Nobody likes to fail.
If your child does not seem interested in school, others may be inclined to label her "lazy" — she may even feel that way about herself. What presents as laziness may in fact be a learning disability. Here's how to tell the difference.
The first way to determine whether or not your child is “lazy” or “learning disabled” is to see if she is succeeding at school: if you are succeeding, why bother working hard? If this is your child, she may be avoiding more difficult work for fear that she may fail.
She may have a fixed mindset — a perception that her capabilities either exist or don’t exist, but aren’t necessarily alterable — and if she does, help her recognize the benefits of a growth mindset. Reinforce to her that failing can be a positive thing. Think about how children become good at video games — they play around with different keys and buttons until they succeed, but along the way, there is a lot of failure.
But the likelihood is, if you’re reading this article, you’re questioning whether or not your child is lazy because he is not succeeding. Once again: nobody likes to fail.
Family changes (e.g., a move) or dynamics (e.g., an overachieving sibling) can be reasons why children avoid trying and appear lazy.
These psychological reasons should not be dismissed or ignored. Support groups or talks with therapists, social workers, and counselors may be beneficial. Reading books about what your child is going through may be helpful. Magination Press specializes in books about challenging moments in a child’s life (from divorce to having a sibling with autism).
If there is no psychological reason for your child's difficulties at school, you might consider whether she has a learning disability. Below are some characteristics of students who have learning disabilities. Please note that these are not grounds for diagnosis, but they may help you recognize possible patterns:
- Avoidance of reading (and/or strict preference for comics and graphic novels)
- Significant difference between what a child can say and what she can express in writing
- Family history of academic problems
- Child’s history of missing some language milestones or reading and writing milestones
- Significant preference for one learning modality (e.g. they can only learn by touch, sight, or listening)
If you are concerned your child has a learning disability, discuss the issue with your child’s teacher. He may agree that the next step is to get a psychoeducational or neuro-educational evaluation.
If you’re wondering if your child's difficulty could be the result of both an LD and laziness, ask yourself if your perception of “laziness” is based on grades. Individuals with ADHD and learning disabilities are disproportionately CEOs and creative thinkers, but many of them did not get good grades! In school, students with learning disabilities often need to put in double the effort to accomplish half as much. Think of how disheartening that can be. Encourage your children to become good people — and here’s the hard part — value who they are as people over how they achieve in school. Studies suggest just how ingrained the achievement mindset can be. Learn how to talk to your child about having a learning disability. You can help them understand their strengths and weaknesses and how their grades may not reflect who they really are.
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Eide, B. L., & Eide, F. F. (2011). The Dyslexic Advantage: Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain. New York, NY: Plume.
Lahey, J. (2014). Why Kids Care More About Achievement Than Helping Others. The Atlantic.
Love, D. (2011). 15 CEOs with Learning Disabilities. Business Insider.
National Center for Learning Disabilities (2012) Problem Signs: Is It LD? NCLD.
Venton, D. (2011). Q&A: The Unappreciated Benefits of Dyslexia. Wired.
West, T. (2004) The Secret of the Super Successful... They’re Dyslexic. Eye to Eye.