Functional Physical Therapy; Putting the FUN in Healthy Lifestyles
Pediatric PT, Sensory Integration , Developmental Disorder, Edu Fun, Sports Fun

Identifying Learning Difficulties

Clearly, learning disabilities should be identified as soon as possible. Early detection takes advantage of the brain’s “plasticity,” where by the brain continues to lay down new neuronal pathways even after the child’s birth. Early detection and treatment may also prevent problems with self esteem and avoidance behaviors. Often, there are clues as early as toddlers.

Early Warning Signs from a neurological(sensory motor) viewpoint:


  • Difficulty suckling
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Habitual poor eye contact with parents
  • Does not participate in “peek a boo”, bye bye, “pat a cake”
  • Delay in milestones(rolling, sitting etc)
  • Avoids crawling
  • Abnormal overresponsiveness to physical stimuli: noises, lights,touch


  • Difficulty keeping up with peers in toddler/preschool gymnastics, movement groups
  • Clumsy, unbalanced walking leading to clinging behaviors
  • Poor attention span
  • Fear of climbing, hesitant to explore physically
  • Avoids the swing or any play equipment with an unstable base (merry go round etc)


  • Delayed language skills
  • Trouble with word recall
  • Seeking out movement excessively
  • Avoiding playground equipment that do not provide a base (swing, see saw etc) or those which are unstable (merry go round, rocking horse etc)
  • Avoidance behaviors (avoids the bike, coloring, writing or drawing tasks etc)
  • Difficulty using scissors, poor pencil grip (awkward and tight grip)

Kindergarten and Elementary

  • Failure to know the names of the letters in early KG
  • Failure to know the sounds of letters by late KG
  • Poor eye hand and eye foot coordination skills (uncoordinated at sports)
  • Unable to keep up with peers in the playground and during gym class
  • Unaware of where (s)he is in space, unaware of where to place answers on the homework sheet, or how to navigate the school
  • Focus on the detail rather than on the big picture

Impact of Learning Disabilities

Children with learning disabilities often suffer, both in the short term and long term. In the short term they may not even realize they have a specific problem. All that they know is that they are not performing well in school. Certainly by first grade, children with LD are aware that they are not performing as well as their classmates. They can identify who is in the good reading group, and who’s in the poor reading group.

Even if they are assured that this is just an isolated reading problem, they can still be heard to say, “If I’m so smart, how come I can’t read?” Loss of self esteem from learning problems may lead to negative behaviors. The child may act out or become the class clown, and get sent to the principal’s office.

Academic skills are important, but they are only potential vehicles to a greater goal: a life filled with enough self worth and happiness. Reading well is important, being happy and helpful is more important.

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