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1 Sign, 2 Sides: How You and Your Child May View Learning and Attention Issues Differently

By The Understood Team

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As we celebrate LD, ADHD and Dyslexia Awareness Months this October, we want all parents to know we’re here to help you and your child #BeUnderstood throughout your journey. And sometimes the first step of the journey—recognizing the signs—is the most challenging. Our new “Two Sides” PSA campaign, developed in partnership with the Ad Council, can help parents navigate this first step.

You and your child may experience signs of learning and attention issues in different ways. Here are seven common situations, and the learning and attention issues they could point to.

179Found this helpful
1 Sign
2 Sides

1 in 5 kids have learning and attention issues. But it’s not always easy to recognize the signs. In fact, you and your child may experience the same sign in two very different ways.

Understanding what’s behind your child’s behavior can help you find solutions and support. Our “Two Sides” PSA campaign, developed in partnership with the Ad Council, aims to help build that understanding. Because once you see it from her side, it’s easier to be on her side and help her #BeUnderstood. Here are some common scenarios, and the two sides of each.

Parent:
I try to read with her every night at bedtime, but she refuses to read aloud when it’s her turn. She’d rather have me do all the reading.

Child:
I don’t know what many of the words are, or how to sound them out. But I don’t want anyone to know. It makes me feel stupid.

What to know:
Kids often avoid doing things they find diffcult or stressful. When kids refuse to read aloud, it could be a sign of a reading issue like dyslexia.

Parent:
When she jots down phone messages, I can barely read them. Her handwriting is so sloppy—she must really not care.

Child:
When I write, my hand gets tired. It’s so hard to put the letters down correctly. It’s embarrassing!

What to know:
Messy handwriting can be a sign of a writing issue called dysgraphia. Another common sign is trouble expressing ideas in written form.

Parent:
I have to ask her to do something three times before she does it. I can’t tell if she isn’t hearing me or is ignoring me on purpose.

Child:
Sometimes I get caught up in what I’m doing and I just don’t realize that somebody’s talking to me.

What to know:
Being “daydreamy” and easily distracted is a common sign of ADHD. Not all kids with ADHD are hyperactive.

Parent:
When I ask him to set the table for ve, he brings out ve plates but only two sets of silverware. It’s like he just doesn’t pay attention to what he’s doing.

Child:
I know I’m supposed to set ve places at the table, but I get mixed up. I have trouble counting how many things I’ve brought out.

What to know:
This could be a sign of a math issue called dyscalculia. Kids with dyscalculia often struggle with number sense, or the ability to understand relationships between groups of items. They may have trouble judging time, counting money and playing games that use math skills.

Parent:
His backpack’s always a mess, filled with crumpled papers. Half the time, we miss important notices from the school.

Child:
I don’t know where to put things. I just throw it all in there so I know I have it. But then I can’t find my homework most of the time.

What to know:
This could be a sign of executive functioning issues. Trouble organizing things—even thoughts—is a key challenge.

Parent:
She has no interest in learning to tie her shoes even though her friends learned ages ago. She’s happy to have everyone else do it for her.

Child:
I’ve tried to tie my shoes over and over. But I can’t figure out what to do with my hands to make it happen. So I’ve given up.

What to know:
This could be a sign of dyspraxia, a brain-based issue that causes trouble with motor skills and coordination. Kids with dyspraxia struggle to plan the movements needed to do something.

Parent:
He tries to get out of going to school. He’ll wake up complaining of a stomachache. Or he’ll go to the nurse’s oce and say he feels sick.

Child:
I don’t understand what the lesson’s about, and I’m afraid the teacher will call on me in class. I just know I’ll freeze up. And then after class, the other kids will make fun of me.

What to know:
When kids have learning and attention issues, school can be a stressful place for them—so much that they may avoid going. In addition to schoolwork, they might struggle with fitting in socially. Getting the right help and support can change how they feel about school, their social skills and themselves.

If you’re concerned your child might have a learning or attention issue, it’s important to take notes on what you’re seeing. You can share them with your child’s doctor and teacher, and ask for their feedback and guidance.

Remember that you’re not alone. You can connect with other parents who’ve been there in the Understood Community and on Facebook. You can also connect with experts every day during our free online events. Visit u.org/calendar to learn about upcoming events.
1 Sign, 2 Sides
1 Sign, 2 Sides

About the Author

Understood Team Graphic

The Understood Team is composed of writers, editors and community moderators, many of whom have children with learning and attention issues.

Reviewed by

Portrait of Bob Cunningham

Bob Cunningham, Ed.M., serves as advisor-in-residence on learning and attention issues for Understood.

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