Sometimes it will be obvious that your child has special needs. Other times it won’t be so clear.
This will depend partly on the type of special need or disability your child might have, as well as its severity. For instance, a physical disability, such as blindness or deafness, may become apparent quickly. Meanwhile, a mild form of a learning disability, such as dyslexia or dysgraphia, may be harder to detect.
If you suspect your child may have a special need, you’ll want to find out as soon as possible. Early detection can allow you to understand challenges your child may encounter in the future.
Below, education experts weigh in on the signs and symptoms of certain types of special education needs. To learn about special education in general, and view a list of special needs schools, read our comprehensive guide.
For the symptom of inattention, nine associated behaviours are described:
For the symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity, the following behaviours are described:
Judging from the last 6 months of behaviour, if a child meets 6 out of the 9 criteria for the symptom of inattention, they could have primarily inattentive ADHD. If they meet 6 out of the 9 criteria for hyperactivity and impulsivity, they could have primarily hyperactive ADHD. If they meet both criteria, they could be diagnosed with combined ADHD.”
A short list of autism symptoms is as follows:
Symptoms of autism for toddler-aged children or older include the following:
The above list is by no means comprehensive or authoritative. Since autism is a spectrum, these or other signs of autism may manifest in various degrees. Parents who witness these symptoms in their child are urged to consult the opinion of a health professional for diagnosis.”
Language-based learning disabilities
Una Malcolm, director of Appletree Learning, a personalized educational support program in Toronto, Ontario
“Roots of a phonemic awareness-based learning disability can be seen in very young children. Issues with oral language are typically red flags. For example, a child in kindergarten who struggles to rhyme should be receiving extra support. Children who have family members who have struggled with reading or writing should also be closely monitored. Oral language can give indicators about a child’s future reading and writing success; students who struggle with pronunciation or sequencing parts of words may be at risk for challenges learning to read. For example, students with language-based learning disabilities may call an animal an ‘aminal,’ or they may say ‘bisghetti’, instead of spaghetti. Parents should closely monitor their child’s reading development, and shouldn’t hesitate to ask the teacher what benchmark level the child is reading at, and where that falls in relation to the grade’s expected levels.”
Elaine Danson, educational consultant at Elaine Danson and Associates Educational Consultants, in Toronto, Ontario
“Parents often alert teachers or their pediatrician that they don’t feel their child is learning typically. There are signs that the child isn’t recognizing letters, interested in reading, understanding instructions in the classroom, is having trouble holding a pencil and writing numbers and letters, isn’t understanding the lessons, or perhaps isn’t sitting in their seat long enough to understand. This discussion may lead to meetings at the school where assessments are gathered by the teacher and resource teachers and strategies shared. If there is concern, the teacher or pediatrician will recommend a psychoeducational assessment with a psychologist. This can be done privately or by school board psychologists.”