Characteristics of Young Learning Disabled Students

By: Neela Seldin

Characteristics related to general functioning and social-emotional development

  • Immature emotionally and socially.
  • "Spacey": Look of disorientation.
  • Can't make choices.
  • Can't stay with an activity.
  • Distractible. Impulsive.
  • Knows rules but does not apply.
  • Labile emotions; excessive silliness; catastrophic reactions; angry; shy or withdrawn.
  • Shifts blame?
  • Academic skills very slow in developing.
  • Strong discrepancies in skills and knowledge.
  • Socially off-base. Unaccepted by group.
  • Poor memory.
  • Easily frustrated. Won't take risks.
  • Doesn't take pride in work or accept compliments.
  • Excessively rigid: cannot abide change.
  • Artistic. Sensitive. Mechanically inclined.
  • Non-verbal reasoning is highly developed.

Characteristics related to speech - language development

  • Avoids talking or focuses mainly on adults.
  • Uses pat phrases to communicate.
  • Excellent vocabulary but poor production.
  • Hesitates constantly, uses filler words, stammers.
  • Makes off-topic comments? Raises hand but has no words.
  • Wants to tell but cannot retrieve words.
  • Tells stories in random order without references.
  • Mishears or doesn't hear.
  • Articulation weak with substitutions of sounds.
  • Uses incomplete sentences. Mumbles. Slurs.
  • Poor pragmatic: eye contact, turn-taking.
  • Loses focus in group activities.
  • Hypervigilant. Watches others to see what to do.
  • Word order or syllable order frequently mixed.
  • Cannot rhyme.
  • Cannot segment sounds in words, or blend them together to make words.

Characteristics related to sensory - motor development

  • Avoids tasks. Coloring, drawing, cutting.
  • Excessively physical. Touching, pushing, wrestling.
  • Generally not upright. Leaning, lying, drooping.
  • Gets into trouble when he/she has free-time or space.
  • Bumps into things and people without awareness.
  • Lasting egocentricity.
  • Avoids or is uncomfortable on play equipment.
  • Falls often and easily. Slides out of chairs.
  • Large and fine motor skills immature.
  • Can't blow nose or tie shoes.
  • Very disorganized. Can't get ready. Clean up.
  • Constantly losing things. Can't remember how to go, where to put things. What it's time for.
  • Pencil grip awkward. Puzzles challenging.
  • Fussy eater. Messy eater.
  • Over or under reacts to stimuli. Treats a light touch as he/she does a punch. Frightened by loud noises. Overwhelmed by strong smells and bright lights.

Neela Seldin, 1998 The Lab School of Washington