Learning disabilities involve chronic problems with learning, but not all struggles are symptoms of a disability.

Most students have difficulty learning sometimes.

In fact, struggling with new material is a normal part of the learning process and not always a symptom of learning disabilities.

Some learning struggles are beneficial to learners.

The additional effort required to complete challenging tasks can strengthen problem solving skills, increase comprehension, and sustain the focus necessary to improve long-term memory.

Recognizing Learning Disabilities In early childhood, symptoms of learning disabilities may first appear as developmental delays in some children. However, it is important to remember that many children with developmental delays may catch up with early intervention in special education programs and will not develop disabilities later in their school years. In pre-school years, difficulty with school work and underachievement may signal a more serious symptoms of learning problems. Students with symptoms that do not improve over time with appropriate interventions may have learning disabilities.

Suspect learning disability symptoms when students:

  • Make poor grades despite significant effort
  • Need constant, step-by-step guidance for tasks
  • Cannot remember problem solving steps because they do not comprehend tasks or the logic behind them
  • Have poor memory of spoken or written material
  • Have difficulty mastering tasks or transferring academic skills to other tasks
  • Cannot remember skills and facts over time
  • Have strong general knowledge but cannot read as in dyslexia, write as in dysgraphia, or do math as in dyscalculia at that level
  • May have difficulty with communication and language processing, expressive, and receptive language
  • May be very frustrated with school and homework
  • May have low self-esteem

Learning Disabilities and Behavior

Knowing what behavioral signs and symptoms to look for helps parents get earlier intervention for children with learning disabilities. Common behavioral signs of disabilities fall within two categories, internalizing and externalizing behaviors.

Students with learning disabilities who internalize show behaviors that mostly affect themselves and are sometimes overlooked by the adults around them.

Students with externalizing behaviors have a more obvious effect on those around them and are usually recognized earlier as having problems.

Both groups of students are at-risk for being seen as being problems rather than having problems.

Internalizing Learning Disabled Students:

Students with internalizing behaviors are generally quiet and may be withdrawn. They are embarrassed by attention and worry about the possibility of their academic weaknesses being seen by others.

These students may show a range of behaviors including:

  • Boredom and carelessness
  • Disinterest in school or reluctance to go to school
  • Withdrawal in class
  • Disorganization, inattention
  • Work that appears sloppy or poorly done
  • Slow to response to questions
  • Physical symptoms of stress such as headaches or stomach aches

Common Externalizing Behaviors of Students with Learning Disabilities

Students with symptoms who externalize are hard to miss. These students are often loud and disruptive. They seem to want attention, even if it is negative. They may enjoy joking about their poor work. They may take pleasure in annoying others because they feel it shifts the focus away from their weak academic skills. Inside, however, they may feel powerless and embarrassed.

There are many ways that externalizers show problems. Some of these behaviors include:

  • Impulsive blurting out incorrect answers
  • Breaking school rules and being referred for discipline because of behavior problems
  • Behavior problems at home
  • Aggression toward peers or adults
  • Clowning around and inappropriate joking
  • Attraction toward other underachievers
  • Delinquent behavior at home or in the community

Most students with learning disabilities and attention deficit hyperactivity disorders (ADHD) are typically externalizers.

What to Do if You Suspect Learning Disability?

If you suspect learning disability symptoms, keep a record of the problems you are having with the child. List the strategies you are trying to address the symptoms. It is important to discuss with the student's parent or counselor the child's problem behavior symptoms and academic difficulty.

Parents may suggest other strategies to use at school and may need assistance from you and the headteacher to make a referral for formal evaluation if a learning disability is suspected.

Learn more about the learning disability testing process. Diagnosis through evaluation is the first step in determining if your student meets eligibility requirements for learning disabilities.

Parent-Teacher Guide To Learning Disabilities

Having a child with a learning disability can be challenging for a parent at home and a teacher in the classroom. Not only do parents need to learn as much as they can about their child's disorder, but they also need to spend time with their child's teacher. Parents and teachers together need to create common goals for the child.

Teachers who deal with children with learning disabilities take extra responsibilities upon themselves. They are not only responsible for what a child learns academically, but they are also responsible for keeping track of the child's emotional and behavioral goals.

Read on for more information about some of the more common learning disabilities.