Slow learners: Characteristics and Tips to improve

Parents tend to get overly stressed about their children being slow learners – so much so that they tend to let out their frustration on them. While this is completely understandable, especially for parents dealing with this condition the first time, this makes it harder for the child who is probably upset already about not being able to read and write as his peers do. 

I understand what you may be going through because I realised my third child, Aaron, has a learning disability when he was in primary school. Most of us see low grades as the child’s neglect for studies or lack of effort. It is only when we talk to them, notice how much effort they are actually putting in and study their answer sheets that we will be able to understand where their weakness lies. I took him to a friend’s psychiatry clinic to get a few assessments done and found out that his reading and writing abilities were delayed by about 2 to 3 years while his intelligence score was above average.

A boy working on an assignment.

Here, I will briefly describe the definition and characteristics of a slow learning child so that you can identify the weaknesses your child may have to help your little one out. Once we’ve done that, you can go through some of the tips I’ve mentioned that can streamline the efforts you might already be following instinctively.

Who is a slow learner?

A mother helping her child who is a slow learner.

A child can be described as a slow learner if his or her thinking skills develop at a notably slower rate than that of his or her peers. The child will carry on through the exact same developmental stages as his or her peers but at a comparatively slow rate. Also, the child typically has below-average intelligence.

Typical characteristics of slow learners

The typical characteristics of a slow learner are found to be as follows:

Learning issues

A child unable to learn as fast as his peers.

Slow learners tend to learn slower and are, in most cases, unable to retain what they learn. They also have a very short attention span. Learning does not happen incidentally for slow learners and they have to be directly taught. And they cannot link one learning to another unless specifically told. They are also unable to apply certain learning or concept in different situations without help – which is why they require rigorous concrete teaching and cannot make do with abstract teaching. Slow learners, due to these reasons, are mostly “underachievers”. 

Social issues

A child looking disinterested in a group.

The social behavioural pattern of slow learning children is mostly immature and unstable. They lack judgement and can sometimes get aggressive about petty issues. They are self-conscious, tend to daydream a lot and love to spend time in solitude or in the company of younger children. They may not be verbally appropriate while working in a group and their mood can change in a split second. Slow learners often portray antisocial characteristics.

Auditory issues

A young boy holding on to his ears.

Identification of sounds is difficult for slow learners and thus, provide irrelevant answers when a question is asked. They find it hard to write from dictation and prefer visual presentation of materials over oral presentation.

Visual-motor issues

A boy wearing glasses smiling at the camera.

Slow learners with visual-motor issues prefer oral learning over visual learning. They find it difficult to differentiate between objects of different sizes, colour, and shape. They cannot make sense of similar-looking objects and have difficulty recalling them. They often have poor handwriting and like to take up part learning instead of whole learning. Slow learners may complain about various physical problems and may have awkward physical movements.

Language issues

A mother talking to her child patiently.

Children who are slow learners find it hard to express themselves verbally and cannot articulate easily. They cannot fully make us understand what they intend to tell us. Also, reading something silently is easier than reading out loud for them.

Tips to assist a slow learner

A mother helping her child with some activities.
  • Give him/her a quiet study table: Slow learners get distracted easily so find your child a spot to study where there are zero distractions.

  • Ask questions: Ask your child questions like, “What do you make of this?”, “Can you tell me how this is different from this?”, “What do you think this word means?” and so on.

  • Be easily accessible: Don’t make your child feel he or she is eating up your time. Help him or her in every way possible – not by completing his or her given assignments but by guiding him through the process.

  • Give small tasks: The short attention span is a consistent issue so only give short assignments.

  • Don’t let them give up: Slow learners need more time than their peers to understand a concept or finish a task – which can leave them pretty exhausted. Don’t overwork them to the extent that they give up. Give them a break if need be.

  • Don’t label them: Don’t keep mentioning the fact that your child is a slow learner and that he or she can’t achieve as much as his or her peers. Be supportive all the way.

  • Be patient: Be as patient as you possibly can and be their advocate. Make sure your child is keeping up with the school curriculum or is at least trying his best to do this.

Every child is special and has talents of their own. More often than not, it has been noticed that slow learners, children with ADD/ADHD, autism or other learning disabilities show immense potential in the creative and performing arts. So, do not lose hope. With your effort, your child will shine and make you proud!

Is your child a slow learner? How do you go about assisting him or her? What are his or her major weaknesses? Let’s discuss this in the comments to help out other moms and dads who are looking for answers.


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One Response

  1. .My single parent sister son is facing slow learner issues. He is having 9 years age and just passed first class due to Covid-19.
    His IQ is 75 border line intellegence as per doctors.
    Please guile how to proceed ahead and initially, special educators, teachers put their efforts but later on they give up and we had to leave from them forcefully

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