ABC and 123: A Learning Collaborative: Before Considering Special Education by Bola Ajumobi

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Before Considering Special Education by Bola Ajumobi

When a Kindergartener or first grader is having difficulty putting words together from a book but is otherwise performing at age and grade level in other functions like dressing, toileting and self-feeding, learning disorder is often suspected.

There are however a handful of medical conditions that could mimic a learning disorder and if picked up early, could be treated and spare a child from being mislabeled. Medical conditions you might want your child evaluated for include:

Refractive Error:

Literarily means poor vision. A child with an impaired vision is often unaware of his or her visual limitations. If she can't see the letters or the word, she would not be able to read.

Impaired Hearing:

Same reasoning here. Hearing impaired kids are often misidentified as slow learners. Vision and hearing tests are routinely performed during preschool and grade level physicals with the pediatrician.


This is actually a learning disorder where the brain misinterprets certain letters or words. A child might not be able to tell the difference between the letter “b” and the letter “d” for instance.

ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder):

Unlike its better known and more disruptive cousin, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), kids with ADD are calm and not jumping off the wall. They however have limitations with attention and staying focused, their mind often wonder and they have difficulty completing tasks.

Seizure Disorder:

A particular seizure disorder called “Petite Mal” or Absence Seizure could bring about a delay in learning and reading. An affected child has frequent small seizures where there is no jerking but stares blank in space often missing a sizable amount of time in small chunks at a time.

Treatment is available for all the aforementioned medical conditions and results are often dramatic. Corrective lenses for refractive errors, hearing aids for hearing impairments, stimulants for ADD and anti-seizure medications for Petite Mal. Behavioral therapy may be of help with dyslexia. Be certain to bring up your concerns with your child's doctor.

Bola Ajumobi is the founder of, “The Destination for Books Kids Love!” She is a mom of 2 and has a background in healthcare. She is happiest playing with the boys or curled up in a good book.


  1. I'm glad she brought up the seizures...they are not often recognized as such because the person doesn't seem like they are having a "typical" seizure. (Did you know that depending on the seizure, some people can even talk or walk through a seizure??) For the Absence Seizures, a lot of parents and teachers think the child is daydreaming...but they are not!

  2. I had a student come to my class one year at the beginning of the school year as a struggling 2nd grader. He was almost tested during 1st grade for special ed services. He seemed normal in every way...just had a hard time with academics, especially reading and writing. Well, turns out there was absolutely nothing "wrong" as had been suspected. He was just a late bloomer (at least compared to other kids his age). By the middle of the same school year he was tested for gifted, made it in with one of the top scores ever at our school, and surpassed all other 2nd graders with his abilities. It helped me to remember that some kids truly do not follow the "normal" time line of development. This is just a suggestion, that in the absence of any medical issues, more time just might be needed.

  3. late to reply, but thank you so much for sharing this! my son most likely has sensory processing disorder (we are awaiting an evaluation, and he is only four, so hard to say), but that is perhaps important to include in this list as well.