Learning disabilities affect about 4 million school-age children and teens in this the U.S., notes KidsHealth. Many children have more than one learning disability. Although a learning disability can make it difficult for a student to receive, process, break down or store information, it has nothing to do with a child's intelligence. Dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, aphasia and dysphasia are common learning disabilities that can affect memory or make it hard to concentrate, read, write, spell or do math. In addition to the academic struggles, learning disabilities can have social and emotional effects on a child.
Social and Emotional Consequences
While not all children with learning disabilities have social or emotional problems, some kids struggle with school and other social situations. They may have trouble waiting their turn or understanding social cues. Because some children with learning disabilities have problems being accepted by their peers, they feel rejected or become socially alienated, according to the National Center for Learning Disabilities. Others conform to peer pressure -- oftentimes negative -- in their effort to be accepted. Students who have processing disorders or trouble with executive functioning can become frustrated at school and feel like they don't fit in. Kids with processing disorders have trouble interpreting and using the information their senses receive. An executive function disorder makes it difficult for a child to plan and organize tasks.
It's not uncommon for children with learning disorders to act out at times, particularly in school. Some children have difficulty understanding and following instructions and may think the other students see them as lacking in ability. As they become more frustrated by repeated failures, they act out in an attempt to remove attention from the academic struggles they are experiencing. Over time, they develop low self-esteem and resort to misbehaving because they would rather have their teachers and classmates see them as a behavior problem rather than as lazy or unintelligent, points out the American Academy of Adolescent and Child Psychiatry.
Effort Without Result
Unless a parent or teacher realizes a child is struggling while he's still in grade school, a learning disability may go undetected until the teen years. Many children have learning disabilities they can cover up for a long time, says KidsHealth. As schoolwork becomes more complex, a student's problems become more obvious when his grades fail to improve, despite his best efforts. For example, some students have trouble with abstract concepts, so may have trouble with fractions and algebra. Other students are excellent readers but have difficulty understanding what they read. Because kids tend to be more successful in school when they recognize a positive connection between their efforts and end results, frustration is a common experience for children with learning disabilities.
Students with learning disabilities often experience frustration, anger or shame that can lead to anxiety, depression, behavioral problems and sometimes substance abuse or juvenile delinquency, notes learning disabilities expert and researcher, Marshall Raskind, Ph.D., in an article for GreatSchools. The psychological struggles that can evolve from learning disabilities often affect children more negatively than the academic struggles they have. In some cases, the problems continue to follow a child into adulthood. Negativity diminishes a child's self-esteem making it difficult to succeed. But positive reinforcement in the form of encouragement and support builds a child's self-confidence so that she develops a sense of pride in her work.