Kindergarten is a big year for many reasons. The amount of academic growth that happens in kindergarten is enormous. In fact, there is no other grade where you will see such obvious and remarkable change so quickly, as kids make the leap into literacy. There are many educational goals during this year, but keep in mind that every child learns at his own pace. Teachers keep these milestones in mind, but they use them as guides, not hard and fast rules.
Some children take a bit longer to reach milestones in academic development, but often times it just means they need a little more help to catch up. Still, there are times when the failure to reach a milestone at pace with peers may indicate a problem.
How can parent's know when their child's delays are more serious? As reluctant as your child’s teacher might be to admit it, there are a few flags teachers see as possible indicators for learning disabilities.
Learning disabilities are neurological disorders that effect the way we receive, organize, and then produce information. A child may have a disability in one or more of these areas. Pam Marquardt, an educator and parent of an adult with learning disabilities from Oakland, California, says there are in fact a few red flags that parents and kindergarten teachers can look for. Just look without obsessing. “It is important to remember that all children may show some of these 'red flags' at times in their development," she says, "But a child with a learning disability will have more of the symptoms and will not 'grow out of' them.”
Here's a list of common red flags during the kindergarten year, subject by subject:
Reading Language Arts
- cannot recognize the letters in her/his name
- has speech that is unusually difficult to understand
- cannot retell a simple sequence of events
- displays poor handwriting
- cannot count ten objects showing a one-to-one correspondence
- has difficulty recognizing the numerals 1-10 (Note: 6 and 9 confusions are normal)
- has difficulty identifying a square, triangle, and circle
- does not appear to socialize or make eye contact with classmates
- seems dramatically less able than peers to focus on a task
- shows an impulsivity which leads to inflicting harm upon self or others
- consistently can not follow two-part instructions
A weakness in one or more of these areas is not cause for major concern. It should not be considered enough to make a diagnosis, but rather a signal to take a closer look, says Jean Kueker, PhD, early childhood chairman for the National Learning Disabilities Association. “It’s important when looking at these indicators to ask if the child had opportunities for developing language and vocabulary, has been exposed to books, and if in childcare, if a quality developmentally appropriate setting was provided.” A child who has not had these opportunities may show many of these “red flags”, Kueker says, but not in fact have a learning disability.
Another point to consider is the possibility that your child has a temporary learning problem, that is, she has trouble in school or a particular subject because she's not ready for the task developmentally. With a little extra support she may be able to move past her difficulties and strengthen her weaknesses.
But what if you've done the research and observed your child, and you believe that she has a learning disability? What do you do now? First off, express your concerns to your child’s pediatrician so that a thorough evaluation can be done. And get the school involved as well. “Communicate your concerns with your child’s teacher,” Kuer says, “Parents must be the child's advocate.”
Many schools will provide not just moral support, but official evaluation. Know your rights as a parent and don't be afraid to ask for help. It's important to have the issue checked out promptly, as research shows early intervention can make a substantial difference in the lives of children with learning disabilities.