Most people think that if their child is a slow learner, it makes him incompetent, or he is not trying hard enough. Neither is true! One of the hardest things for parents to accept is that their child is a slow learner. When dealing with a child who struggles to learn, you can take steps to help make his life easier. Before doing that though, it is essential to learn who a slow learning child is.
A slow learning child is a child that hits his developmental markers at a much slower rate than compared to his peers. It is commonly misunderstood that these children fail at learning or are merely ‘dumb’. The truth is that every child has his own pace to learn and develop. Some children naturally learn much faster, and others are known to take their time to learn the same concepts and lessons.
A slow learning child is one that struggles to hit basic developmental milestones that can broadly be categorised into four groups – developmental, social, personal or educational. Here are a few symptoms of slow learning child:
Developmental: The characteristics of a child with developmental learning disorders include poor memory and a delay in speech and language developmental patterns. This means your child could take longer to start speaking than others or may need more prolonged and repetitive lessons to learn most concepts.
Social: A child who has social learning disabilities is usually known to relate to children younger to him more often and avoid interacting with peers. Such children are also prone to behaviour that is associated with children younger than their age. These children are often just labelled as introverts due to the inability to connect with their peers leading them to be quieter or more reserved.
Personal: Children with personal learning problems seem to have less control over their emotions. They tend to fall back to anger quickly, get frustrated faster than most, express emotions like anxiety for seemingly minor issues or get depressed over setbacks. These children are most likely to have significant problems with self-esteem, confidence and are prone to acts of aggression or emotional instability.
Educational: Children with learning or educational disabilities take longer to process and understand the information provided to them. These children may be proficient in intellectual knowledge, but it takes them longer to understand & grasp the concepts.
Most parents may wonder why some children are slow learners. The truth is that there is no clear answer. Yet, there are a few underlying reasons that can be the main causes but these causes may not be specific to your child.
Trauma – Your child could have gone through a trauma in the past which is causing a delay in his development. It is now widely accepted that trauma of any nature – be it physical, psychological or emotional – can have the same impact on children.
Premature Birth – One of the reasons for problems while learning is the premature birth. This can also be the reason behind your child having a slower rate of brain development.
Medical – Another common cause for learning issues could be medical – diseases of the brain or nervous system can cause problems for children to hit learning milestones. These are often treatable, but when not treatable, they are manageable.
Pampering – The most common cause for learning delays is the over-pampering nature of parents. At times, the learning process requires action and failure. A lot of children who are pampered are known to have the problems solved for them, which is why they never learn or adapt
A child who is diagnosed as a slow learner can face many challenges in his lifetime. He may struggle to keep up with his peers, find it difficult to stay motivated while learning, go through many bouts of depression or anxiety or struggle to communicate and build connections with people. To understand the possible challenges that your child may face as a slow learner, talk to a child learning and developmental specialist.
There are numerous ways to help a child who is a slow learner. Here are a few methods that are known to help slow learners:
Motivation is one of the most essential requirements for children who are slow learners. To help them continue learning and to keep them motivated, it is important to praise them when they get a concept or technique correctly. Even the smallest victory should be acknowleged and praised.
As with any child, a slow learning child will be motivated to stay the course and learn as much as possible if there is a reward at the end of it. Try setting rewards for milestones to keep your child motivated and to help him focus on the task at hand.
When working with a child who is a slow learner, it is important to set small targets that are achievable and within reach. As a parent, it is your responsibilty to understand what is achievable for your child.
Failure Isn’t Bad:
Make sure you reinforce the notion that failure isn’t a bad thing. Be realistic with teachers and other caregivers as well as with yourself that your child will fail more often than other children. When he does, do not berate him. Instead, encourage him to try again.
Be Open with Caregivers:
Be it a teacher, your partner, parents, the babysitter or any other caregiver, be open about your child’s struggle. Let them know the situation and educate them about how to handle the situation with your child as a slow learner.
Do not compare your child to other children. This will only de-motivate you as well as your child. Stay patient when working with him and be sure that he will hit the milestones in front of him, even if it is at a much slower rate. Make sure you do not lose you patience and scream at him, as this will only demotivate him.
Keep Space for Aids:
Whether it be post-it notes, reminders on calendars or calculators, keep room for visual and auditory aids when working with your child. These aids can be beneficial at a sub-conscious level. Find aids that can be used passively so your child continues to learn.
Being vocally supportive is essential when dealing with slow learners. Encourage your child to keep at it until he succeeds. Just knowing you believe in your child will keep him motivated to keep learning and trying.
Here are some frequently asked questions about slow learning children.
1. How are Slow Learners Different from Those who have Learning Disability?
A learning disability is a physiological condition that prevents the child from learning in the same way as others. They can still learn at the same pace as their peers if they are taught in a different manner that works around the condition. For instance, Dyslexic children can learn as fast as any other child if they are read to instead of being made to read.
Slow learners have problems keeping up with their peers due to the inability to grasp a concept or understand what is taught to them. Slow learners have developmental issues whereas, children with learning disabilities do not.
2. Is Slow Learning and ADHD The Same?
ADHD is an issue that is focused on attention retention. Slow learners struggle to hit learning milestones due to the inability to grasp information quickly.
3. Does Slow Learning Mean My Child has Autism?
No. Autism is a condition where the child does not identify with social interactions and norms. Slow learning may be a symptom of it, but not all slow learners have autism.
It is essential to remember that a child should never be self-diagnosed as a slow learner. If you think your child may have trouble learning, contact your doctors and have him tested to be sure of his condition.
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