Behavioral Indicators of Learning Disabilities

Instructor: Dana Dance-Schissel

Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.

Many learning disabilities are accompanied by undesirable behaviors that can signal a problem. This lesson will explore the behavioral indicators of learning disabilities and will end with a short quiz.

What Is A Learning Disability?

Let's imagine that Jamie is a student in your classroom. He's in first grade, but is a bit older than the other students in his class because he was held back. Despite this, he seems younger than his fellow students because his behavior is somewhat immature. Jamie struggles to keep up with assignments in the classroom, performs poorly on the assignments he does complete, seems unable to focus and misses more school than most kids. He has very few friends and frequently calls himself stupid. What could be going on with Jamie?

The behaviors demonstrated by Jamie in the classroom may indicate a learning disability. Learning disabilities are impairments in cognitive functioning that make learning extremely difficult. In most cases, they are not detected until the child enters school. Individuals with learning disabilities frequently struggle with processing, attention, memory, language and behavior.

Types and Causes of Learning Disabilities

There are many types of learning disabilities, and none are the result of decreased intellectual ability. In other words, people with learning disabilities are not dumb. Dyslexia is a learning disorder that makes reading difficult. Dysgraphia is also a learning disorder, but it interferes with writing. Dyscalculia impairs math ability.

We cannot pinpoint a single cause of learning disabilities, but they are more common in males and in minority students. There are some indications that learning disabilities may be linked to premature birth, poor nutrition and prenatal exposure to toxic substances.

Now that we understand what learning disabilities are, let's take a closer look at the behaviors that may indicate their presence.

Behavioral Indicators of Learning Disabilities

Earlier, we discussed Jamie's behavior in the classroom. He has poor academic performance, seems distracted and misses too much school. He also struggles to make friends, is immature and shows signs of a decreased self esteem. These are common behaviors in people with learning disabilities.

Depending on the type of learning disorder that is present, students may struggle with reading, writing, language and/or math. They may find it tough to focus in class and to remember important facts and information. Students with learning disabilities find it difficult to follow directions, manage their belongings and stay on task.

These students may appear extremely clumsy and disruptive in class as well. This is likely the result of poor impulse control, which can further complicate the situation. Accordingly, students with learning disabilities often find it hard to make and keep friends, which combined with poor classroom performance can take a hit to their overall self esteem.

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