Identify Learning Disabilities in Kids: Tips for the Pediatrician Visit

Immunizations?  Check.

Hearing and vision tests?  Check.

After-school activities?  Check.

Diagnosis of a first-grader’s learning disability?  Not on most parents’ back-to-school lists.

Many parents may not be aware that the first six weeks of the school year are the most critical to identifying potential learning challenges. According to The National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD), early detection leads to better outcomes and school success for all children.

Asking questions when visiting the pediatrician during a back-to-school check-up can help parents understand and identify potential issues such as learning disabilities like dyslexia.

Below is a “learning check-up” checklist from Dr. Jennifer Trachtenberg, MD (a.k.a “Dr. Jen”) for parents to use with their pediatrician.  Dr. Jen is a board-certified pediatrician at The Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and a mom of two children who has practiced pediatric medicine for more than 14 years.

  • Don’t Wait – While early warning signs of learning disabilities can be identified in children as young as 3 or 4-years of age, the National Center for Learning Disabilities ( states that most children with learning disabilities are recognized around third grade. Providing early help is a must for fostering a child’s future success. NCLD’s Interactive LD Checklist is a helpful tool for parents to identify signs of a possible learning disability.
  • Write it Down – Before the appointment, keep a written record of any observations of the child struggling so that parents can share specific examples with their pediatrician. There’s no single indicator or profile that fits everyone, so parents can refer to this list of signs of LD for guidance.
  • Come PreparedKnowledge is power – the more background information parents can provide to pediatricians, the better. Bring report cards, samples of schoolwork and notes from parent-teacher meetings. Also know the family’s medical history and whether or not any relatives are known to have had a learning disability or other disorder that impacts learning.
  • Be Assertive – Ask the child’s pediatrician to write a letter or join in a phone call with teachers, school psychologist or other school personnel. Don’t be afraid to speak up and set clear and actionable next steps. Additionally,’s Resource Locator Tool connects parents with thousands of local, state and national resources for specialist referrals, support groups and LD-related info.

Following these tips will help parents prepare for the school year and assist pediatricians with diagnosing any learning challenges in kids.