Consequences of undetected learning disabilities in children

It’s homework time once again and both the child and the parent want to disappear to a far- off land to avoid the long -drawn out battle of the next hour filled with agitation, anger, chaos and regret. Sound familiar?

By Samineh I Shaheem

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Published: Sat 23 Oct 2010, 10:20 PM

Last updated: Tue 23 May 2023, 1:38 PM

As a parent or a teacher, it is sometimes quite confusing and frustrating when children are not performing as well as they should. Of course children are all different, developing at different rates, however there are times when a child may be experiencing difficulties, at home and at school, due to a more deep rooted and serious reason than just an obstacle along their academic/learning path.

That may be the reason that the child is suffering from a particular learning disorder, which affects how a person understands, remembers and responds to new information.

People with learning disorders may have problems:

  • υ Listening or following instructions
  • υ Attention span
  • υ Speaking and communicating
  • υ Reading or writing
  • υ Math or problem solving
  • υ Make poor grades despite significant effort
  • υ Need constant, step-by-step guidance for tasks

Dr. Curtis, a clinical psychologist with more than 25 years of experience working with children and parents, claims that early signs of learning disabilities may appear as disruptiveness.

These children will seem frustrated and agitated unable to engage in tasks in the same way as other children. Furthermore they may have trouble focusing or paying attention, doing what they can to avoid the task at hand. As first grade becomes more challenging, kids may grow to be somewhat aggressive or behave as though they are rebelling against the norms and values of the school.

Parents often make the mistake of thinking their child is being difficult and might say things such as:

“If he just works harder, he’d do much better.”

“If she would just pay attention, she would get it.”

“After I give the instructions, he sits there and stares at his paper. He is not motivated.”

The main problem with this is that unfortunately children with learning disabilities are seen as being the problem instead of having a problem.

According to Logsdon, an educational psychologist, students with learning disabilities who internalize show behaviors that generally affect themselves. Adults don’t often acknowledge these students and their disorder may be undetected for a long period of time. Some common symptoms may be that they are generally quiet, withdrawn, self-conscience, and worried about others making fun of them because they are unable to do well academically.

These students may show a range of behaviors including:

  • υ Work that appears sloppy or poorly done
  • υ Boredom and carelessness
  • υ Disinterest in school
  • υ Withdrawal in class
  • υ Disorganization
  • υ Slow to respond to questions
  • υ May lose or forget their personal belongings
  • υ Suffer from headaches or stomachaches

On the other hand, students with externalising behaviours show more obvious signs of frustration. These students are often loud and disruptive. They seem to want any kind of attention, enjoy joking about their poor work and may take pleasure in annoying others because they feel it shifts the focus away from their weak academic skills. Sadly however inside it is likely that they feel defenseless and humiliated.

Some of their more noticeable behaviors include:

  • υ Impulsive blurting out incorrect answers
  • υ Breaking school rules
  • υ Behavior problems at home
  • υ Aggression toward peers or adults
  • υ Clowning around and inappropriate joking
  • υ Delinquent behavior
  • υ Befriending other underachievers

The negative consequences associated with a child suffering from a learning disorder are very serious and long lasting. They can range from behavioral adjustment issues to criminal behavior in adulthood. Parents should keep a record of manners and conduct, which might indicate some form of difficulty afflicting the child since he or she may not be able to articulate it as such to the parents.

Teachers should also be contacted and a full evaluation of both the child’s academic as well as their social interaction should be looked into. If there are signs pointing towards a possible learning disorder, it is recommended that the child is tested, by a qualified clinical/educational psychologists, in order to confirm or disprove suspicions.

Parents are encouraged to take this step since finding out if a child has a learning disorder is a far better outcome than neglecting this matter, which is likely to develop into something far more serious and detrimental to the future of the individual.

Samineh I Shaheem is an author, an assistant professor of psychology, currently lecturing in Dubai, as well as a cross cultural consultant at HRI. She appears on numerous radio programs and conferences and has studied and worked in different parts of the world, including the United States of America, Canada, UK, Netherlands, and the United Arab Emirates.

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