Recognizing Special Needs

Delana H Stewart

Many times students in home school and national school environments have learning needs or special needs that go undiagnosed.  child drawing, special needsOftentimes, this is because those of us working with these students do not know the signs to look for.  We just think our child or student is going through a phase or is just being “difficult.”  Recently, I received an email about telling the signs of a stroke.  It amazed me that the lady herself and those around her had no idea that she had just suffered a stroke, resulting in her death just hours later.  Had they known a few simple things to do/ask, they may have saved her life.  While diagnosing learning needs is not a life or death matter, it may mean the difference between teaching and learning versus beating yourself up over failed attempts and numerous frustrating encounters for you and your student.  The good news is that parents—being closest to the situation—are often the first one to realize a need exists.

According to Paul Burden in his book Classroom Management, “a specific learning disability is a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or using spoken or written language.”  He goes on to explain how this can manifest itself as “an impaired ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations.”  (Burden, 2006).  Just because a person has a learning disorder, does not mean they have low intelligence. Many have average or above average intelligence, yet a discrepancy lies between one’s ability and one’s actual performance in a classroom.  Burden groups learning disabilities into four main difficulty areas:

Learning and Academic Difficulties

v     Memory, attention, and organizational difficulties;

v     Perceiving, processing, remembering, and expressing information;

v     Reading difficulties;

v     Writing and expressing ideas in print;

Language and Communication Difficulties

v     May use immature speech patterns;

v     Experience language comprehension difficulties;

v     Have trouble expressing themselves;

v     May have difficulty learning new vocabulary, following directions, understanding questions, pronouncing words;

Perceptual and Motor Difficulties

v     May have difficulty recognizing, discriminating, and interpreting visual and auditory stimuli;

v     Difficulty copying from the blackboard or following multi-step directions;

v     Have trouble paying attention to relevant stimuli;

v     Get frustrated working on a task for a sustained period of time;

v     May also have difficulty with fine and gross motor movements;

Socio-Emotional and Behavioral Difficulties

v     Signs of a poor self-concept;

v     Task avoidance;

v     Social withdrawal, loneliness, frustration, and anxiety;

v     Fail to predict consequences;

v     Poor social skills and possibly fail to interpret social cues;


See also: Developmental delay, Learning Disability, or Neurological Disorder

Education, Homeschool, Gap Year


2 thoughts on “Recognizing Special Needs

  1. Pingback: Seeing the Signs of a Learning Disability | The Education Cafe

  2. Pingback: Educating Children With Asperger’s Syndrome « The Education Cafe

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