How do you know if your child has a learning disability?

Dr. Jeff Harp from Highland Family Medicine discussed some of the warning signs and what to do if you spot them Thursday during News 8 at Sunrise.

“A learning disability is really basically something a person has if they are not achieving up to grade level in an area academically,” explained Dr. Harp. “So it could be math, it could be reading, it actually could be development of fine motor ability to manipulate things or large motor ability to run and climb, but something that’s just lagging behind their peers.”

Dr. Harp said anyone can be the person who spots the first sign of trouble. “It’s identified oftentimes by parents in that they think their child has a problem, or when children are in school, by teachers, and sometimes by primary care clinicians when they’re screening children in their offices with the yearly well child exams.”

Of the school setting, Dr. Harp said, “Generally when a school starts to realize there’s a problem, they put together what’s called a response intervention and they give extra services. Not officially necessarily,but try to help a child along and see if they can bring them up to the expected level of achievement. So there’s a trial time to see maybe this is just an area somebody needs a little extra help with.”

If a student doesn’t respond positively to the intervention, then the school will put into place an evaluation for learning disabilities. “If the school hasn’t recognized it and someone else has, either a parent or a primary care clinician can request that the school do that,” Dr. Harp said. “So it can come from a teacher, an administrator, a parent, or a physician, or a nurse practitioner.”

If a parent wants to have this happen, in most cases they have to submit a written request and provide written consent for their child to be evaluated. Dr. Harp noted, “There is a law in New York State that there has to be an evaluation within a certain length of time after the consent is received. Usually, that’s about 60 days that the child has to have some sort of assessment.”

Dr. Harp said parents should be proactive, but also patient as the process with their child unfolds.