Detecting a Learning Disability

Health, Home & Family
on August 17, 2003

The term learning disability has come to mean different things to different people. There are a variety of children who have difficulty learning. Sometimes these children are given the diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Scientists believe between 4 and 12 percent of school-age children have ADHD.

The incidence of learning disabilities is about the same whether you live in a rural or urban area, although it is sometimes harder for families who live in rural areas to find help. These children typically have school and interpersonal problems with family members and peers.

Their most common symptom is difficulty with attention. If you ask these children to do two things in a row, they may get lost after one. For example, if you say, Put your shoes away and pick up your toys, they may just do one or the other. They may have difficulty organizing things, even for their age. They may be fidgety and distractible, sometimes starting one activity, then getting distracted and pulled to another. When playing with other children, because they are easily distractible, a child with ADHD may not be able to follow the rules of a game and may have difficulty waiting their turn.

Below is a list of characteristics of children who may have learning difficulties. If your child has six or more of these characteristics, appearing both at home and in school, you may want to talk with your school or health care professional:

  1. Cannot attend to one activity for long, compared to children of the same age.
  2. Has difficulty with details.
  3. Is particularly distractible.
  4. Cannot sit still compared to children of the same age.
  5. Often loses things or misplaces them and has no recall of where they are.
  6. Forgetful of daily routines.
  7. Is messy; disorganized.
  8. Does not like to, or avoids activities that require sustained activity, such as schoolwork.
  9. Cannot delay gratification.
  10. Cannot wait a turn.
  11. Doesnt finish tasks.
  12. Aggressive with other children.
  13. As a very young child, highly active and difficult to control.
  14. Does not follow through on tasks.
  15. May not fully attend to a conversation and shift the conversation.
  16. Excessively active physically.

For more information, call the National Institute of Mental Health at (866) 615-6464 or log onto