About Learning Difficulties in Children

Updated June 13, 2017

According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD), most children have occasional difficulties with learning or behavior. In some cases, difficulties with learning may simply be a part of a child's normal development. When a child begins to exhibit a consistent pattern of difficulty with a specific area of learning or school in general it may indicate a need for further assessment. The NCLD notes that it is typically better for parents to seek assistance when they have a concern about a a child's learning.


The NCLD notes that learning difficulties are common among school-age children. Statistics indicate that up to 20 percent of children may encounter difficulties while learning to read. Experts note that less that 10 percent of these children actually have a learning disability. Students can have difficulties learning due to a lack of background information or a discrepancy between their skills and the classroom curriculum. In addition, a child may have a specific manner in which she learns best, such as by experiencing activities, rather than listening or reading. This may mean she will learn best with specific strategies, but it is not considered a learning disability.

Initial Learning Interventions

When there is an indication that a child has difficulty learning concepts or skills, experts from the NCLD suggest that parents work closely with teachers to track and monitor the issues and concerns. Teachers can often offer simple strategies, such as supplemental materials, to assist with the concepts or alternative methods that may increase a child's comprehension. In the case of reading, these strategies might be reading aloud, reading along with a book on tape or using phonics to help sound out words.

Signs of Learning Disabilities

The NCLD notes that learning disabilities can display a wide variety of symptoms depending on the age of the child and the nature of the learning disability. In general, early warning signs may include problems with memory, difficulties with abstract concepts, consistent difficulty with math skills and concepts and often misspelling the same word with different misspellings. Children who are having learning difficulties may begin to struggle in school and may have difficulties completing written work.

Assessment of Learning Disabilities

The NCLD notes that learning assessments typically have a pre-assessment intervention period. This is a time when parents, teachers and other school staff can meet and discuss the specific trends and issues they are observing. A plan to assist the child will usually be created and enacted by parents and teachers. After a period of 4 to 6 weeks, the group can meet and discuss any improvement or continued concerns. If the child's difficulties continue, despite extra learning supports, a psycho-educational assessment may be advised. This assessment is usually completed by a school psychologist, and it will help determine if the child has a specific learning disability.

Support for Children with Learning Difficulties or Disabilities

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, or NINDS, notes that the most common support for children with learning disabilities is the use of special education resources. These may include special classes or support from teachers who are trained in learning support. Students are typically taught new skills and concepts in a style that best suits their specific learning needs. Students who are not diagnosed with a learning disability will not qualify for special education services. However, the NCLD offers resources for parents and teachers, and there are many helpful strategies to help children with learning difficulties improve both at home and in school.

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About the Author

Christy Bowles has 15 years of experience in the field of education, with 10 years working in mental health and wellness. She specializes in the treatment of depression, anxiety and substance abuse, with a focus on alternative treatment modalities. Bowles holds a Master of Education from Harvard University.