Perhaps your child was the first to read to the others in kindergarten. Now you and the teacher realize he can’t paraphrase what he’s read in order to write reports for school. While he can technically read the words on the page, he has never comprehended what he’s read. You feel your child needs extra help.

You are beginning a journey that will explore territories new to you. Sometimes it may be eye-opening; sometimes, frustrating; and always, unlike any other person’s trip. Along the way, you will need to find local resources for your child. Where to look? This article outlines the steps to take before your child’s specific problem has been identified.

Learning about learning problems

It’s easy to become overwhelmed and confused when you begin seeking help for your child. Be sure you read these articles early in the process to gain basic knowledge of various types of learning problems:

Consulting with the pediatrician

It’s a good idea for your child to have a thorough physical exam, to be sure that his hearing, vision, and language skills are normal. If the doctor suspects a problem in any of those areas, he may refer you to a local specialist. Your doctor should have information on the child’s stage of development versus the norm. This will help you later if your child is formally assessed for possible learning disabilities. Your pediatrician may also help determine if your child’s attention and behavior are within normal developmental limits. He or she may be able to evaluate for AD/HD or refer you to a specialist who is qualified to do so.

Obtaining educational evaluations

Many parents are not aware of an early-intervention option called “pre-referral.” If your child is struggling to learn in school, you can request a pre-referral to help identify his strengths and weaknesses. It allows you to work in a positive way with the teachers and to learn how the school system works for your child. This stage comes before a formal assessment and may address most of your child’s learning problems. Before you can find the precise local resources your child may need, you must first have an accurate identification of his learning challenges. This is usually determined through a process called assessment for special education. Whether or not your child attends the local public school, your public school is required by law to undertake a free assessment of your child once you write a formal letter. To understand the process, reread Evaluation: an overview. Perhaps you’ll also want your child to have a private assessment.

Using national referral sources to find local resources

To find local professionals qualified to evaluate your child, start with the organizations listed below. Some national organizations already have systems in place for state or local referrals. Remember, when seeking medical or behavioral health specialists, be sure to check with your insurance carrier about providers and terms of coverage to avoid surprises later.

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Learning disabilities



Speech & language

Other possible leads

Becoming a wise LD Consumer

Along the journey, you will receive tips and advice on a wide variety of approaches to learning problems. While many programs and treatments are helpful and effective, beware of treatments that are unproven and controversial. Learn how to spot questionable practices by reading the articles listed below:

Looking to the future

Once your child’s struggle to learn has been accurately identified, you may need to find tutors, advocates, lawyers, counselors, or other local resources. You may find A Guide to Finding Local Resources When Your Child has LD or AD/HD helpful in locating resources for your child. Note: For ideas on how to keep track of your search information, see Tips on Organizing a Research Notebook.