Basics of LD: What types of difficulties should I look for in my classroom?


What types of difficulties should I look for in my classroom? Characteristics vary with age and sometimes with content area.

Additional Info:

It is important that you assess the importance of any particular behavior in relation to the student’s age and peers. Some of the behaviors that might make you suspect that a student has a learning disability appear in the following lists. Please understand that no one of these problems is diagnostic; that is, many children and youths show these problems from time to time. Use the problems listed here as hints rather than markers.


Does the child have difficulty (delayed development):

  • Learning the alphabet?
  • Rhyming words?
  • Connecting spoken sounds with letters?
  • Counting and learning numbers?
  • Being understood when he or she speaks to a stranger?
  • Using scissors, crayons, and paints?
  • Reacting too much or too little to touch?
  • Using words or, later, stringing words together into phrases?
  • Pronouncing words?
  • Walking forward or up and down stairs?
  • Remembering the names of colors?
  • Dressing him- or herself without assistance.

Elementary School

Does the child have difficulty:

  • Reading accurately?
  • Learning new vocabulary?
  • Speaking in full sentences?
  • Understanding the rules of conversation?
  • Retelling stories?
  • Remembering newly learned information?
  • Playing with peers?
  • Moving from one activity to another?
  • Expressing thoughts verbally or in writing?
  • Holding a pencil?
  • Writing letters and numerals by hand?
  • Computing math problems at his or her grade level?
  • Following directions?
  • Remembering routines?
  • Learning new skills?
  • Understanding what he or she reads,
  • Succeeding in one or more subject areas?
  • Drawing or copying shapes?
  • Understanding what information presented in class is important,
  • Modulating voice (may speak to loudly or in a monotone)?
  • Keeping materials neat and assignments organized?
  • Remembering and sticking to deadlines?
  • Understanding how to play age-appropriate games?

Adolescence and Adulthood

Does the individual have difficulty:

  • Remembering newly learned information?
  • Staying organized?
  • Understanding what he or she reads?
  • Getting along with peers or coworkers?
  • Finding or keeping a job?
  • Understanding jokes that are subtle or sarcastic?
  • Making appropriate remarks?
  • Expressing thoughts verbally or in writing?
  • Following directions?
  • Using basic skills (such as reading, writing, spelling, and math)?
  • Using proper grammar in spoken or written communication?
  • Remembering and sticking to deadlines?

If someone is concerned about a student, she or he should discuss her or his observations with appropriate school personnel. It is helpful to document the conditions under which the student has difficulties (What tasks were involved? In what sort of environment were problems observed? What instruction was provided to the student about how to accomplish the tasks?). Note which instructional situations are problematic, together with an indication as to which methods or approaches are most successful with that student. Teachers’ observations and anecdotal records of the child, together with their normal classroom records, are valuable in solving problems.