Recognizing the Signs: Indicators of Potential Disability

group of children sitting in the floor together looking at colorful children’s books

Parents, teachers, and caregivers all play a crucial role in understanding and supporting children with diverse needs, including those with developmental differences. Sometimes, children may show early signs that they have unique challenges and strengths. These signs can include different behaviors, specific physical needs, or certain characteristics, which might indicate that a child could have a hidden disability. 


When these indicators are observed, it is important to take further steps to assess and support the child. Reaching out to professionals, such as doctors and therapists, can help create a plan to assist the child in growing, learning, and thriving. Working together as a team will help the child get the support they need to succeed. 


Common Indicators to Monitor 


Vision: The child complains of headaches, avoids eye contact, ignores food on one side of the plate, sees better in bright light than dim light, has a preferred color (usually red or yellow), prefers to listen rather than look, puts their face on the paper when writing, takes longer than others to copy written work, squints, has difficulty with handwriting, or has a lazy eye. 


Hearing: The child seems to ignore caregivers or teachers, ignore very loud sounds, not pay attention, or not respond when spoken to by friends or adults. 


Mobility: The child has floppy or stiff muscles, fails to reach motor milestones such as rolling, sitting, crawling, or walking, uses one side of the body more than the other, doesn’t reach or move across the midline of the body, prefers to tilt or rotate their head to one side, dislikes changing positions, seems clumsy, has poor balance, walks on their toes, is unable to sit without propping on hands, or has difficulty moving in and out of different body positions. 


Fine Motor: The child has difficulty using their hands and eyes together, has a poor grasp, keeps one or both hands in a fist most of the time, has an awkward or immature pencil grasp for their age, becomes quickly tired when coloring, drawing, typing or using a mouse on a computer, or has difficulty when using scissors. 


Sensory: The child over-seeks or avoids certain sensations, struggles to settle down, dislikes being touched, covers their ears against loud or disorganized noise, finds clothing tags bothersome, avoids or dislikes different textures on their feet or hands, or is easily overwhelmed by crowds of people and noisy places. 


Speech/Language: The child has speech that is difficult to understand, seems to not understand what is said to them, is slow to respond to questions, has difficulty with feeding and food textures, or struggles to communicate their needs. 


Behavior: The child is aggressive or overly passive, has difficulty handling frustration, is easily annoyed or nervous, often appears angry, blames others, questions or resists authority, argues with authority figures more often than what is typical of their peers. 


Adaptive Behavior: The child struggles to get along with peers or has difficulty understanding concepts such as “fire is hot and burns,” “climbing high can be dangerous,” or “parking lots have moving cars.” 


Learning: The child takes longer than expected to learn a new concept, writes letters backward, doesn’t retain what is learned from day to day, has poor problem-solving skills, and shows little imagination. 


Hyperactivity: The child seems unable to sit still, is constantly moving or fidgeting, taps their foot or pencil, makes constant noise, or has poor focus when completing a task. 


Social/Emotional Behavior: The child shows poor self-esteem, has difficulty with regulating or expressing their emotions, has a poor understanding of others, and struggles with emotional regulation. 


If you notice any of these behaviors in your child, reach out to your pediatrician! It’s always better to seek answers early than to wait until a potential issue occurs. Early intervention is key! 


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