When it comes to raising teenagers, there are times when all of us feel like our teens may have an elective learning disability—that is, they choose not to understand what we’re saying. And there are other times when, after a long tirade, we find them staring off into space.
But sometimes teens may actually have a learning disability which makes it difficult for them to process information. Here are a few signs
Signs and Symptoms
Sloppy handwriting: If your teen’s handwriting looks like that of a doctor issuing prescriptions while snorkeling, they may be trying to cover up spelling problems.
Lazy demeanor or bravado: If your teen is avoiding homework like the plague or protesting against reading in general, this could be a way out of not confronting the difficulty. Alternatively, if they profess to be so good at something that they don’t need to practice, this too could be a bluff to avoid embarrassment.
Memorizing information: We tend to focus on the fact that kids who have memorized large reams of information (like pi to the hundredth digit) are exhibiting super-genius skills (and they are), but memorizing information can also help them avoid having to read it or work it out in their minds.
Pattern recognition: Your teen may leverage pattern recognition and context to get the right answers while not understanding any of the questions (or its answers). Admittedly, this could arguably be a good skill for scoring high on certain types of tests, but it’s not good for dealing with new challenges out of a recognized context…aka, everything that life throws at us.
Street-smarts: if your kid seems to be picking up the majority of what they know from their friends or YouTube, they may be avoiding having to learn about it while at school. For some kids, turning on the TV is a whole lot easier than picking up a book.
Withdrawal and frustration: Teens who find school a frustrating experience will be apathetic (at best) towards the classroom experience, and (at worst) might start acting out with behavioral problems—either because they’re bored, want attention, or both.
Inconsistency: If your teen seems to be flying high one week and crashing and burning the next, it could be that a shift in learning material has triggered some difficulties. Conversely, if they’re stellar in one subject but have subpar performance in others
It’s hard to tell…so let the professionals gauge it
Of course, all of these signs could be totally normal indicators of nothing other than just being a teenager, but if you notice several in conjunction, you may want to consider looking into it. Once you talk to a medical professional and/or the school administration, you can get your child tested to see if they have a genuine learning disability. If the results confirm a disability, you can set up a plan for their success.
Disabilities don’t necessarily have to put someone at a disadvantage. But when it comes to learning, a disability means that your teen processes and comprehends information differently than most people, resulting in a learning process that is often fraught with complication.
Almost 5 million American children have diagnosed learning disabilities, which may include any of the following:
Dyslexia: Around 80% of diagnosed learning disabilities have to do with dyslexia, a condition that relates to how one relates printed words to speech sounds. Difficulty spelling, reading, and avoidance of either of these two activities are potential indicators of this condition.
ADHD: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is certainly a mouthful to say, and often a handful to deal with. Teens with this disability will find their learning impaired by difficulty paying attention and focusing on tasks.
Dyscalculia: It sounds like a blood-sucking vampire from a gothic novel, and teens with this disorder will view math with as much trepidation. Time, measurement, estimation, and basic calculations can all be difficult for teens with this numbers-based disorder.
Auditory and Visual Processing Disabilities: Some students will just have difficulty understanding verbal directions or reading charts. Their difficulty with traditional sensory data (like presentations and lectures) means they will need specialized, scaffolding in their educational development that can take these challenges into consideration.
Dysgraphia: Teens with this condition will have problems writing. Everything from holding a pencil properly to organizing thoughts in a coherent, grammatically correct way will pose a challenge. Their writing may be repetitive or unintelligible due to omissions that negatively impact its readability
Of course, there are more disabilities than those listed here, so it’s important to have a qualified team coordinate a legitimate test for your teen. While it may be tempting to diagnose them yourself, it’s imperative to pinpoint what the problem is (if any) so they can get the help they need.