Many things can affect a student’s academic performance. The atmosphere in a classroom, life outside of school, and interest in the material are just some of the variables that can affect how well students perform. But another variable that’s sometimes hard to identify also affects the performance of millions of students each year.

The Learning Disabilities Association of America estimates that about one in five children in the United States has a learning and attention issue. Based on a 2017 report from The National Center for Learning Disabilities, the estimate from LDAA equates to more than 11 million students with learning and attention issues. Those issues are not always easy to spot, but parents can learn to look for signs that suggest their children may have a learning disorder. The LDAA notes that learning disorders may manifest differently based on a child’s age. The following rundown of age-based symptoms, courtesy of the LDAA, can help parents who suspect their child may have a learning disorder.


  • Pronunciation problems
  • Difficulty finding the right word and rhyming words
  • Trouble learning numbers, the alphabet, days of the week, colors, and shapes
  • Difficulty concentrating, following directions, or learning routines
  • Trouble interacting with peers
  • Difficulty controlling pencils, crayons, or scissors

Kindergarten through Fourth Grade

  • Trouble learning connections between letters and sounds
  • Confusion with basic words, such as “run,” “eat” and “want”
  • Consistent reading and spelling errors, letter reversals (b/d), inversions (m/w), transpositions (felt/left), and substitutions (house/home)
  • Difficulty learning basic math concepts, and learning about time
  • Difficulty learning new skills and remembering facts

Grades Five through Eight

  • Difficulty with reading comprehension or math skills
  • Trouble with letter sequences (soiled for solid, left for felt)
  • Difficulty with prefixes, suffixes, root words, and other spelling strategies
  • Difficulty organizing room, notebook, papers, desk, keeping up with assignments
  • Trouble with handwriting
  • Difficulty managing time, understanding oral discussions, and expressing thoughts

High School and Beyond

  • Spelling the same word differently in a single document
  • Difficulty with reading/writing tasks, memory skills, and misreading information
  • Difficulty with open-ended questions on tests
  • Difficulty adapting skills from one setting to another
  • Struggling with a slow work pace
  • Difficulty grasping abstract concepts and focusing on details

Johns Hopkins Medicine says experts do not know how to prevent learning disorders in children, but various treatments, individual classes, and speech and family therapy can ease symptoms and help children reach their academic potential.