How do I know if my child or loved one has a disability?

How do I knowYou may suspect that your child or loved one has a disability if something about them seems “different” or “off”.

For example, your toddler might have trouble learning how to sit, walk, colour and relate interactively with other children. Other signs include delayed speech, poor grasp of a crayon or pen, poor concentration and difficulty with grasping objects. By the time your child enters primary school, you might notice that he or she appears bright enough, but his or her academic performance at school constantly falls short of your expectations. He or she could be very well adept at some tasks, but is lagging behind his or her peers in other ways. Your child may understand a story perfectly when it is read to him or her but will struggle to answer questions about it afterward. You worry if your child is simply lazy or not trying hard enough, yet he or she seems to be passionate and motivated about doing certain activities.

In older children and adults, red flags include difficulty processing information, getting thoughts onto paper or with language output, problems organizing their thoughts, finding the right words, and expressing themselves in social situations.

Such behaviour may be attributed to a disability, a condition that restricts a person’s mental, sensory, or mobility functions to undertake or perform a task in the same way as a person who does not have a disability. Do take note that although your loved one may display one or more of these traits, there is no one definitive characteristic found in someone with a disability.

Disabilities can fall in any one or more of the following categories:

Physical – affects a person’s mobility or dexterity
Intellectual – affects a person’s abilities to learn
Psychiatric – affects a person’s thinking processes
Sensory – affects a person’s ability to hear or see
Neurological – results in the loss of some bodily or mental functions

“Who can I turn to for help with a diagnosis?”

If you identify some of these clues and believe your child or loved one has a disability, make an appointment for them to see a clinical psychologist. A clinical psychologist provides a comprehensive assessment of intellectual and emotional functioning. He or she also provides therapy for emotional and behavioural problems for individuals and groups, as well as prescribes medication for medical conditions arising from imbalances in brain neurotransmitters. A clinical psychologist will refer the patient to an educational or school psychologist who can do an educational testing needed to diagnose a learning disability.

In Singapore, clinical psychologists can be found in government organisations, general hospitals and private practice offices. Here is one such government facility. (This information has been appended for your convenience only. Please note our disclaimer at the foot of the page.)