Attention Problems in Students with Learning Disabilities

Instructor: Abigail Cook
Most teachers have an idea of what it's like to work with students with attention problems. These children seem to struggle with class routines, completing assignments, and getting along with peers. What some teachers may not realize, is that many of these children may also have a learning disability that requires strategic intervention. This lesson discusses some of the attention difficulties of students with undetected learning disabilities.


Jesse is a third grade student who loves playing soccer. He has always been able to get by in school, but is becoming increasingly frustrated and confused in class. Half way through the school year, his teacher, Mr. Hank, notices that Jesse is falling behind and starting to get bullied by other students. His test scores show that he is below average in most subject areas, and it is beginning to affect his behavior. Jesse seems to forget his homework more than he remembers, and is always the last one to get started on a task. His poor attention skills aggravate these issues, as he gets distracted by every little change in his environment. Mr. Hank understands that these issues may be symptoms of a learning disability, and is beginning to wonder if there is something else going on.

Learning Disabilities

A student with a learning disability (LD) may appear to be a typical student, even exceptionally bright and intelligent. But there is often a gap between their potential and actual performance in school. Most children with learning disabilities have average or above-average intelligence. This means that they have the potential to perform at the same pace and level as a typical student, but don't. For this reason, many learning disabilities are undetected and underdiagnosed.

Individuals do not grow out of a learning disability; it stays with them into adulthood. It is critical that educators learn to identify and recognize some of the symptoms that come with learning disabilities in order to make accommodations and help students build coping skills.

One common issue that accompanies learning disabilities is problems with attention. You can imagine what it's like teaching students who have difficulties attending to a task for an extended period of time, keeping track of their materials, interacting appropriately with peers, and keeping up academically with their peers. These students quickly fall behind in class and may begin to demonstrate inappropriate behaviors out of frustration.

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