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How To Identify the Early Signs of Learning Challenges

Students with learning challenges from Lydian Academy

Identifying learning challenges early helps young people gain access to the kinds of educational environments that will serve them best. One of the primary challenges in early childhood education is observing and recognizing signs that a child learns differently from their peers. These early signs of learning differences are subtle but recognizable from an early age in some students.

Early Signs of Learning Differently

Children are always learning, and their learning styles and challenges might reveal themselves at a young age as they work toward mastering their own learning process. While none of these signs alone indicate a disorder and cannot be used for screening or diagnosis, they may suggest that a young person is being challenged by standard teaching models.

Signs of learning challenges in young children may include:1

  • Difficulties with reading or writing
  • Difficulties with math or numbers
  • Memory challenges
  • Attention challenges
  • Difficulty following instructions
  • Difficulty telling time
  • Problems with organization
  • Physical clumsiness
  • Behavior challenges at school or day care
  • Acting impulsively despite understanding outcomes
  • Challenges with expressing thoughts verbally
  • Reacting poorly to changes in routine
  • Seeming to communicate as a younger child would

Understanding the Signs of Learning Challenges in Early Childhood

Young student working on school work at Lydian Academy

Delving deeper into these signs of problems in early childhood education or at home, we can better understand what might present as a group of symptoms or behaviors that indicate a specific type of learning challenge.

Motor Control Issues: Some children have difficulty holding a crayon or pencil, and have similar challenges handling utensils and other tools because they struggle with fine motor control. This can lead to avoidance of arts, crafts, and writing. In some cases, occupational therapy can help these young people improve their motor control.

Language Centered Challenges: Many learning challenges are language based, and the symptoms will vary depending on what types of language functions are individually challenging. Receptive language pertains to the ability to understand what we hear, while expressive language describes the ability to communicate using language effectively. Some students may be challenged in both areas. If a child seems behind their peers in language skills, additional support may be needed.

Reading Difficulties: Most children are just learning to read in the early childhood phase of education, but it might be apparent that some children have more difficulty with phonetics or interpreting written words and speaking them aloud. A young learner who struggles with rhyming games might have reading challenges to overcome.

Challenges with Math or Numbers: Having challenges with counting or putting things in order can be an early sign of challenges with math or numbers. The concept of adding is generally understood by the first grade. Early signs of these challenges can be difficult to spot, but early intervention can allow these students to use alternative ways to master mathematical concepts.

Frequent Frustration or Boredom: There are a variety of learning challenges that first show signs of being frustrated or bored with learning. If drawing shapes or stacking blocks is challenging, children are quick to leave these activities. Showing resistance to age appropriate learning play might be a sign that those activities are either too basic for the child or especially challenging.

Challenges with Attention or Decision Making: Young children do have short attention spans, but it can be apparent early that some learners are more active and have difficulty sitting still for traditional lessons or reading aloud. Other children may struggle to make decisions or follow a simple series of steps to completion. These can be early signs of ADHD or executive functioning challenges.

How Parents and Teachers Can Help With Early Learning Challenges

Young children can respond very well to occupational therapy for physical challenges. Making sure that the child has unimpaired hearing and sight can be important steps to identifying the cause of their expressed challenges. The first step if you suspect that a child is learning differently is to have an evaluation by your healthcare provider.

Services and supports like speech language therapy and help with social challenges can have profound beneficial effects and help those who learn differently to excel in their education. Identifying these challenges early and working as a team to fully support the child is the most successful approach. Parents, educators, and therapists should collaborate in the best interests of the child.

Individualized Learning Environments Focused on Your Child

Student Centered Learning at Lydian Academy

Providing opportunities to excel and overcome obstacles helps young people build self-esteem and maintain their enthusiasm for school. At Lydian Academy, we are committed to providing a comprehensive and collaborative environment that allows each child to thrive. With a one-to-one student-teacher ratio, Lydian works with parents and students to identify the learning models that work best for them.

Personalized learning environments and focused attention allows every student to develop a mastery approach to learning, where students learn at their own pace and explore their areas of interest more deeply. With strong relationships of respect and trust, the one-on-one learning approach is ideal for overcoming the challenges of learning or thinking differently.

Contact us today to schedule a virtual open house or in-person tour of our campuses in Menlo Park and Burlingame, CA. With rolling enrollment, flexible scheduling, and virtual learning or in-person instruction in a purely student-focused classroom, Lydian Academy provides the ideal environment for all students to achieve their full academic and life potential.



We offer a unique year-round one-on-one learning experience, personalized to you and your schedule.

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