Superintendent of Schools
Public School System
208 Bull Street
Savannah, GA 31401
All Rights Reserved
How to tell if a child may have a physical, emotional or mental disability
Every child in this country is entitled to a free public education. This applies to all children regardless of the type of severity or their ability or disability. If a child you know has a disability, educational help may be available. To help you recognize if a disability might be present in a child you know, the following checklist of common early signs have been compiled. However, it is not a complete list, nor is it a professional evaluation. It is merely a guide.
Early signs that a child may have a disability
The Child’s Sight
- Child’s eyelids droop.
- Child frequently complains that eyes hurt.
- The eyelids are red, watery, puffy, and encrusted.
- There is crossing of the eyes: one or both eyes may be affected.
- At age 1, child cannot focus on small objects in order to pick them up.
- Child frequently rubs the eyes, as though they itch or hurt.
- Child holds head in awkward or tilted positions when looking at something.
- Child moves eyes excessively.
- Eye pupils are of uneven size.
The Child’s Hearing
- Child talks very loudly, even shouts during normal conversations.
- Child speaks very softly, almost in a whisper.
- When called from another room, child does not respond.
- Child complains that one or both ears ache, or that a liquid “runs” from the ears.
- At age 6 months, child does not turn toward the sounds of voices or noises.
- When there is sound, the child always turns the same ear in the direction of the sound.
The Child’s Speech
- At age 1, the child is unable to say such basic words as “Mama” and “Dada.”
- At age 2, cannot give the names of toys or members of the family.
- At age 3, is unable to repeat simple rhymes or common television musical jingles.
- At age 4, speaks in sentence fragments, cannot say short, complete sentences.
- At age 5, cannot be understood by people outside the immediate family, only those “used to” the child’s speech habits.
The Child at Play
- At age 1, the child does not respond to a call by looking directly at an adult; and cannot figure out simple problems (finding objects hidden under cup).
- At age 2, cannot identify body parts or match like objects, does not recognize self in mirror.
- At age 3, cannot recognize own name or understand use of familiar objects.
- At age 4, unable to name colors, tell the action in a picture or count to 2.
- At age 5, cannot make simple comparisons such as which is prettier, heavier), count up to 4 or understand “yesterday,” “today,” or “tomorrow.”
- At age 6, unable to distinguish left from right, understand size and weight relationships, count to 6 or understand numbers to 10.
The Child in Motion
- At age 1, the child cannot sit without support, pull self to standing position, reach for objects or pick up objects with a pincer grasp.
- At age 2, is unable to walk alone, kick a large ball, scribble or build a tower with 2 or 3 blocks.
- At age 3, cannot walk up or down stairs, pedal a tricycle, run without falling, turn the pages of a book, copy circles or draw a cross-mark.
- At age 4, cannot balance on one foot, jump from bottom step, catch a bounced ball, close a fist and wiggle a thumb or trace a diamond shape.
- At age 5, unable to turn somersaults, pump his/herself on a swing, fold a paper triangle from a 4-inch square, print a few capital letters or cut with scissors on a straight line.
- At age 6, cannot skip on alternate feet, jump rope, throw a ball 10 feet away so it can be caught; print his/her name, draw a person (including head, trunk, arms and features) or lace shoes.
For additional information, please call the Department for Exceptional Children at 912-395-5583.