Learning differences are most often identified after children or teens begin having trouble in school. Disruptive or inattentive behavior in the classroom, poor test scores, falling behind peers in reading or math, missing homework assignments, or overall poor grades are among the many reasons parents or teachers begin to suspect a child may have a learning disorder. Not surprisingly, once a learning disorder has been identified, much of the focus is placed on accommodations or ways to help the child in school. Learning Problems = a need to find Learning Solutions, right? The answer is “Yes – AND….”
Learning difficulties do not just impact a child’s life in the classroom. Children are well aware when they are different from their peers, such as having to work harder, reading more slowly, or taking longer to finish tests. They become frustrated when they put in so much effort yet continue to struggle to understand the material or earn poor grades despite the amount of time they put into studying or completing a project. They may begin to doubt themselves and feel unintelligent or inferior to their peers, which takes a toll on their self-esteem. In some cases, these feelings lead to school and/or test anxiety or depression.
A child’s issues in school also impact life at home. Children may be avoidant of homework or studying because of disinterest, anxiety, or problems with task initiation. They may forget to turn in assignments or bring home poor report cards. They may seem like they are “not trying hard enough.” All of these issues can lead to parental frustration, which can sometimes boil over into stern lectures or fights about school work. Ongoing problems and arguments can cause significant stress on a family over time. In other situations, children may have such difficulties organizing themselves or successfully completing school assignments that parents feel pressured to step in to provide help and oversight. When this becomes a nightly routine, parents may become drained from spending hours filling the role of teacher or tutor.
Indeed, previous research has shown that parents of children with learning problems have significantly more “quality-of-life problems” than those without. Additionally, children with learning difficulties also face significantly greater problems related to their quality of life because of their academic challenges. The impact seems to be greatest for middle-school aged boys compared to younger boys or their female peers. Because of the far-reaching effects of learning issues, identification and intervention are crucial and may extend into other areas, such as family therapy or outside supports.