You asked

What's the difference between being a slow learner and having a learning difficulty?

A child who is considered a slow learner will have below average intelligence and their thinking skillswill be considered below normal for her age. This child will transition through the same basic developmental stages as other children,however, they will do so at a much slower rate. While, this development may be significantly slower, it is relatively even. 

A child with a specific learning disability, in contrast, will have average or above average intelligence and will have specific difficulties which can make learning very challenging. There may be something lacking in  basic central nervous system functions, which have to do with the development and use of speaking, writing, listening, reasoning or mathematical abilities. Their ability to pay attention, use memory, language, auditory and visual perception, motor coordination and planning, spatial orientation, impulse control and sequencing may be challenged. If there is a discrepancy between the child’s potential and actual achievement, it’ is normally defined as a specific learning difficulty. Slow learners will always be behind their chronological peers. That doesn't mean they can't be expected to improve, it just means that progress will be slower. 
Children with a specific learning difficulty can be expected to reach age appropriate academic levels in time. Some symptoms that may indicate learning disabilities or difficulties include:


Your child may confuse similar words and letters, lose place, repeat words, not read fluently, persist in using fingers to follow on, avoid or dislike having to read.


A child may use the wrong order of letters in words, have problems associating correct sounds with the relevant letter and may reverse letters, e.g. writing 'b' as 'd'.


A child may have difficulty connecting numbers with symbols, may not remember number facts, may confuse columns and spacing, have difficulties with story problems and difficulty comprehending maths concepts. 

  • Physical symptoms can include things such as:
  • Perceptual motor difficulties
  • Visual perception difficulties
  • Poor visual decoding
  • General coordination with things like balance and eye-hand issues
  • Poor auditory memory and difficulties following sequence of directions
  • Attention deficit and lack of adequate eye movement control.


These can vary widely but can include things such as being emotionally unstable, having difficulty learning by ordinary methods, low social acceptance, low self-esteem and being generally disorganised.

Social, emotional and behavioural

These can include things such as hyperactivity, being quiet, nervous and fidgety, being impulsive,having poor concentration span, low frustration span, low frustration tolerance and emotion.
What should you do if you suspect your child has a learning disability?

It is vital to arrange an accurate and helpful assessment of your child which will enable teachers, schools and parents to create an education that suits them. A learning difficulty is not always a problem, particularly if it is identified early and dealt with properly. 

More questions

Your child will have an Individual education plan that outlines exactly what services your child will receive.
Any child who received special education resources or support in primary school will almost certainly be eligible for the same support in secondary schools.
If your child has been receiving extra help in primary school it is important to look for a secondary school that will suit his needs
There are significant differences between children who are slow learners and children who have a learning difficulty?
There are lots of things you can do to help your dyslexic child develop their reading skills.
It's perfectly normal for parents of children with ADHD to worry about their child's future. 
Teenager's with ADHD will require additional support and supervision from parents to avoid behaviour problems.
There is no single, easy way to treat ADHD. Treatment is made up of a mixture of medication, parent training, counselling and a special education environment.
ADHD is generally diagnosed when a number of the symptoms outlined before the age of seven and for a period of more than 6 months. 
There are many different behaviours which are characteristic of ADHD:



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