Children’s Day: Does your child have special needs? Here are signs to look out for | #specialneeds | #kids


Sometimes it will be evident that your child has special needs. Other times it won’t be so clear. This will depend partly on the type of special need or disability your child might have, as well as its intensity.

For instance, a physical disability, such as blindness or deafness, may become clear quickly. Meanwhile, a mild form of a learning disability, such as dyslexia or dysgraphia, may be harder to detect.

If you suspect your child may have a special need, you’ll want to find out as early as possible. Early detection can allow you to understand challenges your child may have to encounter in the future.

When you look at an infant, there are a variety of special needs that are noticeable and evident. However, there are instances when we need to be on the lookout for signals that may indicate a problem or that require our involvement.

Initially, learning disorders such as autism, dyslexia, dyscalculia, ADD, and even dysgraphia can be harder to identify. Every child grows at his or her own pace, but there are some main indicators to keep a track of.

During the first year of a kid’s development, defects in motor function, language, and sensory perception could be detected. Head-banging, self-biting, and other unwanted or extreme responses to circumstances, as well as repeated outbursts that the child is unable to regulate or self-soothe, are also signs of potential behavioural problems.

According to studies published in the Journal of Intellectual and Developmental Disability, 30-50 percent of children with intellectual and learning disabilities can also have mental health concerns.

The sooner we can detect these issues, the better we can support our children and be there for them to help them grow and thrive.

What mental health issues or challenges do children with special needs face?

Children with special needs may have more mental health needs for a variety of reasons. They could be under more pressure and face more difficult social challenges.

They may be limited in their language skills or suffer from nervous system symptoms that harm their mental health. They are more likely to be exposed to trauma, such as rape, neglect, bullying, and restraint.

Trauma may also cause mental health issues. Panic attacks, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and behavioural issues are common mental health diagnoses among children with special needs.

If you suspect your child has special needs, they may have autism, ADD, or other types of developmental disorders and face various mental health challenges.

Each of the following disorders bring about specific behavioural changes.

1. ADHD

For the symptom of inattention, nine associated behaviours are described:

  • failing to give close attention to details or making careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities
  • difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities
  • not seeming to listen when spoken to directly
  • not following through on instructions and failing to finish school work, chores, or duties in the workplace (not due to oppositional behaviour or failure to understand instructions)
  • difficulty organizing tasks and activities
  • avoiding, disliking, or being reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort (such as schoolwork or homework)
  • losing things necessary for tasks or activities (e.g., toys, school assignments, pencils, books, or tools)
  • being easily distracted by extraneous stimuli
  • being forgetful in daily activities
  • For the symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity, the following behaviours are described:
  • fidgeting with hands or feet or squirming in seat
  • leaving their seat in classroom or in other situations in which remaining seated is expected
  • running around or climbing excessively in situations in which it is inappropriate (in adolescents or adults, may be limited to subjective feelings of restlessness)
  • difficulty playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly
  • being ‘on the go’ or often acting as if ‘driven by a motor’
  • talking excessively
  • blurting out answers before questions have been completed
  • difficulty awaiting turn
  • interrupting or intruding on others (e.g., butting into conversations or games)
  • Judging from the last 6 months of behaviour, if a child meets 6 out of the 9 criteria for the symptom of inattention, they could have primarily inattentive ADHD. If they meet 6 out of the 9 criteria for hyperactivity and impulsivity, they could have primarily hyperactive ADHD. If they meet both criteria, they could be diagnosed with combined ADHD.

2. Autism

A short list of autism symptoms is as follows:

  • lack of babbling or pointing by age one
  • lack of any single words by 16 months’ age
  • lack of response to name being called
  • poor eye contact
  • excessive need for quiet and order
  • lack of smiling or responsiveness to others
  • Symptoms of autism for toddler-aged children or older include the following:
  • weakness in making friends or relating to peers
  • lack of ability to engage in conversation
  • repetitive actions
  • repetitive or strange language patterns
  • obsession-like preoccupation with objects or conversational subjects
  • The above list is by no means comprehensive or authoritative. Since autism is a spectrum, these or other signs of autism may manifest in various levels. Parents who witness these symptoms in their child are urged to consult a health professional for diagnosis.”

3. Language-based learning disabilities

Roots of a phonemic awareness-based learning disability can be seen in children of at very young age. Issues with oral language are usually red flags.

For eg., a child in kindergarten who struggles to rhyme should be receiving extra support. Children who have family members who have struggled with reading or writing should also be closely observed.

Oral language can give signs about a child’s future reading and writing success; students who struggle with pronunciation or sequencing parts of words may be at risk for challenges learning to read.

For example, children with language-based learning disabilities may call an animal an ‘aminal,’ or they may say ‘bisghetti’, instead of spaghetti.

Parents should closely monitor their child’s reading development, and shouldn’t hesitate to ask the teacher what benchmark level the child is reading at, and where that falls in relation to the grade’s expected levels.

4. Dyslexia

There are three common signs that a child has dyslexia.

Difficulty pronouncing and rhyming words: children of all abilities can sometimes mispronounce words; however, parents should take note when a child has frequent and lingering trouble figuring out vowel sounds or when they switch syllables when saying a word such as “butterfly,” pronouncing it as “flutter-by” instead.

Also, children with potential dyslexia may not easily be able to recognize or rhyme words at an early age, even very simple ones like “cat” and “bat.”

Slow, inaccurate reading skills: young children with dyslexia are often not able to sound out unknown words on their own, and therefore may guess at words based on context or skip the word altogether.

Because they are slower to develop their reading skills, parents may notice reluctance, hesitation, or anxiety about reading.

Poor spelling skills: although it is common for all children to confuse “b” and “d,” as well as other letters, this confusion tends to disappear at an early age for normal readers and linger for a longer time with children who may be dyslexic.

Children with dyslexia have great difficulty with spelling. Errors can be of several types, such as leaving out a vowel or consonant letter, or omitting entire words.

5. Learning disabilities

Parents often alert teachers or their paediatrician that they don’t feel their child is learning typically.

There are signs that the child isn’t recognizing letters, interested in reading, understanding instructions in the classroom, is having trouble holding a pencil and writing numbers and letters, isn’t understanding the lessons, or perhaps isn’t sitting in their seat long enough to understand.

This discussion may lead to meetings at the school where assessments are gathered by the teacher and resource teachers and strategies shared.

If there is concern, the teacher or paediatrician will recommend a psychoeducational assessment with a psychologist. This can be done privately or by school board psychologists.

– Article by Pooja Kathuria, Special Educator, Mpower – The Centre, Mumbai

Read: 5 learning disabilities that teachers should look out for among students

Read: 5 activities for children with learning disabilities



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