behavioral cues

Children with developmental disabilities will show symptomatic behaviors long before these behaviors impact their formal education.  The behavioral patterns listed below may indicate that a child should be assessed to determine whether special education services are appropriate.*

Remember that all children may exhibit one or more of these behaviors on their trip through childhood. This is normal and should not be troubling. However, as a parent, you may become aware of a persistent pattern of behavior(s). If you notice one or more continuing behaviors on this list, you should consider requesting an assessment, either privately or by your child’s school.


• Difficulty nursing, sucking or digesting

• Resistance to touching or body contact

• Unusual response to sounds

• Difficulty “tracking” movement with eyes

• Delayed creeping or crawling

• Delayed sitting, standing or walking

• Delayed language development


school years

• Very poor handwriting

• Difficulty cutting with scissors or coloring inside lines

• Unable to tie shoelaces, button clothes or use hands for fine motor tasks

• Trouble matching shapes and sizes: squares, circles,   triangles

• Clumsiness and awkwardness in throwing and catching balls

• Difficulty skipping, hopping or jumping

• Trouble with games and following group rules

• Confused sense of time or distance

• Emotional instability; explosions for no apparent reason

• Tendency to be extremely literal or humorless

• Excessive gullibility

• Extremely undeven performance in testing with some potential and some way below normal

pre-school years

• Inability to follow directions

• Impulsive and uncontrolled behavior

• Excessive crying and undisturbed sleep

• Poor sense of rhythm; uneven walk

• Fear of swings and slides

• Frequent falls; tendency to bump into things

• Purposeless hyperactivity

• Difficulty discriminating between letters, words & numbers:   “b” and “d”, “was” and “saw”, 6 and 9

• Difficulty understanding difference between up and down, in and out, left and right, front and back

• Good verbal skills, but trouble with reading

• Mechanical reading – lacks comprehension

• Difficulty expressing ideas

• Erratic school work

• Excessive activity – purposeless, restless and undirected

• Unusual inactivity – daydreaming or inner distraction

• Excessive craving for sugar and candy

• Poor eating habits

• Constantly interruptions; persistent chatter

• Perseveration in speaking, questions or play

• Tendency to become upset more often when people are around than when alone

• Language problems: delayed talking, garbled speaking

• Tendency to be fearless, climbing counters or roofs with no concern


*   This list was developed and copyrighted in 1975 by the Contra Costa West Chapter of the California Association for Neurologically Handicapped Children which has become the Learning Disabilities Association and, locally, the Orange County Learning Disabilities Association.  

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© 2012 G. Edmund Siebel, Jr.  All rights reserved