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Developmental Course of Specific Learning Disorder

Kathryn Patricelli, MA

According to the DSM-5, the diagnosis of specific learning disorder generally occurs in elementary school as children are required to begin learning reading, writing and math skills. However, there can be signs that appear prior to that time. For example, preschool children may not show an interest in learning rhymes or playing games that involve repetition. They may also continue to use "baby talk" or have trouble identifying letters of the alphabet including those in their own name. Preschool and kindergarten children may also have trouble associating the letters with the sounds they make or in breaking words down into syllables.

Elementary school children typically display problems with spelling, reading aloud, and reading single syllable words. In math areas, they may have problems learning basic math facts and procedures for adding and subtracting. Children with specific learning disorder may complain frequently that reading or math are too hard or try to avoid doing work in those subjects.

As they progress into middle school, problems with reading or math comprehension can begin to appear. They may write using poor spelling and ignore common grammar rules.

Adolescents may continue to show these problems around comprehension, spelling and grammar rules, and be unable to master math facts. They may be slow at reading or need to read paragraphs multiple times to understand what is being said. They may have issues with drawing conclusions from what is read and try to avoid reading in school or as a leisure activity.