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Tests show first signs of learning difficulties;Research update

Reva Klein on the latest findings

A simple screening device allows teachers and educational psychologists to detect those children at risk of developing specific learning difficulties (SpLD).

A study of 140 eight to ten-year-olds shows that early detection can be made through a questionnaire given to parents. The questionnaire was designed to assess the children's developmental history. Half of them had difficulties which resisted remedial intervention and the other half had no learningdifficulties. Parents were asked 26 questions, ranging from medical and genetic history and the age at which their child started walking and talking, to questions about balance, coordination, reading and writing difficulties. Parents were also asked if their children wet the bed or sucked their thumb over the age of five, suffered from travel sickness or had trouble telling the time.

Analysis of the questionnaire showed that children with seven or more of these factors were likely to have an SpLD. Factors particularly related to motor and phonological skill development, such as lateness in learning to walk and talk, were key indicators.

The report's authors conclude that, on the basis of the questionnaire results, teachers could introduce physical and sensory exercises and activities, ideally before the age of seven, to address the neuro-developmental delay indicated for particular children.

Screening for Neurological Dysfunction in the Specific Learning Difficulty Child by Sally Goddard Blythe, the Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology, 4 Stanley Place, Chester CH1 2LU and David Hyland, R Hyelann 3, 3090 Overijse, Belgium.

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