View Full Version : 3yo can't/wont identify shapes, et al

10-04-2011, 03:07 PM
So you know how the reading readiness/ability to recognize letters starts with shape recognition? I don't recall ever having to do that with my super-visual, mathematical, older son--even though he had sensory integration/fine motor issues with writing the letters, he was good at recognizing them when we just started with that. Fast forward 3 years later, and my now-3yo wants to write his name. But despite going over and over the first letter with him, he still barely recognizes it ("K"). When he's tried writing, his interpretation doesn't even look like a letter/lines don't intersect. SO we go to the shapes. He doesn't appear to remember a shape from one time to another (hours or a day later) despite focusing on it for a decent (but non-frustrating) amount of time. Working with puzzles, which he wants to do more lately (I had to put them away when he was about 18 mos or 2y because he was getting so frustrated, he'd make himself cry trying to do them instead of walking away. Now, he can do the peg puzzles easily, but anything more complex than that, he doesn't appear to understand how the pieces fit together in space.

Is this normal (even just delayed), or is there some sort of visual processing issue I need to look at? I have ZERO experience with this--my older son was interpreting maps by age 3.5 and has done 250-pc puzzles with few problems. :confused:


10-04-2011, 05:01 PM
I think its esp hard when we have very advanced kids the first time . . . my daughter was very good with puzzles at an early age, and before she was 3 had learned the whole alphabet from our alphabet puzzles and was writing the alphabet (w a few errors, which she FREAKED about when she noticed) when she was just 4. My second child at 4 knew the names of more pokemon than he did letters, but still learned to read when he was 5. But he never did really figure out jigsaw puzzles. and of course this younger one wouldnt even sit still for a book until he was 3 . . . was barely able to speak so strangers could understand him at 4 . . . miraculously is reading early chapter books for pleasure at 8 . ..

My advice would be to meet him where he is. Buy those letter-tracing things so he can trace out the letters to learn them, or line up the letter tracers to make his name (I know HWOT makes wooden ones, but i think they are $$$, maybe there are also plastic onces?). Keep working the puzzles. Get foam shapes to name in the bathtub. Maybe let him play the shape sorting games I remember Raven playing - i think both sesame street's and pbs kids websites have them. Learning shapes IS a part of preschool curriculum, so i would think he's not THAT far behind, right? Just different than what you are used to.

10-04-2011, 05:22 PM
I think it's pretty well within the normal range. My boys are wonderful, but they're pretty average at a lot of academic skills. They were just barely able to write their first names at that age (or some of it anyway... with backwards bits and unrecognizable bits and so forth) and a number of their peers couldn't at all.

I would just keep working gently on it.

Crabby Lioness
10-04-2011, 06:11 PM
3yos don't have reliable attention spans. I don't try anything with that age until they start demanding lessons.

My 3yo boy doesn't even talk reliably. (He talks to his toys/pets when he thinks he's alone, but not to people.) He gets stickers when he wants them and books read to him when he wants them, but right now he'd rather explore the backyard or play with his trucks. That's fine with me.

Stella M
10-04-2011, 06:19 PM
What she said :)

To me, three is barely out of babyhood. Play, cuddle, read aloud. Your second son sounds completely normal :)

No point comparing to eldest either - different kids, different birth order, temperament, strengths and weaknesses, different amounts of focused time spent with parents :) I'd wait a while before stressing.

10-04-2011, 07:55 PM
Does he understand concepts like over, under, above, below, next to, top, bottom, bigger than, smaller than, etc.? Does he know the alphabet song? Is it just writing the letters that is the issue or does he have trouble recognizing any letters at all? After working with him for a few days, is his recognition of shapes improving? Has he been exposed to shows like Sesame Street, etc.?

Fine motor skills were also tough for my son at that age, so I wouldn't worry too much about the printing. That's more of a concern when they start nearing kindergarten age. I wouldn't worry too much about the puzzles at that age either. A lot can happen in a year or two and he just might not be ready yet.

Stella M
10-04-2011, 08:05 PM
See, none of mine knew the alphabet song. Kind of ever. And they all hated Sesame Street :) And they didn't get shapes consistently right for ages...

But I understand that picking up problems early is a good thing :)

OT but the kindy my middle child went to thought she had big issues at 4 when she couldn't recognise her name. Turned out they were using her full name instead of the name she is known by, so of course when they asked her "Is your name there ?" she said no. Smart little cookie.

10-04-2011, 08:09 PM
If there was one thing I could go back and do over, it would be to not pay too much attention to the guidelines of what children should do at what age. Kids are all different and develop at different paces. In homeschooling I have had to let go of my competitive side.
That being said, my son (who also developed a little later in terms of vocabulary) learned a lot through visual posters hanging in his room. At the end of the night I would hold him and go through the posters (colors, shapes, the alphabet, etc). It became part of our nightly routine (Just one minute in the beginning, and then maybe 5 minutes total as he got older). It was some really sweet one on one time for us! You can get the posters at any parent teacher store. He ended up loving it so much that we got the planets, and more advanced shapes (work on whatever he is in to like dinosaurs, or Thomas trains). I don't really remember when we stopped doing this (he is 13 now), but I miss it.
Good luck to you.

10-04-2011, 08:16 PM
I understand your concerns. I have similar "issues" with my step daughter. I hate sounding like "one of those moms" when I explain that my (maybe only mildly) gifted kids have different needs than "normal" kids. At the same time, I get scared sometimes that my step daughter is developmentally delayed. I need to check developmental milestone lists, do tests or whatever every once in a while when it seems like she should be able to do something and can't.
Recent scenario: Both girls are four, my dd is two months older than my dsd. Dd loves her math book (Singapore Essential Mathematics). She would do it all day and the only problem we have had has been some writing struggles with numbers because she is 4 and fine motor skills are sometimes lacking. Dsd has the same book. What might be a two to ten minute lesson with dd would take dsd an hour if she didn't out right refuse and say she couldn't do it. We put dsd's book out to pasture until she is ready. Dp and I had to just chalk it up to being normal that a four year old isn't ready for kindergarten math, but there was some concern that dsd was having a developmental issue. She isn't, she's just four and lives in a totally different environment most of the time.
All that is to say that I totally understand the concern. Having wildly different kids can be tough when one seems to "lag" behind.
If you are really concerned, I would look up lists of what three year olds should be able to do, see what a normal preschool curriculum is for that age or look up other tests for "normal" development. If what I saw there wasn't matching up with my child's abilities, I might ask the pediatrician for a referral to an assessment specialist. Your son seems fine though.

10-04-2011, 08:33 PM
Yeah, but I'm trying to flush out possible learning problems here outside of the writing, like what Raegan said about shapes. If he's been exposed to a lot of this stuff on an ongoing basis, but doesn't appear to be retaining any of it, I might be concerned. If he hasn't been exposed to any educational media, and is coming across this stuff for the first time, not so much. If he really can't identify top, bottom, first, last, etc., then there is cause for concern.

Stella M
10-04-2011, 08:41 PM
Yep, gotcha :) It's great there are people here who actually have a clue about these things!

10-04-2011, 10:29 PM
What is it that the doctors do? They have the kids draw a cross, a circle and a square at age 3, 4 and 5. And... someone correct me if I'm wrong... they're not behind until they can't do them when they're 5.

10-04-2011, 11:05 PM
Well.......an occupational therapist would do considerably more. As would a psychologist or a speech therapist.

10-04-2011, 11:17 PM
OK, but . . . sometimes I wonder, what does the 'proof' that 'early intervention' is more effective than patient homeschooling? What do they really do that we cant do? I got a call back from the speech therapist today, finally . . . and Orion had gotten a free evaluation from a really expensive 'brain training' place . . and it all really makes me wonder . ..

10-04-2011, 11:40 PM
Oh, jeez...don't get me started on speech therapy. :rolleyes: I know he has an issue that sort of plays out like mild apraxia (and it may be that, but we can't afford speech, and he's only 3). To think, I was always just grateful he wasn't an oral stim guy like ds1. :p

Thanks for your thoughts, everyone. I don't want to be a worrywart, but at the same time, I ignored ds1's (now) obvious sensory seeking, thinking it was normal, and could have gotten some really timely brain training OT in before certain muscle memories were set. Hindsight being 20/20 and all, yk? I didn't want to be ignoring red flags if there are any there.

That said, Batgirl, I *think* he gets those basic prepositional concepts. But he's honestly confounding to ask a question of--never really gives a straight answer, always like he's guessing, but gets mad if you repeat yourself. argh. He's lucky he's the cutest kid ever. We'll be working on some basic preschool curriculum or workbook stuff in addition to some montessori and other manipulatives--I'm thinking one fun project per day, so he can go back to playing outside or with building toys.

Muchas gracias!

10-04-2011, 11:42 PM
Oh. Well, as for that, very little, imo.

I figure what I, and my insurance company, are paying for is knowledge, focus, and a bag of tricks. I can acquire the knowledge, but it will take time that I may not have. Focus is tougher in the home (imo) then in an office/space designed for therapy, both for me and for my kids. An experienced therapist should also ideally, be able to engage & teach a child in a number of different ways. The excellent ones (and I have high standards) get to know my child and tailor their therapy around his strengths, weaknesses and preferences. As an hser, I can, and do, do this myself, but actual therapy takes time & energy that can be hard to come by, when there is so much else to do. And it's one more hat you have to wear, that much less time you just get to be "Mom".

For example, I found a great social curriculum for my son, but I need to modify it to make it more visual--like a lapbook or a poster or something like that. The activities are fabulous but will all need to be modified this way for the info to stick. Anything but text. But I have so little creative energy left right now that just thinking about it makes me want to put my head down on the desk.

Additionally, from a child care perspective, there is NO way I could have given Batman all the therapy he needed when he was three and Robin was an infant. I had my hands full just dealing with his behaviour and was grateful to outsource what I could. It's much easier to contemplate now that he's older.

Btw, when I talk about therapy, I've only had experience with speech, OT, and behavioural therapists. We've just started sessions with a psychologist. I don't know about brain training, but some initial skepticism may be warranted....:grin: Though from Raegan's post, it sounds like I could learn more.

Stella M
10-04-2011, 11:53 PM
Oh well, put us all together and you get a good bundle of knowledge, questioning and resources. That has to be a good thing, right ?

10-05-2011, 12:04 AM
Absolutely!!!!!!! I love our group! :heart:

Night Owl
10-05-2011, 06:55 PM
My son didn't know his shapes, his colors, or any letters at his evaluation when he was three years old. He was being evaluated for a speech delay. He was who ever able to correctly identify and name 15 different kinds of dinosaurs. Sadly, the people evaluating him were not impressed by this ability. My son did have a speech delay, he had no idea about concepts like bigger, smaller, next etc were at three years old.

He did learn his shapes, colors, and the alphabet with a four week period after the evaluation. We worked hard with him. I actually found these DVDs very helpful because he is a visual kid and liked the repetition.

10-05-2011, 08:50 PM
I will be the random dissenter on this one. I worked in early intervention with birth to three year olds for over ten years. There IS proof that early intervention works, but I won't go into that since that wasn't the original question.

You didn't mention nesting cups, but I will include them in this developmental checklist.
12-15 mos Places circle in formboard
15-21 mos Places square in formboard
19-24 mos Assembles four piece nesting blocks
21-24 mos Places triangle piece in formboard
26-30 mos Matches shapes--circle, square, triangle
30-36 mos Sorts shapes--circle, square, triangle
30-36 mos Completes 3-4 piece puzzle

So here is the caveat. If I received a referral from a parent and went out to do an assessment because the child was not putting a circle in a formboard, I would not be concerned. If, however, there are other things happening and there is a significant delay (if the child can't do a circle, then he is not doing a square or a triangle), I would start ruling out some things.
Has vision been checked? This would be number one to rule out, in my book.
How are his other skills? Is language delayed? A cognitive delay with a language delay might "just" be a kid that is behind. Cognitive delay without language delay is a little more concerning.
I will say that my daughter displayed similar bizarre cognitive (and language) delays. She is dyslexic. Looking back, I am sure they are related. There is not a way to identify that in a 3 year old though.
Also, a child who has significantly higher skills (like identifying things that are much higher level) is a concern. I would be impressed with that, but my radar would be up. The child was being referred for a reason. If he can name every dinosaur but can't identify a circle AND he has social issues and/or language issues, I would have qualified the kid for Early Intervention and kept an eye on him.

10-13-2011, 09:58 AM
I just went to a seminar on dyslexia last night. And there are things to look for in preschool. I didn't pay much attention to those, since mine is older. (And check, check, check right down the list of warning signs with him!) There's some great info at http://www.brightsolutions.us/. And you can email Susan Barton there, and she will personally answer any questions you have (such as, should I be suspicious of dyslexia because I see 1, 2 and 3.... in my child). She's on a six day tour right now, but will answer them after that.

Not saying that's it, but worth a look. I'm sure it's hard to decide what "normal" development is when you have more than one to compare. But, I also think there's something to a mother's intuition. I noticed things in my son before he was school age that I thought might be signs of dyslexia. Some of those signs are considered "normal" at a young age, but I just had a feeling. But, no one wants to be seen as the crazy over-diagnosing mother either. So, it's a battle.

You just have to read up on things and do some mindful watching. (Just try not to obsess!) And, trust yourself if you feel you should be worried. Then, you have to find the right kind of help. Which is not always easy, since everything is so specialized.

If you do suspect dyslexia in the end, someone last night mentioned Children's Mercy does testing and it is sometimes covered by insurance. They actually probably test for all sorts of speech/language and other delays.

SueEllen Grieves-Curl
10-13-2011, 10:04 AM
each child is different. I know you hear that a lot. But you will find that what one child struggles at the other thrives at. HS two children so close in age you will see more of this come up.
However in this case I think that the first place I would go to would be the Eye Dr, just for a check up and make sure there is no issues with his sight. My youngest is farsighted and has the same issues you are describing.

10-13-2011, 06:02 PM
When I was working in the classroom (Montessori) PLENTY of children coming in at three did not have their shapes and colors down. It's fine.

Crabby Lioness
10-14-2011, 08:40 PM
Among the children in dh's family, two things are common:

1) genius-level IQ, and

2) not talking until school age, when they start using complete sentences.

I'm not worried about them not being "normal".

10-14-2011, 09:01 PM
Among the children in dh's family, two things are common:

1) genius-level IQ, and

2) not talking until school age, when they start using complete sentences.

I'm not worried about them not being "normal".

Ah. Einstein Syndrome kids. Cool!