Indicators of Learning Disabilities

Diagnosing a learning disability is a multi-step process, but there are certainly early indicators that an educator can pick up on and therefore refer the student for a child study.  As an English teacher, I commonly notice indicators of dyslexia and dysgraphia.  Both of these disabilities create reading comprehension problems, and issues with spelling.  Another common issue is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which shows up as inattention and focus issues, but can also create problems similar to dysgraphia.  Santrock (2013) categorizes its characteristics as ‘(1) inattention, (2) hyperactivity, and (3) impulsivity’.


There’s no one-size-fits-all prescription for children exhibiting these behaviors, so I try to individualize accommodations in my classroom as much as possible.  For some students, especially those facing disabilities that inhibit their reading comprehension or decoding time, I often level-texts, provide them extra time, and in some cases provide read-alouds when individual reading comprehension is not the primary objective.  Last year, I worked with a high population of ADHD students (mostly boys, as pointed out in the text), so I try to smoothly transition between multiple activities for each lesson, to allow brains to redirect and refocus, even if the activities are scaffolded to one end-objective.  I am very flexible with the type of writing utensils my students use, the type of paper on which they complete their assignments, and give them choice as to submit written or electronic work.


During the 2015-2016 school year, I taught an SOL Remediation course for one period each day, and that particular demographic came with its own stack of IEPs and 504 regulations.  It can be challenging to meet everyone where they need to be met each and every day, but that makes the reward of seeing their success even sweeter.  I also find that even though a particular student might not yet be identified as needing a particular accommodation, when they begin to benefit from a particular method that is in place to help another student, chances are they haven’t yet been identified for that need but it is present.  I find that flexibility and a willingness to embrace different components creates the ideal learning environment.

Santrock, J.W. (2013) Children (12th ed.). Columbus, OH: McGraw-Hill Education.

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