30 Signs Your Child’s Learning Is Not on Track (and What to Do)

Learning difficulties can be hard to spot. You may notice that your child is having trouble with certain skills or concepts, but the fact is that children have their own learning styles and personalities.

This list is intended as a guide for parents who are concerned about their child’s academic success. It provides guidance for possible discussions with pediatricians or schools, but should not be used to make diagnostic decisions about your own child’s learning difficulties.

As mentioned earlier, it is critical to recognize the individuality of each child’s development and growth before delving into the list. For example, some children start walking early but speak later, while others may have exceptional reading skills but have difficulty with writing.

Experts rely on developmental guides with approximate estimates, rather than strict deadlines, to identify developmental delays. Similarly, educational institutions use scope and sequence methods to structure instruction to meet students’ projected knowledge and skills by the end of the school year, in addition to developmental or academic standards.

General ability signs

1. Minimal speech or limited vocabulary

2. Poor coordination or clumsiness (e.g., walking, running, playing, dressing)

3. Difficulty with fine motor tasks (e.g., writing/coloring, closing zippers, turning doorknobs)

4. Difficulty following directions (2-3 steps, 3-4 steps depending on age)

5. Difficulty remembering what they have just been told (instructions, tasks, etc.)

6. Poor understanding of time (depending on age)

7. Difficulty in social situations (making friends, appropriate play, participation, etc.)

8. Difficulty maintaining attention or being easily distracted (at home or school)

9. Overly charming (to distract) or downright dismissive (to disrupt) (instructions or tasks)

10. Procrastination (constantly putting off tasks, even when reminded, or waiting until the last minute to start/communicate about tasks)

Academic signs

11. Not feeling like going to school

12. Complaining about the teacher or saying the work is too hard

13. Hiding or concealing school work (graded, completed, or blank)

14. Difficulty with vocabulary (spelling, decoding, etc.)

15. Difficulty with reading speed (slow, pauses, or difficulty reading words)

16. Difficulty remembering, understanding, and/or drawing conclusions from what is read.

17. Difficulty with remembering number facts, understanding number work, and/or mathematical calculations

18. Difficulty using mathematical symbols, organizing or representing work when solving problems

19. Slow, labored, or illegible handwriting

20. Difficulty with grammar and punctuation and/or poorly organized, difficult to understand writing

Behavioral concerns

21. Refusal to follow instructions

22. Refusal to complete tasks or assignments

23. Delaying or avoidance tactics (going to the bathroom, excessive gathering/organizing of materials, etc.)

24. Seeking attention (positive and negative)

25. Shutting down or collapsing in the learning environment (keeping head down, acting out, etc.)

26. Learned helplessness (does not complete work or task without close supervision/help)

27. Negative self-talk

28. Impulsivity

29. Bullying

30. Skipping class or school

What to do if my child shows many of these signs?

1. Try to work with your child so that you can see any difficulties firsthand and describe them to the appropriate professionals (doctors, teachers, etc.)

2. Talk to your child’s doctor

3. Reach out to other professionals who can help:

a. For younger children: Take our learning readiness screener and/or contact Early Intervention (children ages 0-3).

b.Take one of our KShield assessments and/or contact your school district’s or special education department (children/students 3 years and older).

4. Seek help from therapists, tutors, and/or behavior analysts. These helpers are often more readily available and able to communicate learning/behavioral needs while your child is being evaluated by local programs for services.

5. Remember: assessment, intervention, and development of treatment/education plans are a process, and it will take time to complete all necessary steps.