Does your preschooler have trouble with rhyming? Playing word games? Learning the alphabet? Distinguishing between numbers and letters?
Any of these could be early warning signs of a learning disability, which, according to the National Institute of Health, is a neurological disorder that affects 1 in 7 children. Although learning disabilities affect millions of kids, they can vary in expression and impact different areas of learning, such as reading, writing, spelling, and math.
It’s not all bad news, though! There are services and accommodations available in and out of school, so if a child is struggling with core academic skills, it is important to seek out and provide them with as much support as possible. Dr. Tracy Barcott, Licensed Psychologist at Southeast Psych, and Jennifer McConnell, Licensed Psychological Associate at Southeast Psych, suggest the following strategies for teachers and parents to use when they suspect that a child may be struggling with a learning disability:
- Provide multi-sensory activities and use manipulatives. Incorporating nature, dancing, imitation, role play, puppets, story time, and puzzles are all examples of activities that stimulate multiple senses.
- Break tasks into “chunks”. For instance, it might be intimidating for the child to learn ALL days of the week at once, but they may feel more comfortable and successful if they only learn two at a time.
- Use rhythm and music. Using a song to teach content is a great way to get kids engaged as well as to help kids retain important information.
- Provide repetition. For example, when you give verbal directions, have the child repeat the directions back to you. Then, throughout a task, remind the child of the correct procedure.
- Allow “think” time or provide extra time to complete tasks. Learning disabilities affect the brain’s ability to process and respond to information, so slowing the pace down just a little can be extremely beneficial.
Dr. Tracy Barcott works with children of all ages and specializes in Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT), child development, and working with children from birth to age 6. Jennifer McConnell works with young children and their families by being fun and exciting as well as nurturing in promoting their academic, social, and emotional success. Stay connected by visiting Southeast Psych’s Facebook page and following @SoutheastPsych on Twitter.