In some children, the warning signs of a learning disorder (LD) look very much like ADHD. For example, having a short attention span, having trouble completing or following directions, becoming easily distracted, and trouble with organization. Quite often, ADHD and learning challenges occur together (30 to 40% of the time!). Unfortunately, ADHD treatment does nothing to help remediate the deficits associated with specific learning disabilities such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, nonverbal learning disorders, and more. So, if your child was previously diagnosed with ADHD and medication does not seem to be helping his or her school performance substantially, you might consider getting learning disability testing to look more closely at your child’s symptoms.
In other children, the warnings signs are often subtle or are deemed to be “developmentally appropriate.” In bright children with great verbal skills, and gifted children in particular, learning challenges can be masked for a long time. However, if you or your child experience any of the following issues, a learning disorder evaluation should be considered:
- Discrepancy between abilities outside of learning environment and performance in classes. For example, a child with an advanced vocabulary who shows deep understanding of concepts, but is unable to memorize facts.
- Delayed speech development
- Trouble sounding out words, particularly when this persists into upper elementary school or middle school
- Missing words or skipping lines when reading – needing to re-read passages
- Trouble memorizing basic math facts (e.g. multiplication tables)
- Difficulty telling the time or learning right from left
- Resistance to a particular subject – e.g. a child who is bright and capable, but resists reading, says “I hate writing,” or has unusual difficulty grasping certain subjects.
- Reading at an advanced level, but failing spelling tests.