Are you wondering if your preschooler’s challenges at home or at school might be signs of a learning and attention issue? Are you worried she might be too young for you to know for sure? If so, you wouldn’t be alone—1 in 5 kids have learning and attention issues. But it can be hard to know if what you’re seeing is developmentally appropriate for your child’s age or cause for concern.
Here are steps you can take to determine if your child has a learning or attention issue, and where to go from there.
Know the difference between a developmental delay and learning and attention issues.
In older kids, learning and attention issues can cause trouble in school. But because younger kids may not be in school yet, it can be more difficult to know if what you’re seeing is a developmental delay or a learning issue. A developmental delay is when your child is behind in developing skills (like speech and coordination). With early intervention, most kids “catch up.”
Learning and attention issues are lifelong, brain-based difficulties that can cause ongoing trouble with reading, writing, math, organization, concentration, listening comprehension, social skills or motor skills. With the proper support, kids with learning and attention issues can succeed in school and beyond.
Get to know typical preschool milestones.
Learn about the difference between early intervention and special education.
Find out what’s been happening at school.
If your child attends preschool or daycare, speak with your child’s teachers to see what they have noticed. Ask if what they see is typical for children that age. Is your child having trouble with rhyming? Is she more distractible or less focused than other kids her age? Does she have trouble making friends?
If your child is younger than the other kids in class, keep that in mind as you talk with the teachers. What could look like a delay compared with other students may still be typical development for your child’s age. Read what experts say about whether to delay kindergarten if your child is young for her grade.
Share your concerns with your child’s doctor.
Discuss a free evaluation through early intervention or Child Find processes.
Meet with the school or early intervention agency.
Continue to observe your child, and follow up if necessary.
After following these steps, you may have a better idea of what’s going on with your child—or you may not. If your child isn’t found eligible for services, keep tracking your concerns and follow up in six months. Young children’s skills develop rapidly. So if your child is still showing delays in six months, that may be of greater concern then.
Explore next steps based on your child’s specific learning issue.