Jane D. Hull once wrote, “at the end of the day, the most overwhelming key to a child’s success is the positive involvement of parents.”
This sage advice does not differ when applied to the parent of a child with learning differences. The positive involvement of one or both parents can determine the difference between success and failure for the child who struggles to learn. And the earlier the positive involvement begins, the better for all concerned.
Research in the field of learning differences is clear – early intervention is the key to long-term positive outcomes.
The sooner a child with learning challenges is evaluated, diagnosed and begins to receive supportive intervention and accommodation, the lesser the overall negative effect of the learning difference. In many years of work in the field of learning differences, there has never been an occasion where a parent discussed regretting early intervention. In many, many cases, however, there is great parental regret over having waiting too long to begin the evaluation, diagnosis and intervention process.
The longer a child must wait for intervention, the easier it is for the seeds of doubt to take root. The child may begin to believe that the learning difference forms the basis of their identity, and that school failure is to be expected. Effective early intervention services can prevent such harmful seeds from ever finding fertile ground in which to grow.
According to LD Online, symptoms of learning differences in preschool through grade 4 include:
- Speaks later than most children
- Pronunciation problems
- Slow vocabulary growth, often unable to find the right word
- Difficulty rhyming words
- Trouble learning numbers, alphabet, days of the week, colors, shapes
- Extremely restless and easily distracted
- Trouble interacting with peers
- Difficulty following directions or routines
- Fine motor skills slow to develop
- Slow to learn the connection between letters and sounds
- Confuses basic words
- Makes consistent reading and spelling errors including letter reversals (b/d), inversions (m/w), transpositions (felt/left), and substitutions (house/home)
- Transposes number sequences and confuses arithmetic signs
- Slow to remember facts
- Slow to learn new skills, relies heavily on memorization
- Impulsive, difficulty planning
- Unstable pencil grip
- Trouble learning about time
- Poor coordination, unaware of physical surroundings, prone to accidents
While this is not an exhaustive list of symptoms, it is a guide that parents can use to determine if their child might be in need of additional support in the classroom, or a full assessment for the presence of a learning difference.
Once the need for early intervention has been determined, the next most important step is for parents to ensure that their child is placed in the most supportive, enriching educational environment possible. Assessing the right fit for the child with a learning challenge requires exhaustive research, interviews with school personnel and possession of the right documentation to ensure access to all applicable learning supports.
The longer a student with a learning difference languishes in an unsupportive environment with people who do not thoroughly understand the challenges the child faces, the more likely the student is to suffer negative school and life outcomes.
Conversely, students who are educated in an environment where learning differences are understood, and even celebrated, can look forward to far greater success in school and in life. The simple process of experiencing academic and social success in school, despite a learning challenge, lays the groundwork for a positive mindset.
As a result, the child realizes he can succeed with the learning difference, not in spite of it. This understanding helps guide the child toward a future of unlimited potential.
Jason Culp has been the Head of Upper School at Lawrence since 2010 and a member of the Lawrence School community since 2002. Jason holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Baldwin-Wallace College and a Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling from Capella University. Jason is licensed as a Professional Counselor (PC) with the State of Ohio Counselor, Social Worker and Marriage and Family Therapist Board.