How to Know if a Child Is Lazy or Has a Learning Disability

How to Know if a Child Is Lazy or Has a Learning Disability
Be on the lookout for early warning signs of a learning disability.

Parents and educators can become frustrated when a seemingly capable child underperforms academically. Parents may praise their child for being so smart and attribute poor academic success with a lack of care or motivation about school work. How do you determine if a child is simply not putting his best foot forward (for whatever reason) or has a learning disability?

Signs that a child may have a learning disability

Many children with learning disabilities are of average or above-average intelligence as measured by a cognitive test (IQ).

They can be very creative and possess unique talents.  Unfortunately, many children with learning disabilities are labeled as “lazy” due to the fact that they may avoid or refuse to do schoolwork.

The human brain processes information in different ways and at different speeds. Individuals with learning disabilities process information differently from others. For instance, children with poor visual processing may appear reluctant to read or complete paperwork. Those who possess difficulty processing auditory information may have trouble learning to speak or understand spoken language and thus, struggle following directions or recalling information.

Early Warning Signs of a Learning Disability

There are telltale signs that parents and educators can be on the lookout for in the early identification of a learning disability.

  • Consistent struggles in their academic performance from grade-to-grade, as compared to their classmates.
  • A family history of learning disabilities or speech and language impairment. 
  • Frustration, avoidance, or any other behavioral reaction specific to academic situations.
  • Difficulty with speech and language skills. Late talking may be a warning sign of a learning disability. A study published in the Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research suggests that a child with a language impairment is at risk for slower acquisition of reading skills and a wide range of other language-related skills as they enter into adolescence.
  • Difficulty remembering details from a story when read to them.
  • Difficulty communicating ideas verbally and/or on paper.
  • Mixing up the order of letters or words when writing or speaking.

Diagnosing Learning Disabilities

Many educational systems are set up on a “wait-and-see” model. If you suspect that a child has a learning disability, take action right away. Diagnosing a child with a learning disability requires an in depth formal evaluation process to see if he/she qualifies for services that are specific to his/her needs. In the meantime, educate yourself on the specifics about your child’s learning disability. Reach out to other parents or support groups who are dealing with similar challenges as they can be excellent resources of information and support.


1. Rescorla L. Do late-talking toddlers turn out to have reading difficulties a decade later? Annals of Dyslexia. 2000; 50:87–102

2. Rescorla L. Language and reading outcomes to age 9 in late-talking toddlers. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. 2002; 45:360–371

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