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10 Learning Disabilities Mom Can See Before Her Child Turns 5 (And 10 Ways To Help)

It seems like more children than ever are receiving a diagnosis for a learning disability. While the causes of many of those conditions are unclear, what is clear is moms’ responsibilities when it comes to acknowledging their children’s challenges and seeking help. But first, it takes some objective thinking about each child’s abilities, strengths, and struggles.

It’s not easy to acknowledge that your child may have a learning disability or special need. But it’s crucial to recognize significant delays in speech, social abilities, and other learning and living-related abilities. For kids to get past their challenges, parents have to be hands-on, proactive, and willing to take advice from professionals and peers.

Although it may take a village to raise a child, it’s mom’s job to know her little one inside and out, better than anyone else. For that reason, it often falls on mom to determine just how severe her child’s learning disability may be and find appropriate help. To that end, here are ten common learning disabilities that moms can see in kids as young as five, along with recommendations for ten things mamas can do to help their little ones succeed not in spite of, but alongside, a diagnosis.

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20 Slower With Speech

People say that Albert Einstein didn’t speak until he was five or so years old. But for most moms, a baby who isn’t at least trying to verbalize by age one or two is a cause for concern. Sure, in some cases, they’re just busy learning other skills. But a child who doesn’t speak at all by age five likely has a speech delay, according to neurodevelopmental pediatricians. Also, the NY Times reported, lack of speech could be a sign of autism or other neurodevelopmental disorders. In kids with speech delays, they may have no words at all or just a handful that they typically use. Either way, the fewer the words, the bigger the chance the child has an underlying challenge.

19 Struggling To Speak

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A complete lack of speech is one thing, but there are other disorders kids can have that relate to speech. For example, children with apraxia of speech may have many words, but you may not be able to understand them all. And apraxia starts in a child’s brain- it’s more about not being able to get the words out rather than not “having” them. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, the early signs of apraxia of speech can include limited babbling, limited ability to vocalize different sounds, omissions of letters/sounds in words, and loss of words over time. Other symptoms can also include delays in motor skills, feeding difficulties, and more.

18 Letter Mixing Mistakes

Most preschoolers are learning to form letters between ages 3 and 5. After all, learning to trace and write your name is often the first required activity in kindergarten. And although children this young are not often reading yet, they can still have dyslexia, or the disorder which causes them to “mix up” letters. According to Understood.org, preschoolers who mispronounce words, struggle with learning and naming numbers, colors, and letters, and have difficulty following directions may have dyslexia. Little ones with dyslexia may also confuse common objects- like handing you a spoon when you ask for a fork at home.

17 Social Symptoms Showing

Although the diagnosis of autism has become widespread, many parents are still reluctant to “label” their children, especially at such a young age. But often, moms recognize that there’s something different about their little ones, even as early as a few weeks old. According to Autism Speaks, common symptoms of autism that even apply to infants and toddlers on up include social cues like: lack of eye contact, no words by 16 months, loss of speech at any age, no smiles or joyful expressions by age six months or after, lack of use of gestures, and no babbling by 12 months.

16 Befuddled By Numbers

In general, preschoolers are just beginning to learn their numbers and to count. But most kids can count to 10 by kindergarten at least, with many school programs expecting more number familiarity than that. In contrast, children with dyscalculia - a condition which affects the ability to learn and make sense of numbers - may struggle. For kids with dyscalculia, learning to count, sorting objects, misunderstanding time, and inability to remember phone numbers or addresses are common symptoms, Additude Mag explains. And although preschoolers don’t need to understand complex math equations yet, being able to memorize 911 or understand the passage of time are important developmental milestones.

15 Non-Verbal Challenges

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Though trouble with speech and language are common challenges for many children who have learning disabilities, there is a range of other conditions that don’t revolve around verbal struggles at all. In fact, there’s a separate diagnosis for non-verbal disabilities- NLD, or non-verbal learning disorder. While many kids with ADHD and autism have this diagnosis as well, NLD itself isn’t an indicator of speech or behavior problems. According to the Child Mind Institute, NLD relates to kids’ inability to understand relationships, concepts, ideas, and patterns. NLD can affect kids’ physical coordination, spatial and visual awareness, social interaction, planning, and organization of thoughts.

14 More Than Rambunctious

Although parents of young children understand that there’s a certain level of chaos that comes with being part of the under-5 set, there are some behaviors that give moms pause. Clearly, there’s a difference between a rambunctious tot and one who has a learning disability diagnosis like ADHD. According to The National Resource on ADHD, kids as young as age 4 can be diagnosed with the condition. CHADD, as it’s known, explains that preschoolers exhibiting disruptive behavior may have ADHD if they have other symptoms like difficulty sustaining attention, difficulty with organization/losing things, forgetfulness, fidgeting, and excessive talking, just to name a few.

13 Not So Active Lack Of Attention

Though ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, shares some symptoms with ADD, or Attention Deficit Disorder, the two are not necessarily interchangeable. While ADHD involves symptoms like not being able to sit still or acting as if they’re powered by a motor, kids with ADD are often lacking the “hyperactive/impulsive” component of ADHD, Healthline explains. While the umbrella of ADHD includes ADD symptoms, kids with ADD may show an inability to concentrate/inattentiveness, but they may not be so energized as children that have symptoms of hyperactivity or impulsivity. Because symptoms range in severity, it’s often hard to obtain a clear diagnosis, especially in young kids.

12 Audio Not All The Way On

Plenty of kids have trouble listening, but moms know when it’s simple inattention versus a serious underlying problem. For example, if your normally well-behaved three-year-old can’t follow two-part directions like “Go get your shoes and put them on,” she may have APD, or auditory processing disorder. Symptoms of auditory processing disorder, according to the Auditory Processing Center, include some speech difficulties, high distractibility, the need to have directions repeated, difficulty focusing or sitting still, sensitivity to sounds, higher ease/level of comfort with non-verbal concepts, and the tendency to learn better through hands-on activities rather than listening to directions or lessons.

11 Curious Crayon Use

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When young children are learning to write, it’s common to see them use “creative” means of putting pencil to paper. But difficulty using a pencil, including an awkward grip or a reluctance to write at all, are symptoms of dysgraphia. According to Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities, dysgraphia can occur alone or alongside dyslexia, other language disorders, or ADHD. Even if your child has an impressive vocabulary and great memorization skills, if they’re struggling with writing letters or forming shapes, tire quickly when writing, or avoid writing altogether, those may be signs of dysgraphia. Of course, the symptoms will only worsen as your child gets older and more is expected of him or her in terms of putting ideas onto paper.

10 Parental Peace Of Mind

Though you may read through the descriptions of all these conditions and feel panicked at the possibility your child might have a learning disability, don’t overthink it yet! Most kids have some sort of challenges as they grow, whether it’s a hard time learning to read or difficulty mastering counting. Some variances are within the parameters of “normal,” and these explanations of learning disabilities shouldn’t strike fear into your heart. Therefore, the first step in helping your child overcome any challenges is visiting with their pediatrician. Hopefully, you have a professional you can trust and who has followed your child since birth. This way, they’ll be most familiar with your child’s development and be able to give advice and/or referrals for potential problems.

9 Early Intervention Impacts

With every condition listed here, the first piece of advice experts give is to get kids services as soon as possible. Because we, as moms, can’t be well-versed in every potential learning disability out there, it can be hard to go it alone when trying to help our little ones. With or without a formal diagnosis, getting your child into some form of intervention program or therapy might be the most impactful step you can take toward helping them thrive. And while not every learning disability will simply disappear, most can be improved upon over time as your child grows and learns ways to work with and around their challenges.

8 Patient Parents Mean Progress

Once moms are able to explain why their children are struggling, it’s tempting to jump right into every recommended form of intervention. And while it’s helpful to get kids some kind of professional help ASAP, you also have to realize that overcoming learning disabilities means a potentially rough road ahead. While some conditions may ease as your child grows, you can’t expect overnight changes. In fact, placing too high a demand on your child’s abilities may cause him or her to regress. Being supportive is key, but so is being patient as your child learns to work within his own range of abilities.

7 Mainstream Majority

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In terms of public education, the term “mainstream” means educating children with special needs in a classroom alongside their “typically developing” peers. In a nutshell, it means your child is in class with other kids who are on schedule as far as development and lack any serious learning challenges. If your child has a severe enough learning disability that he or she requires special education services, putting him or her in a “regular” classroom can help improve self-esteem, social skills, and academic achievement, according to Concordia University-Portland. Ideally, your child will benefit from being around kids who can set an example when it comes to learning behavioral and social cues, among other skills.

6 Get The Right Help

Although remaining or transitioning into a mainstream classroom is beneficial for many kids, experts may recommend that your child attends a special education preschool or another program. Many parents may resist enrolling their child in a “special ed” program because of the stigma attached to it. Therefore, it’s important that moms investigate these programs and determine whether they’re a good fit. In the end, a special education program may be just the setting your child needs to learn to live with their challenges and excel while managing them. At the same time, even though you may be seriously concerned about your child’s struggles, they may not need as intensive a classroom experience as you might expect. It all comes down to getting the right help through the right channels.

5 Make Learning Fun

Especially if your little one is in a preschool or other full-day program, too much “school” can be overwhelming. Most children who have a learning disability begin some sort of therapy or intensive classroom program. That means home time is downtime, just the way it is for adults. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t encourage your child’s development with fun activities. For example, kids with dysgraphia, difficulty writing, may benefit from manipulating play dough. Children with speech challenges might enjoy singing to simple songs. Ask your child’s teacher or therapist for suggestions for making fun time learning time, and vice versa!

4 Sourcing Support For Mom

As a mom of a child with a learning disability, you need to take care of yourself so that you can help your child! Finding online forums or groups where other parents discuss the challenges and rewards of parenting can help you cope. Whether it’s finding advice on how to organize your child with autism’s space for the lowest chance of frustration or creating fun activities that will help your child with dysgraphia’s skills improve, other moms are a rich source of advice and guidance. At the same time, you should be careful not to compare your child with others in terms of progress or lack thereof. Even with a learning disability, every child is still different- regardless of diagnosis.

3 Consider Unconventional Means

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While studies are somewhat limited in terms of alternative therapies for many conditions, there’s no harm in trying “unconventional” means of helping your child. For example, some dietary changes may help relieve symptoms in kids with ADHD or ADD- such as cutting out sugar or food dyes. In some cases, you might skip formal therapy and follow the same practices at home, where your child is more comfortable. Either way, getting more one-on-one time with mom and eating less sugar is good for every kid, so some less-than-conventional means of action are easy to implement and are not dangerous at all.

2 Avoid The Rabbit Hole

Although it’s important to be well-informed for both your and your child’s sakes, there’s a limit to how much Googling is healthy. While searching online can help you find sources of guidance for both mom and child, try not to take every tidbit of information too seriously. On that same note, don’t expect every revelation you stumble across to change your life, or your child’s. What works for one child may not work for another, so relying too much on research and planning can cause moms to forget the true focus: the child. Try to work with your little one, rather than planning everything for them, and take it easy on yourself, too.

1 Be Careful With Labels

In today’s world, it’s considered inaccurate and even unethical to label someone according to their ability or disability. People-first language is a “linguistic prescription” of the English language that is a type of “disability etiquette.” Simply put, it means that the person is the first priority, with their condition or disability as one aspect of that whole person, The Arc explains. Just as you wouldn’t want someone to label your little one “that ADHD kid,” it’s similarly acknowledged that you shouldn’t describe any other individual that way, either. After all, as the mom of a child with a learning disability, you know that your child’s happiness and wellbeing come first- and after that comes treatment of the condition that is challenging them.

References: ASHA.org, NY Times, Understood.org, Autism Speaks, Additude Mag, Child Mind Institute, CHADD, Healthline, SmartKidswithLD.org, Concordia University Portland, The Arc

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