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Early Signs/Milestones in Learning

Nature wires our brains to develop multiple abilities. Some of us will have talents/strengths in abilities making us good athletes, pianists, readers. But, we will also have abilities that are not as strongly developed.  If a given ability is too weak, it will present as a challenge to acquiring the requisite skills for learning. For learning in school, a student needs to have adequate abilities in many areas – spoken language, written language, sensorimotor processing, math concepts, attention, memory and executive function. Strengths in music, art, sports, etc. are great, but not required. 

Parents observing their children’s preferences for activities in early childhood can pick up on their abilities. Did your child avoid the Listening Center at preschool and gravitate to the Lego Center? The brain gives clues about relative weaknesses and strengths. Consider a team analogy. You can observe the “brain players” (abilities). Those with challenges get little playing time. The brain is not an ideal coach – it wants immediate success. If left alone, your child will engage in learning activities that primarily engage strengths. Challenging activities are avoided; the weaker player will remain “on the bench”, receiving no nurturing (practice), becoming even weaker 

Identifying challenges early is optimal. They may be mild, respond quickly to interventions and never result in a learning disability. However, in 15 -20 % of children nature has created a glitch in the brain wiring needed for school success. Their challenges are more severe, affecting learning, despite normal intelligence and wonderful nurturing. Research has yielded effective techniques for strengthening the “bench players”. As a result, learning struggles lessen. Children need not suffer failure and loss of self-esteem.   


 “Red flags” that may be seen during the early grades, but also before school starts.If you have seen several of these in preschool years and they have persisted, they are telling you that there are challenges to learning in these areas. There may be more than one area that is weak, making learning challenges more difficult. 

  • Slower learning to speak, name colors, alphabet, and/or rhyme; little interest in reading/books
  • Trouble re telling a story
  • Learning the connection between letters and sounds, difficulty reading aloud
  • Makes consistent reading and spelling errors including letter reversals (b/d), inversions (m/w), transpositions (felt/left), and substitutions (house/home)
  • Transposing number sequences; confusing arithmetic signs (+, -, x, /, =)
  • Holding on to directions; learning math facts
  • Impulsivity, difficulty planning, staying on task, restless
  • Fine motor skills (buttoning); awkward pencil grip, presses hard; clumsy
  • Trouble learning about time
  • Overly sensitive or unaware of senses – sound, visual, touch, etc.

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