Warning Signs That a Child Should Be Evaluated

Children with ADHD need to learn how it looks and feels to pay attentionAll children develop at their own rate. Parents often wonder if the problems and inconsistencies they observe in their child’s behavior are indicative of learning issues that should be checked out by professionals.

You can use the checklist below to get an idea of whether your child shows warning signs that you should investigate further. This checklist is not exhaustive, but it has most of the signs of learning problems that are relevant for parents to be aware of.

As you complete the checklist, remember to take into consideration not only the number of symptoms you notice in your child’s behavior, but also the severity of the symptoms you observe. You may want to share the checklist with your school district or private educational evaluator to communicate your concerns.

Auditory, Language and Speech

  • Frequent or recurrent ear infections
  • Begins using single words later than one year of age
  • Difficulty pronouncing sounds
  • Mixing up sounds in words
  • Difficulty with rhymes
  • Does not respond to his or her name consistently
  • Asks for words, phrases, or sentences to be repeated
  • Does not seem to be paying attention to sounds or to what is being said
  • Difficulty comprehending spoken language or material read to him/her
  • May respond in an inappropriate manner, unrelated to what is said, or only respond partially to what is said
  • Grammar errors
  • Difficulty learning vocabulary
  • Needs to have information or instructions repeated
  • Says, “Huh?” or “What?”
  • Has difficulty following conversations
  • Has difficulty remembering / following more than one or two directions
  • Has trouble understanding humor / jokes
  • Talks in a very loud or very soft voice
  • Turns body so that the same ear is always turned toward sound
  • Doesn’t startle to loud noises
  • Daydreams or tunes out in class

Memory and Learning

  • Acquires new skills slowly
  • Able to learn information presented in one way, but not in another
  • Difficulty making judgments and generalizing to new situations
  • Problems organizing and putting together thoughts
  • Problems with reasoning skills
  • Problems with knowing, using and monitoring the use of thinking and learning strategies
  • Difficulty learning from mistakes, repeats the same error over and over
  • Seems unaware of time or sequence of events
  • Remembers details in reading but has difficulty making inferences
  • Has difficulty “putting the pieces together” to see the big picture
  • Can make inferences and see the big picture, but frequently forgets the details
  • Trouble remembering and using previously learned information when acquiring new tasks

Visual, Motor and Sensory Processing

  • Gets lost in large buildings, difficulty with directions
  • Performs similar tasks differently from day to day
  • Trouble dialing phone numbers or holding a pen/pencil
  • Poor coordination, clumsiness, unaware of physical surroundings, or has a tendency to hurt his/her self
  • Visual spatial confusion (right/left, up/down, under/over, behind/between)
  • Difficulty discriminating size, shape, color
  • Distorted concept of body image
  • Difficulty copying from near at hand or from a distance
  • Lack of hand preference or mixed dominance
  • Stiff arms and/or legs
  • Floppy or limp body posture
  • Uses one side of body more than the other
  • Seems to have difficulty following objects or people with her eyes
  • Rubs eyes frequently
  • Turns, tilts or holds head in a strained or unusual position when trying to look at an object
  • Difficulty finding or picking up small objects dropped on the floor (after the age of 12 months)
  • Difficulty focusing or making eye contact
  • Closes one eye when trying to look at distant objects
  • Eyes appear to be crossed or turned
  • Brings objects too close to eyes to see
  • One or both eyes appear abnormal in size or coloring
  • Excessive risk taking – jumps and crashes into things
  • Cries or covers their ears with every loud sound – even vacuums, toilets or hairdryers
  • Doesn’t like to be touched or can’t be touched enough
  • Limited food choices
  • Will only wear certain clothes
  • Must have tags cut out of clothes or seams in socks cause distress
  • Can’t calm down or get to sleep
  • Refuses to put hands in anything messy or to use glue, Play Doh, or to play with mud
  • Fears playground equipment or being tipped upside down
  • Major meltdowns in noisy or crowded places

Attention and Organization

  • Difficulty noticing and attending to details which leads to “careless” errors
  • Trouble sustaining attention on tasks or play activities
  • Not seeming to hear when spoken to
  • Not following through to complete tasks
  • Difficulty organizing materials, belongings, thoughts or words
  • Avoiding tasks that involve concentration or sustained attention
  • Losing or misplacing materials or belongings
  • Distracted or forgetful
  • Difficulty following a schedule or being on time
  • Fidgety or squirmy when sitting still is expected
  • Excessive running, climbing, or getting out of seat that is inappropriate for age
  • Acting as if “driven by a motor”
  • Trouble waiting one’s turn
  • Feels restless
  • Blurts out answers or interrupts
  • Procrastinates with tasks
  • Difficulty “shifting gears” to a new task
  • Rushes through tasks or takes inordinately long
  • Daydreams or tunes out in class
  • Seems to reach a “saturation point” when learning—after performing a task accurately, begins to do the task incorrectly


  • Difficulty learning phonics
  • Slow reading speed for his/her age
  • Difficulty comprehending material read
  • Frequently loses place while reading
  • Complains of headaches, eye strain, fatigue when reading
  • Words move, jump, swim, or appear to float on the page when reading


  • Messy handwriting, difficulty learning to make letters, letter reversals
  • Reversals or omissions of letters, words or phrases when writing
  • Difficulty writing ideas and/or organizing thoughts on paper
  • High degree of capitalization and punctuation errors
  • Poor spelling
  • Frequently spells the same word differently


  • Reverses numbers
  • Difficulty learning the patterns of the number system
  • May memorize counting sequences but show limited understanding of them
  • Difficulty memorizing counting patterns, e.g., counting by 2’s, etc.
  • Difficulty memorizing math facts
  • Difficulty with sequences such as days of the week, months of the year
  • Trouble with word problems and problem solving
  • Trouble lining up columns or keeping place
  • Makes errors with the procedures used for basic math

Social, Emotional and Behavioral

  • Difficulties with social judgment and making friends
  • Misinterprets non-verbal social cues such as facial expressions, gestures, etc.
  • Experiences social isolation, is the victim of bullying
  • Difficulty making eye contact
  • Hypersensitive to criticism
  • Perfectionism, slow rate of work production
  • Unreasonable self expectations, negative view of own performance
  • Low tolerance for frustration
  • Aggressive, bullying of others, shouting, disrespectful behavior
  • Often obsesses on one topic or idea
  • Fails to see the consequences of his/her actions
  • Overly gullible, easily led by peers
  • Excessive variation in mood and responsiveness
  • Poor adjustment to changes in routines
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Focuses on unusual objects for long periods of time or enjoys this more than interacting with others
  • Very stubborn compared with other children
  • Stares into space, rocks body, or talks to self more often than other children of the same age
  • Does not seek love and approval from a caregiver or parent
  • Excessively tired at the end of the day
  • Tendency towards depression
  • Trouble getting self going in the morning
  • Very slow moving
  • Tendency towards irritability
  • Tends to be anxious or tense
  • Lacks tact

Personal and Family History

  • Family history of learning disabilities
  • Injuries and long-term illnesses affecting neurological development
  • Being adopted
  • Poor prenatal medical care and nutrition
  • Prenatal injury or delivery complications
  • Exposure to environmental toxins such as lead or toxic mold
  • Exposure to loud noises
  • Family history of hearing loss

About Dr. Kari Miller, PhD
Students with learning difficulties MUST believe in their intelligence and skill in order to succeed in life! Enjoy Dr. Miller’s collection of thought-provoking articles to help you maximize your child’s academic achievement! Register here and we’ll send the collection of articles right to your email inbox. We’ll also send you our free monthly newsletter. You can discontinue at any time.

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