Are you worried that your child might be a slow learner?
Don’t worry, your child is not falling behind. Slow learners aren’t uncommon.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), around 15% to 17% of all children are considered slow learners.
However, now is the time to intervene. Without extra support, your child will be unable to keep up with their studies like their peers. They will feel stressed and frustrated. Worst off, they may come to hate learning.
In this article, we will show you what it means to be a slow learner and how you can help them become excellent scholars!
What is a slow learner?
Everyone is born with intelligence. One of the common ways we measure intelligence is by using intelligent quotient (IQ).
According to the International Literacy Association, children with an IQ level of 70 to 85 are considered slow learners. This is below the average IQ range of 90 to 110.
While these below-average numbers seem concerning, they are still within the normal range of human intelligence. This is because IQ measures how well a person can use their knowledge and logic to solve problems.
Children who are slow learners can learn the necessary academic skills, but they are learning at a much slower rate.
A slow learner needs more time and often more resources from their teachers to grasp new academic concepts.
But otherwise, their development in other areas like their physical and social skills as well as their emotional intelligence are the same as other children.
With the right tools and learning strategies, your child will be able to catch up with their peers and excel in their studies.
In fact, Albert Einstein himself was a slow learner!
As Walter Isaacson recounts in his book:
[Einstein] was slow in learning how to talk. “My parents were so worried,” he later recalled, “that they consulted a doctor.”
Even after he had begun using words, sometime after the age of 2, he developed a quirk that prompted the family maid to dub him “Der Depperte,” the dopey one, and the others in his family to label him as “almost backwards.”
Whenever he had something to say, he would try it out on himself, whispering it softly until it sounded good enough to pronounce aloud.
“Every sentence he uttered,” his worshipful younger sister recalled, “no matter how routine, he repeated to himself softly, moving his lips.”
“It was very worrying,” she said, “He had such difficulty with language that those around him feared he would never learn.”
Yet, he is one of the greatest minds of our world today!
At Q-dees, we help children from all walks of life: See a list of our preschools in Malaysia and make a visit to a kindergarten near you. From looking for a preschool in Penang to Sarawak, our network of preschools extends to all 14 states in Malaysia.
How do I know if my child is a slow learner?
In general, slow learners may show some or all of these characteristics:
- They find difficulty in solving complex problems
- They work very slowly and easily lose track of time
- They find it hard to convey what they’ve learnt
- They find it challenging to learn and master academic skills such as the times’ tables or spelling rules
- They’re not good at fulfilling long-term goals, which may be due to a short attention span and poor concentration skills
- They may not be as good at interacting with others in teamwork projects
Children who express these qualities will face a lot of academic problems.
Slow learners tend to be left behind because they are expected to learn at the same rate as the average student. Unfortunately, because slow learners take a longer time to grasp what is taught, they cannot readily apply what they have been taught in new situations.
If your child has these characteristics, what your child needs is a more detailed explanation to follow directions and more time to process this information.
Without additional guidance, your child may choose to leave gaps in their knowledge of basic concepts and skills across a wide spectrum of academic areas to keep up with the class.
A slow learning child not only faces educational challenges but also social and personal challenges.
As a result of their academic frustrations, your child may have less control of their emotions. They get angry quickly and have trouble building and maintaining positive self-esteem, especially if they don’t get a lot of positive feedback from adults or their classmates.
Your child may also have difficulty interacting with peers around their age because they may feel inferior to them.
Does my child have a learning disability?
To put misconceptions to rest:
Being a slow learner does not always mean that the child has a disability.
Children in early childhood are still at a very early stage of development. They are starting to learn how to talk, walk, and interact with the world around them. So naturally, there will be an area in learning they will find difficulty in.
Because they are at a huge learning stage, it’s way too early to tell whether or not your child has any sort of disability. In many cases, they can overcome their learning issues within the next few years.
Labelling a child as anything may end up limiting their capabilities instead.
If you do suspect that your child has a developmental or learning disability, have a discussion with their preschool teachers. They will have the experience and knowledge needed to judge whether or not your child needs a diagnosis or if they just need extra support in their learning.
You should also get the opinion of more than one teacher in the class because determining whether or not a child has a disability can be very tricky. If needed, you can get the opinion of a psychologist as well.
Bottom line: Slow learners may take extra time to learn, but this does not mean they are incapable of or have a disability. They are just children who need extra help.
Teaching strategies to help slow learners.
Slow learners can almost be found in every school.
Therefore, preschool teachers will have encountered many slow learners, and have developed the teaching strategies and materials needed to create a productive environment for slow learners.
According to the International Literacy Association, some of the proven strategies teachers have used to help slow learners are:
- Providing students with a quiet place to work to reduce distractions
- Give genuine praise frequently by emphasising their strengths and giving positive feedbacks
- Developing short lessons by limiting the working time to several short work periods rather than one long one
- Varying their instructional technique by using active learning experiences such as educational games, puzzles etc.
- Allowing them to work on challenging learning materials; and gently assure and correct them when they make occasional mistakes
- Providing meaningful, concrete activities rather than abstract ones
- Incorporating audio and visual materials – slow learners typically learn better by seeing and hearing than by reading.
You too can help your child learn better through frequent study and practice.
Based on the above-mentioned methods, you can:
1 – Provide a quiet place to study
This can be a small study desk at the corner of your house or a designated study area with their bedroom. As long as it’s a quiet place without distractions such as electronics or toys, your child will be provided with an ideal environment that allows them to focus on their work.
You should also choose a place where your child can easily communicate with you, in case they need any help.
2 – Organise your child’s homework sessions
While setting up a schedule can help your child get into the headspace of learning, you need to break their homework session into brief periods of time.
Children who are slow learners often take more time and energy to focus on and understand their work. Having more breaks in between will allow them to review and process information.
3 – Plan a fun activity or two
Active learning experiences such as playing educational games, singing nursery songs and performing small science experiments draw more interest and leave a stronger impression on a child.
Which is why your child is more likely to remember what happened during catch at playtime rather than the new vocabulary words they have learnt that day.
Strengthen your child’s knowledge by conducting activities that relate to the concepts your child has just learnt.
4 – Discuss learning strategies with their teachers
Teachers are also doing their best to help your child learn. They have experience teaching slow learners like your child and they know which methods will work best for your child.
Ask the preschool teachers what you can do to support your child’s studies at home.
You can also speak with your child’s teacher about the amount of homework your child receives. By reducing the amount of work, your child will be able to manage their work and process the information much easier, giving your child the feeling of self-accomplishment.
5 – Give your child enough time to think through their homework problems
Pressure from time limits can hinder your child’s thinking process because they would be more anxious about finishing their work rather than understanding what they are learning.
Give them as much time as they need to complete their work. In this way, they will not feel overwhelmed and they can focus on learning rather than completing their work.
6 – Ask him or her questions about school topics or homework
Slow learners often have difficulty recalling what they have learnt.
By simply asking them what they have learnt at the end of a school day, your child is practising their ability to recollect and articulate their thoughts, which strengthen their self-confidence. It will also help them recall learning concepts much easier.
7 – Give them a reward
Sometimes, your child needs a little motivation to complete their work when the going gets tough.
Adding on to your child’s homework schedule, you can slot in milestones with small rewards to encourage them to push on with the learning.
For example, if they need to finish three sets of homework, insert breaks between each set. Then, tell your child that once they finish one set of homework, they can get a break for example 10 minutes of screentime.
Slow learners need extra support from parents and educators alike. No child deserves any less of a chance.
As parents, what we can do is maintain a positive attitude and consistently support our children to be the best they can be without limitations.