls)
  • Hopping
  • Pushing and pulling
  • Swinging
  • Riding a bike
  • Swimming
  • Skipping
  • Climbing stairs
  • Playing kick ball
  • Frisbee toss

The holidays are approaching quickly and many parents struggle with gifts for their children.  Many parents want to get gifts that are fun but also functional.  Following are some gift ideas that your child will love and at the same time will help promote and foster gross and fine motor,  sensory play, and visual perception.  The following games/toys can be found on, and/or walmart/target.

  1. Teeter popper by Fat Brainimgres
  2. Kinetic sand and/or play dough
  3. Magnaformers
  4. Pogo stick
  5. Snap Circuits Motion
  6. Game “Rush Hour”
  7. Scooter board
  8. Swingimages
  9. Bike
  10. Jump rope
  11. Game “Perfection”
  12. Squigz
  13. Therapy ball or peanut ball
  14. Bilibo
  15. “Spot it” – there are sevimgres.jpgeral different “Spot it!” games depending on age of child
  16. Fine motor craft bucket

Does my child need speech therapy for a lisp?

It is not typical for a child 4 and up to have a lisp. If your child is over 4 years old and still has a lisp speech therapy would be warranted. Speech therapy does work for these children and a lisp can be corrected. The child would be taught the correct lip and tongue placements in order to correct the sounds and redirect the airflow.


Does my two year old need speech therapy if he is not talking much?new_corner_pic1.png

A typically developing 2 year old should have at least 50 words. If your child is not saying at least 50 words and starting to put 2-3 words together to form phrases then you should consider getting a speech therapy evaluation. Some children (especially boys) can just be delayed with their speech. Getting a speech evaluation will help to determine the cause and what treatments are needed to help the child develop more speech.


Does your child have difficulty reading?

You may notice your child is having difficulty with reading or may not be reading at his appropriate grade level. Even if your child’s teacher is not concerned but you feel in your gut that your child is not reading as well as he should be it is a good idea to have him evaluated by a speech therapist. A speech evaluation will help to pinpoint what type of difficulties he may be having and the speech therapist can refer you to a reading tutor along with therapy if needed.


How is your child’s handwriting?

If you look at pictures hung in the classroom or writings the students have done, is your child’s the worse? If your answer is yes then your child would benefit from occupational therapy. Occupational therapy works on improving those fine motor skills associated with drawing, writing, and cutting with scissors.corner_pic_pt2.png

Does your child spend way too much time on their smartphone, iPad, computer, or gaming device? Here are 7 tips to help parents wean their children from these devices:imgres.jpg

  1. Limit alone time: Keep the computer in a public part of the house where you can monitor how much time they are spending on the internet. This will also make a child more reluctant about going to certain websites. Smart phones can be trickier to control but you can prevent them from taking them to their own room which may limit their amount of game time.
  2. Passwords protection: Putting a password on your phone or in a place where a credit card purchase is possible will ensure they only play games with your permission and will prevent them from purchasing extra goodies which may limit their game time.
  3. Use transitions: When children are playing games it’s best to warn them when their time is almost up. To avoid a meltdown, 10 minutes before dinner, let them know their time is running short.
  4. You’re the boss: The parent is still the one in charge. If gaming is still a problem then the obvious answer is to restrict the amount of time spent playinimages.jpgg or access to iPads and mobile devices.
  5. Fill their time: After restricting their game time fill that time with another activity. For some kids playing games is a way to relieve stress, fill a hole in their social lives, or simply relieve boredom. You can sign them up soccer, take them on a bike ride, get them out of the house, etc.
  6. Set a good example: Children learn from their parents. If parents are non-stop on their devices then children will view it as acceptable behavior. So parents should put their phones or tables down during meals or when spending time playing with their children.
  7. Kick your addiction: Parents need to take a look at their dependence on mobile devices. Often time parents slip a mobile device in to their child’s hand to get some down time without someone tugging on their leg or to get through a meal at a restaurant. In moderation these are okay, but kids eventually need to learn how to behave without these crutches.

At JHA the therapists are prepared and equipped to work with children of varying need levels. One area that we love helping our clients to explore is Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC). AAC involves different modalities to assist our clients in finding their voices—whether it be picture communication system, an iPad app or a dedicated device. Some systems or devices that our clinicians have experienimgres.jpgce with include Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), ProLoQuo2Go, LAMP WFL, and dedicated devices from manufacturers like PrentkeRomich and Tobi.

These special systems can help children who are unable to communicate verbally, or who have limited verbal communication, to find their voices. The use of AAC can be very beneficial as a part of early intervention. Often, the use of a device can alleviate some of the frustration that communicators with special or unique needs may feel when they are unable to state their wants, needs, or comments. At JHA, we can help to decide if AAC is a good option for your child and can help find the right fit. If your child is having a difficult time generating words to express their wants and needs, or if you are interested in exploring AAC, contact us for more information.


Our team at JHA loves to help our clients soar by helping them to achieve their goals and try new things! This fall, we are starting a kickball league for children with special needs. Being on a sports team improves coordination, strength, language, and social skills. Being part of a team can teach children important social and personal skills including kickballflyersportsmanship, cooperation, participation, and how to successfully be a part of a group.

Our therapists will be present at the kickball games to encourage and support the children. Come out and join the fun! Kickball starts September 22nd. Contact us for more information. We hope you’ll join us!