How to tell if your child has a learning disorder?
He is 4 years old and can usually recite his ABCs correctly. However, he can't identify many letters and doesn't even know the letters of his name. He refuses to try to hold a pencil correctly and he refuses to use scissors. Help?
It is important to keep in mind that children develop at different rates. It is great that you are aware of your child's development. You can have your child tested by a school psychologist at your local school to determine if he has a learning disability. You may also want to have an occupational therapist evaluate your child to test his fine motor skills. All of these examinations can be performed by your local school, or you can also get a private evaluation.
Use of a pencil and scissors involve fine motor skills. Kids his age are developing those skills. There are other activities, such as stringing beads or finger tracing, that he can also play to help develop these skills.
Some kids (like my daughter) don't like to grip hard surfaces between their fingers. There are cushy grips that fit over pencils. Or have him try chalk instead. I wrapped yarn around the handles of my daughter's scissors.
For finger tracing, I have also used a pie tin with a shallow layer of sand or flour. I trace a letter in the flour with my finger, then the child traces it. I also have them trace in the air, on the carpet, fingers dipped in paint, or dry tracing on lots of different surfaces. Kids who are tactile learners really like this approach.
DonnaYoung.org has some excellent worksheets and tips for helping kids with handwriting. Here's a link to her printing readiness worksheets. Kids use them to trace lines and curves which are the building blocks of letters. These are also good models for finger tracing:
Recognizing letters and the sounds that go with them are part of reading readiness. There are many things you can do to help your child develop reading readiness. The most important is to read to him - a lot! Read 1/2 to an hour a day for 10 minutes at a time or less if he becomes distracted.
Read Dr. Seuss and Mother Goose rhyming books. Rhyming helps kids recognize beginning and ending sounds in words - important skills before learning to read. Ask your children's librarian to help you pick out popular ABC picture books. There are dozens. Also ask for help picking out wordless picture books your son can "read" by making up his story from the pictures.
Reading Rockets is a wonderful non-profit website that has terrific advice and info for parents on preparing their kids for reading. Look at their section on early literacy and preschool: