Learning difficulties that parents should not ignore

Signs of learning difficulties can start as early as 4 years old and parents should keep a close look. Although it is recommended that the formal assessment be done earliest at 6 years old, we should start to pay attention if we see these signs occur and begin early interventions if possible.

These are the warning signs that learning difficulties can be noticeable since preschool, however, having one or some of the signs are not indications that your child has specific learning difference or SpLD. It is a trigger for attention than simply ignoring it as some cute and silly behaviours that you assumed that your child has not outgrown.



  • Family history of Dyslexia or SpLD
  • Regular occurrences of ear infections
  • Directional confusion, g. left/right, up/down, before/after, over/under, etc.
  • Late to establish a dominant/master hand
  • Awkward pencil grip
  • Cannot master tying shoelaces

Cognitive difficulties in:

  • learning colours and shapes
  • learning new skills
  • remembering and following simple routines and instructions
  • learning sequences eg. days of the week, number sequences, and arithmetic signs (+-x÷=)
  • Telling time
  • Retelling a story in sequence

Speech and Language

  • Delayed speech development
  • Difficulty pronouncing words, e.g., lellow for yellow, mawn lower for lawn mower
  • Slow in vocabulary development
  • Difficulty learning nursery rhymes and identifying rhyming words, e.g. /stars/ and /are/ despite the familiarity to ‘twinkle, twinkle, little stars’
  • Difficulty learning Mother Tongue
  • Reading
  • English dominant and verbally able BUT not reading
  • Difficulty learning letter names and letter sounds
  • Low rate of oral reading –decoding word by word
  • Substitutes words that look alike –horse/house
  • Skips or adds words or sounds
  • Can’t read or confuses easy, common sight words e.g., the, said, and, he/her/here, an/at, in/it/is, in/on
  • Reads the same word differently within the page
  • Difficulty understanding texts

Writing and Spelling

  • Poor handwriting and letter formation
  • Difficulty writing the 26 letters of the alphabet in the correct sequence
  • Skips, adds, or transposes letters in words, e.g., writes ‘felt’ as ‘left’
  • Reverses letters and words -b/d, bad/dad, tip/pit, saw/was
  • Rotates letters –Inversions of p/b, m/w, n/u, me/we
  • Weak visual memory for words, e.g., “kut” for “cut”
  • Persistent misspelling of common words, e.g., “wen/went” for “when”
  • Spells the same word differently in a piece of writing
  • Often mixes upper and lower case letters in words

Early interventions for learning difficulties are always good whether the child has SpLD or not, as it helps them to build a solid foundation during the ongoing exposures and learnings they receive.