Early identification of disabilities is huge. The sooner a child can receive specialized instruction, the better their chances for academic success. Here’s a situation I’m facing, disguised a bit because of confidentiality. Perhaps this scenario might help you decide whether your child deserves a closer look at their developmental needs.
I have been in contact with an adorable kindergarten girl we’ll call Stacey. After spending some time with Stacey in an informal setting, I am concerned that she may have both a reading and language disability. The other concern is whether she is on the autism spectrum. Here are the red flags:
- She cannot rhyme and becomes anxious when asked to play rhyming games.
- She does not notice any significant features of printed words, such as beginning or ending letters.
- Stacey primarily uses noises, gestures, and actions instead of verbal communication. She also repeats phrases almost endlessly if she has received any positive feedback from a peer or adult.
- She makes unusual grammatical errors and has difficulty copying any corrections in both speech and grammar. She is especially weak in changing the ending sounds of words.
- Stacey is very rule-oriented and repeats these rules to peers and herself.
- Stacey strongly prefers repetitive activities and is unwilling to try new patterns of interacting with materials or games.
- She told me that kids call her a “brat” at school.
- She has a strong family history of dyslexia and autism.
There are mitigating factors. She has grown up with an autistic brother in a bilingual environment. Family trauma is another issue, which can cause children to regress in many areas. And at times, Stacey is able to communicate effectively.
Next steps for Stacey: An informal reading evaluation to rule out unusual phonological weaknesses and to determine that she is learning the alphabetic code as appropriate for her age. I will also see if she can sequence some picture cards and describe those events and will collect an informal language sample for future comparison.