Laziness vs. Learning Disability
Do you ever feel like you are the older brother in Big Hero 6, Tadashi, who is always trying to get his younger brother, Hiro, to make more of himself and reach his potential? If you are like me and loved that movie, you already know that Tadashi struggled with Hiro because he saw all the intelligence and genius within him, but couldn’t get him to channel all that passion and knowledge into something good and worthwhile.
So many of the parents I talk to that have children who struggle in school tell me the same thing. Most parents say, “I know my child is smart. I can see it, but I can’t push them to do better in school or get them motivated.” I’ve seen parents push and push their child each day, doing everything within their power to do better in school without success. The more they try, the more their child shows resistance, even when they give rewards or take privileges away.
As a parent in this situation, you may be thinking your child is just being lazy or stubborn when they show defiance, poor performance, boredom, frustration or disrupts the classroom. You know they are smart, but they just don’t care about schoolwork, or when you spend countless hours studying and memorizing with them, the next day you find they have forgotten everything. You ready to tear your hair out yet?
Before you throw your hands up in the air and give up, let’s take a look at what your child is struggling with and see if there is more to the equation than laziness or disinterest. It may be that these types of behaviors are “coping behaviors.” Your child could have a tough time in a certain area that prevents them from unleashing their potential to develop the self-confidence needed for learning and growth in the classroom.
The last thing a parent wants to hear is their child has a “learning disability.” Those labels are thrown around as often as I like eating cake (which is all the time). You hear terms like ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia, and Asperger’s and think to yourself, “my child is none of those.” Guess what, you are probably right. Most kids don’t receive an official diagnosis from a physician or neurophysiologist and yet they still struggle with basic subjects like reading, writing, math and comprehension. So they are just lazy right? Nope, not the case.
Learning disabilities, learning disorders or just plain academic challenges are used a little too loosely in today’s world. Those terms actually cover a much larger umbrella and a wide variety of learning challenges that don’t meet a specific label. Most of these kids are just as smart as everyone else, their brains are just wired differently and this affects how they receive and process information.
So instead of beating yourself up, or maybe even your child, let’s first take a look at some of the signs that could be preventing them from taking the next step to better performance in school.
Doesn’t Complete Tasks
You’ve told your child time and time again, clean your room, wash the dishes, do your homework, pick up your clothes and they still don’t do what you tell them. Some of the time this is age appropriate, but if you find yourself repeating yourself multiple times and they struggle with this more than your other children, they may have a hard time processing the information you are giving them. Children who struggle can often only complete one task at a time and they may need instruction multiple times before they complete the task. Try to remember it isn’t because they don’t “hear” you, it’s because they probably aren’t “processing” what you say. Hence the deer in the headlights look on their face when giving them instructions.
Clumsy or Uncoordinated
You may find this a funny thing that has absolutely nothing to do with education, but it turns out it has everything to do with education. Your child might be terrible at sports or they may be good at sports, but have poor gross and fine motor skills. Believe it or not the amount of muscle tone your child has in their hands, fingers, legs and arms could be a determining factor for how they hold a pencil, solve math problems and read words on a page. Certain types of movement activities can create what we call “neuropath ways” in the brain. This basically means it creates the right connections that open up the mind for higher learning and corrects the problem.
Your child is definitely not hyperactive and doesn’t disrupt the class, but they seem to be a daydreamer. They often miss what the teacher says and is quiet or lacks self-confidence when it comes to schoolwork. This could be another sign that they aren’t processing the information given to them and they lack the ability to stay focused on what instructions are given to them in school and at home.
If your child struggles with reading, you may think it could be dyslexia or they just can’t see the words on the page. Don’t rush out and get them glasses just yet. It could be because the muscles in the eyes haven’t developed properly or they tend to be weaker. We’ve seen a number of students who have eyes that “jitter” when reading words on a page or they even have a “lazy eye.” Typically those eyes just need exercises to strengthen those muscles. In many cases, this usually corrects the problem for reading or parents have even said their child had a reduction in their prescription for eyeglasses.
Retention is probably one of the most common signs parents see when their child struggles in school. Parents often say their child has a bad memory and they can’t remember their letters, sounds, sight words or multiplication facts. Visually they see the words on the page, but they can’t retain that information once they have left the page. Out of sight, out of mind. This usually means there is an imbalance in your child’s brain that is causing them to “forget” what they learn. It doesn’t mean they don’t have the capability to remember; they just need corrective processes to help the left and right sides of the brain to work together so they can retain the information they receive.
Last, but not least, is texture. Interestingly enough, children who are sensitive to certain textures, touch or sound tend to have trouble with learning in the classroom. Some kids tug at their pants because they don’t like the tags or they may suck on their shirt or chew their pencil. We’ve even had parents say their child can only sleep with certain blankets or they are sensitive when people try to give them hugs. This usually means they are over stimulated or under stimulated in certain areas of the brain, which could be a sign of a Sensory Processing Disorder.
If you have a child who struggles with some of these issues don’t get down on yourself as a parent. It’s hard to know exactly what is happening with your child and what they may need to succeed. If they are experiencing some of these challenges, find them the help they need to correct these problems. Some of these issues could be beyond the teacher or the school’s capability. It’s best to get as much information as possible and provide them with the right kind of help that can bring out their potential. Remember, once Tadashi found the right motivation for Hiro and the correct tools and resources, Hiro found he could accomplish anything he wanted and more.
Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning disabilities achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs