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Helping your child succeed | Common signs of learning disabilities

HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) — Most children experience academic difficulties in school at one time or another. Some may struggle with a specific subject while others may have difficulty adjusting to a certain style of teaching.

However, if your child has significant, ongoing academic and/or social problems at school, then he may have a learning disability, a neurobiological disorder that affects the way a child receives, processes or expresses information.

According to the National Institutes of Health, learning disabilities affect 1 in 7 people. In school, children with learning disabilities experience ongoing problems in the following areas, despite having average or above-average intelligence:

  • • Spoken language: Delays and deviations in listening and speaking;
  • • Written language: Difficulties with reading, writing and spelling;
  • • Mathematics: Difficulty in performing arithmetic operations or in understanding basic concepts;
  • • Reasoning: Difficulty in organizing and integrating thoughts; and
  • • Memory: Difficulty in remembering information and instructions.

It may also impair a child’s ability to build social relationships since these rely on accurate communication. Parents, therefore, need to be familiar with the common signs of a learning disability in order to get the right help for their child as soon as possible.

Some of the common learning disabilities include:

  • • Dyslexia: A reading disability typified by problems in receptive or expressive, oral or written language. Children experience difficulty in reading, spelling, writing, speaking or listening.
  • • Dyscalculia: Problems doing arithmetic, and grasping mathematical concepts.
  • • Dysgraphia: A writing disorder that causes children to have difficulty forming letters or writing within a defined space.
  • • Auditory, Memory and Processing Disability: Difficulty understanding or remembering words or sounds because their brains fail to understand language correctly. This can often be mistaken by parents and doctors as a hearing problem but, in fact, an individual with this disability is not able to process or memorize information.

Children with learning disabilities commonly exhibit difficulties in a number of the following areas:

Spoken or written language

  • • Pronouncing words and learning new vocabulary
  • • Following directions and instructions — get confused easily
  • • Understanding requests and responding to questions
  • • Discriminating among sounds
  • • Understanding concepts
  • • Reading comprehension
  • • Spelling
  • • Writing stories and essays
  • • Reading and writing — exhibit reversals
  • • Completing work — usually require extra time

Attention and concentration

  • • Completing tasks
  • • Acting before thinking
  • • Poor organization
  • • Restlessness
  • • Daydreaming
  • • Distractibility


  • • Remembering directions, names, or events
  • • Learning math facts, new procedures, or the alphabet
  • • Spelling
  • • Studying for tests
  • • Short-term and long-term memory


  • • Managing time
  • • Completing assignments
  • • Organizing thoughts
  • • Locating belongings
  • • Carrying out a plan
  • • Making decisions
  • • Setting priorities
  • • Discriminating size, shape, color
  • • Temporal (time) concepts such as knowing the time, date, year
  • • Poor organizational skills
  • • Abstract reasoning and/or problem-solving
  • • Thinking — frequently disorganized


  • • Impulsive or hyperactive behavior
  • • Difficulty making and keeping friends
  • • Exhibiting behavior often inappropriate for a situation
  • • Failing to see consequences for his actions
  • • Adjusting to environmental changes such as changes in daily routines
  • • Poor judgment when making decisions
  • • Interpreting nonverbal cues
  • • Working cooperatively
  • • Lags in developmental milestones — fine motor skills, language, etc.

If your child experiences any of the above consistently, contact your child’s teacher or school counselor to discuss your concerns. The earlier a learning disability is diagnosed, the better chance your child will have of succeeding in school and life.

Elizabeth Hamilton, M.Ed., MA, is a teacher with 29 years of professional experience. You can write to her at with your questions or comments.