Does my child have a learning disability?

Learning disabilities may make life more of a challenge, but a diagnosis is not a life sentence. Shutterstock

For some children, despite having no known physical or mental disability, learning to read, write, spell, do maths, dress, throw and catch a ball, or organise themselves presents significant challenges. When childhood milestones involving speech and movement are slow to develop in young children, should parents be concerned that their child might have a learning disability?

Below we outline three learning disabilities and what to look out for.


One of the most common specific learning disabilities is dyslexia. Dyslexia is described as a difference in how children process information. It is often diagnosed shortly after starting school, when formal reading instruction begins. Some early signs of dyslexia are also observed during pre-school years.

Early indicators of dyslexia include poor phonological skills (the ability to manipulate sounds and words), difficulties with rhyme and rhythm, problems with remembering more than two pieces of information, and general forgetfulness. Physical co-ordination problems are often noticed in pre-schoolers who are later diagnosed with dyslexia. It is estimated that between 3% and 10% of children may have dyslexia.

Dyslexia affects the processing of words. Shutterstock

The most common symptoms of dyslexia in school-aged children include difficulties with reading (reading accurately), reading comprehension, spelling and writing. Children with dyslexia may also have difficulties with following instructions, memory and organisational skills (organising school equipment, time management). Dyslexia also affects children’s self-esteem, which can be further lowered by bullying or teasing from classmates.

A child with dyslexia can be supported in a number of ways. Teachers need to be acquainted with appropriate reading strategies, such as decoding words (sounding out letters to form words – cat, c-a-t) and word attack skills (sounding out nonsense words – bem, b-e-m).

Parents can assist by reading aloud and having their children follow along in the book. Involving children in conversations over dinner, or asking them to retell a story they heard, can be of great help as well. Using tablets or smartphones, in addition to traditional teaching strategies, can assist children with dyslexia with their reading, writing and organisation skills.


Developmental dyscalculia is a specific learning disability involving mathematics. Children can experience problems understanding numbers, learning how to manipulate numbers and learning basic maths facts.

Children are born with dyscalculia. It occurs in those with average to above average mental ability. It is estimated that between 5-15% of school-aged children and young adults have dyscalculia. One-quarter of students with dyscalculia are also diagnosed as having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Children with dyscalculia struggle with numbers. Shutterstock

The first signs of developmental dyscalculia are problems with counting, or being able to tell how many objects are in a group, even when there are just a few objects. Other signs of dyscalculia include: difficulty telling time or understanding time-related concepts, inability to discern which of two numbers is the larger, difficulty with memorising basic maths facts (like multiplication tables) and doing mental arithmetic, and difficulty with understanding mathematical formulae and concepts. Additional problems may include telling left from right, reading music and map reading.

Children with dyscalculia are best assisted by providing individualised instruction. Recent research has also shown promising results from computer-based instruction, where repeated opportunities to practice are provided in an engaging way.

When planning interventions, educators should consider the broad scope of mathematics skills to be learnt. Careful assessment is needed to determine what areas require attention. Skills should then be taught step-by-step. Other useful support strategies include the use of number lines, multiplication charts, an abacus and math games to support and reinforce student learning.


Developmental dyspraxia is also know as developmental co-ordination disorder (DCD). It is a condition where the co-ordination of arms, legs, fingers, mouth or eyes is less smooth, fluent or precise than seen in age-matched peers. Dyspraxia is thought to affect around 6% of children. Boys are four times more likely to present with symptoms than girls.

Dyspraxia can present as problems with co-ordination. Shutterstock

Dyspraxia can affect academic achievement (handwriting, speech) and everyday activities (use of cutlery, skipping). Problems with speech co-ordination are known as verbal dyspraxia. A high number of children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, language disorders, or born prematurely have dyspraxia.

The symptoms of dyspraxia vary from child to child, and from one developmental stage to the next. Speech co-ordination problems can include forming sounds, slower speech, limited vocabulary and perseveration (getting stuck on a word and repeating it). Poor oral co-ordination problems can also affect the ability to blow or suck.

Physical co-ordination problems may appear as clumsiness, poor balance, avoidance of toys that require good finger co-ordination (jigsaw puzzles), problems with pencil grip, or using scissors. There is a wide range of treatment options for dyspraxia. These include occupational therapy to improve motor co-ordination fluency and perceptual motor therapy, but research indicates some treatments are more effective than others.

It is important to keep in mind that regardless of the learning disability, the use of evidence-based interventions from a young age and throughout the school years can greatly improve a child’s academic, physical and social-emotional skills.

Having a learning disability is not a life sentence: just look at what Richard Branson and Steve Jobs have achieved.


Add Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Off On

Craig has been a brilliant supporter, very professional, friendly, approachable and excellent communication throughout. Craig has gone out of his way to provide assistance, this has been a great aid for dealing with all my education difficulties and I really appreciate. Couldn’t ask for a better service, I highly recommend.

Would totally recommend Develop us, made my son feel at ease. Having the assessment done in the comfort of his own surroundings I think was a big help. My son actually enjoy his day and didn’t seem stressed or worried about the assessments. Craig was so helpful and still is a month on sending me useful links etc. Thank you so much.

Craig has been a great help, he’s been considerate and clear throughout and provided further support. Craig has gone out of his way to provide guidance and assistance, which has been a huge comfort and aid for dealing with workplace and personal issues, for which I am wholly grateful and highly recommend his services.

I recently had an assessment as an adult for dyspraxia or Developmental Co-ordination Disorder after self-referring. Craig was brilliant throughout. Great to deal with, understanding of my needs, and very supportive. He gave me a comprehensive assessment and communicated to me the whole process in an easy to understand manner. The final report was well written and I now have the evidence I need to get support in the workplace. I would highly recommend him and Develop Us

Craig is very patient and maintained really excellent communication throughout the whole process. During his assessment he was professional and patient, and pulled out all the stops to get his report to us ASAP. Highly recommended.

Craig has been a brilliant supporter, very professional, friendly, approachable and excellent communication throughout. Craig has gone out of his way to provide assistance, this has been a great aid for dealing with all my education difficulties and I really appreciate. Couldn’t ask for a better service, I highly recommend.

Craig has been a fantastic support with my son, Craig offers a wealth of knowledge, experience and great advice. Craig is enthusiastic and has a great deal of patience with the people he supports, I would have no hesitation in recommending his services and wish him all the best in the future.

Craig has been a Godsend to myself and my husband and my eldest daughter who was diagnosed. I am glad I asked for Craig’s professional opinion on the matter.  I am glad he did the assessment and we got the outcome of what we have thought it was for a while now. Thank you Craig.

I am a student who has been receiving support and tutoring from Craig since November 2018. Since receiving tutorial support from Craig, I have progressed onto high-level courses and an access course which has helped with my studies, knowledge and work. Craig has shown me support and helped make my course work manageable. I feel that I have been able to turn to Craig with any question or doubt and have received nothing but clarity and guidance. Without Craig’s help and support I do not think I would have the courage and ability to complete the courses and progress to higher levels. I have had support off Craig for a variety of courses and with work advise.

I feel that Craig has given me the confidence to take steps in my life that I would not have made on my own. Craig has not only been friendly and supporting, but has also been very professional, reliable and organised with the help he has given me.


Craig engages with his students in a way that is both professional and clear and thus gains the most of the time spent in his classes.

Phone: 07575 678 567
Message us on Whatsapp