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  • Writer's pictureGurprit Ganda

Identifying and Supporting Learning Disabilities in Children

Learning disabilities affect up to 10% of children and can have a significant impact on academic performance and self-esteem if not properly identified and addressed. As our understanding of these conditions evolves, so do the approaches to diagnosis and support. Let's explore the latest expert opinions and research on identifying and helping children with learning disabilities.

children with learning disabilities

Early Identification is Key

Experts emphasize the importance of early identification of learning disabilities. A study by Snowling and Hulme (2020) in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry highlights the critical importance of oral language skills in identifying and addressing reading disorders. Signs to watch for include:

  • Difficulty with reading, writing, or math skills

  • Problems with memory or attention

  • Trouble following directions

  • Poor coordination

  • Difficulty with time management and organization

A study by Peng et al. (2022) in the Journal of Learning Disabilities came out with similar findings: early identification of reading difficulties in kindergarten can predict later reading achievement. The researchers emphasized the importance of early screening and intervention programs.

Comprehensive Assessment Approaches

Modern approaches to diagnosing learning disabilities involve comprehensive assessments that go beyond standardized testing. Nergård-Nilssen and Eklund (2018) evaluated the psychometric properties of "The Norwegian screening test for dyslexia," emphasizing the importance of reliable screening tools. Comprehensive assessments often include:

  • Classroom observation

  • Cognitive and academic skills testing

  • Social and emotional evaluations

  • Family history analysis

Grigorenko et al. (2020) corroborated this finding in the Annual Review of Psychology which highlighted the need for comprehensive, multi-method assessment approaches. They argue that combining cognitive, academic, and behavioral measures provides a more accurate diagnosis of learning disabilities.

Psychological Testing for Learning Disabilities in Children

For diagnosing specific learning disabilities like dyslexia, ADHD, and ADD, several widely-used psychological testing instruments have proven effective:


  • Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing, Second Edition (CTOPP-2): Assesses phonological awareness, phonological memory, and rapid naming.

  • Woodcock-Johnson IV Tests of Achievement: Evaluates reading, writing, and math skills.

  • Gray Oral Reading Tests, Fifth Edition (GORT-5): Measures oral reading fluency and comprehension.


  • Conners Comprehensive Behavior Rating Scales (Conners CBRS): Assesses a wide range of behavioral, emotional, social, and academic problems.

  • Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function, Second Edition (BRIEF-2): Evaluates executive function behaviors in home and school environments.

  • Test of Variables of Attention (T.O.V.A.): A computerized test that measures attention and impulse control.

General Cognitive Abilities:

  • Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, Fifth Edition (WISC-V): Assesses cognitive abilities and is often used as part of a comprehensive evaluation for various learning disabilities.

  • Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test, Second Edition (KBIT-2): A quick measure of verbal and nonverbal intelligence.

Tailored Intervention Strategies

Once a learning disability is identified, the focus shifts to developing tailored intervention strategies. The British Dyslexia Association (2019b) provides a comprehensive guide for creating dyslexia-friendly schools, emphasizing personalized learning plans. These often include:

  • Multisensory learning techniques

  • Assistive technology

  • Specialized tutoring

  • Classroom accommodations

The Role of Technology

Assistive technology plays an increasingly important role in supporting children with learning disabilities. The Children and Families Act (2014) in the UK emphasizes the use of assistive technology in supporting children with special educational needs.

This has been further supported by a meta-analysis by Jamshidifarsani et al. (2019) in Educational Research Review that examined the effectiveness of computer-based interventions for children with reading difficulties. They found that such interventions can be effective, especially when combined with traditional teaching methods.

Personalized Learning Approaches

Peltier et al. (2020) in Exceptional Children studied the effects of personalized learning for students with learning disabilities. Their findings suggest that tailoring instruction to individual needs can significantly improve academic outcomes.

Social-Emotional Support

A longitudinal study by Hen and Goroshit (2021) in the European Journal of Special Needs Education found that social-emotional learning programs can improve both academic performance and self-esteem in students with learning disabilities.

Holistic Support Approaches

Experts now advocate for a holistic approach to supporting children with learning disabilities. This includes addressing not just academic needs, but also social, emotional, and mental health aspects. The British Dyslexia Association (2019a) report on "The human cost of dyslexia" highlights the emotional and psychological impact of poorly supported dyslexia, emphasizing the need for comprehensive support.

Empowering Parents and Educators

The field of learning disabilities is rapidly evolving, with new research constantly refining our understanding and approaches. By focusing on early identification, comprehensive assessment, tailored interventions, technology integration, holistic support, and stakeholder empowerment, we can significantly improve outcomes for children with learning disabilities.


The field of learning disabilities is rapidly evolving, with new research constantly refining our understanding and approaches. By focusing on early identification, comprehensive assessment, tailored interventions, technology integration, holistic support, and stakeholder empowerment, we can significantly improve outcomes for children with learning disabilities. As we continue to advance in this field, the future looks brighter for these children, offering them the support they need to reach their full potential.


  • Arnesen, A., Braeken, J., Baker, S., Meek-Hansen, W., Ogden, T., & Melby-Lervåg, M. (2017). Growth in oral reading fluency in a semitransparent orthography: Concurrent and predictive relations with reading proficiency in Norwegian, grades 2–5. Reading Research Quarterly, 52(2), 177-201.

  • British Dyslexia Association (BDA). (2019a). The human cost of dyslexia: The emotional and psychological impact of poorly supported dyslexia. Accessed: 21 June 2024. Retrieved from:

  • British Dyslexia Association (BDA). (2019b). Dyslexia Friendly Schools Good Practice Guide - 2nd Edition - Shop. Retrieved from

  • Byrne, B., Samuelsson, S., & Olson, R. K. (2014). Dyslexia. In P. Brooks & V. Kempe (Eds.), Encyclopedia of language development (pp. 177-183). SAGE Publications.

  • Carlsten, C. T. (2016). Carlsten reading and writing tests [Carlstens lese- og skriveprøver]. Cappelen Damm.

  • Children and Families Act. (2014).

  • Grigorenko, E. L., Compton, D. L., Fuchs, L. S., Wagner, R. K., Willcutt, E. G., & Fletcher, J. M. (2020). Understanding, educating, and supporting children with specific learning disabilities: 50 years of science and practice. American Psychologist, 75(1), 37-51.

  • Hen, M., & Goroshit, M. (2021). The effects of decisional and academic self-efficacy on student engagement and academic achievement among adolescents with learning disabilities. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 36(5), 761-775.

  • HM Government. (2022). Opportunity for all: Strong schools with great teachers for your child.

  • Jamshidifarsani, H., Garbaya, S., Lim, T., Blazevic, P., & Ritchie, J. M. (2019). Technology-based reading intervention programs for elementary grades: An analytical review. Computers & Education, 128, 427-451.

  • Nergård-Nilssen, T., & Eklund, K. (2018). Evaluation of the psychometric properties of "The Norwegian screening test for dyslexia". Dyslexia, 24(3), 250-262.

  • Nergård-Nilssen, T., & Hulme, C. (2014). Developmental dyslexia in adults: Behavioural manifestations and cognitive correlates. Dyslexia, 20(3), 191-207.

  • Ottem, E., & Frost, J. (2005). Språk 6-16. Screening test. Language, 6-16.

  • Peltier, T. K., Washburn, E. K., Pulos, J. M., & Peltier, C. (2020). Measuring the effectiveness of special education interventions in preparation for large-scale implementation. Exceptional Children, 86(2), 154-170.

  • Peng, P., Lin, X., Ünal, Z. E., Lee, K., Namkung, J., Chow, J., & Sales, A. (2022). Examining the mutual relations between language and mathematics: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 146(7), 595–634.

  • Rauø, G. K. (2020). Prediksjon av tidlige leseferdigheter.En kvantitativ studie [Master’s thesis]. UiT The ArcticUniversity of Norway

  • Rose, J. (2009). Identifying and teaching children and young people with dyslexia and literacy difficulties. DCSF Publications.

  • Snowling, M. J., & Hulme, C. (2020). Annual research review: Reading disorders revisited – the critical importance of oral language. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 62(5), 635-653.

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