If your preschool or kindergarten age child is showing frustration with school or simply having difficulty keeping on pace with their peers, it could be a sign of a learning disability. While some schools often wait until a child is in the early grades of elementary school to escalate and issues they may be having in class, experts say that screening for learning disabilities should come much sooner, before a child enters grade one.
According to The Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, twenty percent of the population has dyslexia, a learning disorder that affects one's ability to read, spell, write, and speak. Dyslexia represents between 80% and 90% of all those with learning disabilities, yet often children aren't diagnosed until after starting elementary school.
Todd Cunningham, a clinical psychologist and associate professor of Applied Psychology and Human Development at the University of Toronto explained to Today's Parent why early assessment is so important.“Most kids get to the point where they see ‘d-o-g’ and automatically know that it’s ‘dog,’” Cunningham explained adding that other literacy skill challenges can lead to difficulty in learning to read.
If children aren't diagnosed early and given early intervention to help them catch up with their peers, by the time they are diagnosed it can be too late. “If left untreated, this weakness becomes a huge issue,” says Cunningham. “Since these kids can’t read, they can’t access the information in the curriculum that we’re presenting to them.”
Today's Parent notes that research indicates that the earlier a child receives help, like specialized tutoring, the better their chances are of catching up. 80% of children in grade 1 who have trouble reading are able to catch up to their peers if they are given early help, whereas that success rate drops to 50% if a child doesn't receive that help until the second grade. Waiting until the third grades show even lower rates of success, with only 20% effectiveness. “Early intervention is essential,” Cunningham told the magazine.
Unfortunately, children aren't always screened before the first grade so Cunningham suggests parents be vigilant in noting if they think their child may need extra help. “If parents have a gut feeling that something’s up, they should first address it with their child’s teacher,” he recommends. If their response isn't what the parent wants to hear, a private assessment may be in order.