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Learning disabilities

learning difficulties; dyslexia; ADD; ADHD; learning; concentrate; reading; writing; disability; disabilities; read; write; friend; specific ;


  • body imageSome kids try really hard to learn and they don't seem to make any progress.
  • Some kids find it really hard to sit still and concentrate.
  • Some kids have problems learning to read.
  • Some kids have problems learning to write.
  • Some kids have problems getting their bodies to do what they want (coordination).
  • Some kids have problems relating to other kids or adults.

There are many reasons why a kid is not doing too well with schoolwork.

Not eating well, not getting enough sleep, feeling unhappy or scared, having problems with family or friends are some of the reasons why a kid can be having problems learning.

But there are also learning disabilities, which can make it very hard to learn.

What learning disabilities look like

  • Do you find it hard to read what is written on the board?
  • Can you understand what the teacher is saying?
  • Does the page you are reading seem blurred?
  • Do the letters of words seem to be moving about?
  • Do you find it hard to concentrate on what you are supposed to be doing in class even if you are trying really hard?
  • Do you find it hard to talk to others, answer questions, or forget what you want to say when you are asked to speak in front of others?
  • Do you find it hard to write neatly?
  • Do you hate writing because knowing how to spell every word is a problem?
  • Do you find it hard to remember facts that you need to know? (Like the dreaded times tables and what is a noun?)
  • Do you find that you are not learning things as fast as other kids in your class?
  • Do you find it hard to work with others?
  • Does no-one want to partner you in shared learning activities?
    no friends
  • Do you find it hard to sit still?
  • Do you get into trouble because you don't finish work?
  • Do you find it hard to listen without interrupting or calling out?
  • Do you have problems making and keeping friends?

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What you can do

I know that there are times when you may be bored or tired, or feel unwell, or want to eat your lunch, or talk to a friend about something.

I'm talking about most times not sometimes.

If you think that a lot of these behaviours are like you most of the time then it is time to talk.

  1. Talk to your mum, dad or caregiver.
  2. Talk to your teacher.
  3. Talk to your doctor.

If you are trying really hard to learn and you don't seem to be making much progress it may be because a specific (say spe-sif-ik) learning disability is holding you back.

Specific learning disabilities

Disability means that there is a reason why someone has difficulty in doing something.

The most common of these are:

  • dyslexia - is a disability which causes problems to do with language such as spelling, reading, writing and sometimes maths. (See the topic Dyslexia, to find out more.)
  • intellectual disabilities or head injuries which can cause problems in learning and remembering. (eg Downs Syndrome)
  • behaviour problems which can cause difficulties for the child and the other children and adults in his or her life. For example ADD (Attention deficit disorder) or Conduct disorders. (See the topic If your friend has attention deficit disorder (ADD) to find out more.)

Doctors do not know what causes many of these disabilities but often the problems can be genetic - which means that other people in the family may have the same problems.

What kids say

  • "I know that I have trouble writing so the teacher lets me use the computer for my written work." Mark
  • "I am hopeless at spelling so I practise ‘every day’ words at home and at school. I use a spellchecker to help me too." Anna
  • "My teacher has made me a special program to help me with reading and spelling. I do homework too." Eli
  • "I have a behaviour contract to help me stay on task at school and another one at home. I get stars if I do the right thing and when I get 5 stars I can do a special activity." Bettina
  • I don't like people shouting. I just seem to turn my mind off when I hear loud voices. Aaron 

Dr Kate says:

Dr KateLearning disabilities can be very worrying for kids and adults. If you have a learning disability it doesn't mean that you are dumb. It means that parts of the brain don't deal with information as well as others can.

Often children with learning disabilities are really good in other areas like art and science. In fact there are some very well known people whose learning disabilities didn't stop them from becoming famous and doing wonderful things with their lives.

Talk to your teacher or school counsellor about getting some help.

Some famous people who had learning problems with school work are

  • Alexander Graham Bell who invented the telephone
  • Tom Cruise (actor)
  • Walt Disney - a famous film maker
  • Richard Branson - owner of Virgin Airways

And there are many, many more.

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We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.


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