8 Most Common Learning Challenges in Children – How Parents Can Help

by Lynn Lee
6 months ago

learning challenges in children

As parents, we are always looking out for behaviours and milestones in the development of our children. When they display difficulties in reading or have problems interacting with their peers, for instance, the tendency is that we would be concerned and look for ways to help them. 

In many cases, the difficulties can be overcome with some form of family and school support. However, there are learning challenges in children that can be severe and may hamper their learning and development. 

These learning challenges or disabilities can be problematic for children and interfere with their literacy skills development, number sense and can also affect their ability to focus. 

Here are some common learning disabilities in children. Along with each learning challenge are the symptoms and signs to look out for and how we as parents can help and support our children. 

Read also: 6 Surprising Ways to Boost Your Child’s IQ

Get to Know These Common Learning Disabilities in Children

1. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) 

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that originates from childhood. A common feature of ADHD is inattention in which the child can be easily distracted and have difficulty in focusing on his task. 

Another sign to look out for would be hyperactivity and impulsivity, in which the child would be seen running about when he/she is expected to be seated. He/she could also be having difficulties while waiting for his/her turn, and be observed to be interrupting or intruding on others. 

Treatment and tips for parents:

A multidisciplinary approach can be effective in terms of treatment for ADHD.  Children could be prescribed with medication so that they could concentrate better. 

Parents can help their children by having a routine and to help them break down homework activities into small steps by using schedules or alarm clocks. Be positive and encouraging towards children with learning challenges as this can help build their confidence.  

2. Auditory Processing Disorder (APD)

Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) is a condition in which children cannot process what they hear in the same way as other kids. This is because their ears and brain do not fully coordinate. 

Symptoms of APD can range from mild to severe cases. Children may display difficulty in hearing or understanding when people converse. 

Treatment and tips for parents:

APD cannot be cured but with the right treatment, a child’s listening skills can be improved. Treatment is often conducted by the speech therapist and intervention often involves the manipulation of the child’s academic or learning environment. 

There are a couple of things that parents can do such as teaching the child to see the face of the speaker, keeping instructions short and simple and reducing the background noise in the child’s learning environment. 

3. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) 

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder which affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. Children with ASD have difficulties in three key areas – challenges in communication, social interaction and impairments in interests, activities and behaviours.

Treatment and tips for parents:

Early intervention for children with autism is important since such specialised help or intervention helps children access learning and independence. These children often require intensive instruction and practice in the core skill areas of social interaction, communication, thinking and self-help. 

Parents can seek help through organisations such as Autism Resource Centre (Singapore) and WECAN EIP to learn how to support their children with ASD.

4. Dyscalculia 

Dyscalculia is a specific learning challenge in children that mainly affects the mastery of number sense, number facts and their performance in mental math. They are likely to have problems with money-related tasks. 

Overall, children with dyscalculia may appear to be absent-minded, with a tendency to lose things, lose track of time, or easily become disoriented. 

Treatment and tips for parents:

It will be most helpful if early intervention and specialised coaching in all skills related to basic arithmetic and mathematics are made available to children with dyscalculia. 

Depending on the nature and degree of this learning challenge, children may require additional help and reinforcement in helping them to understand their academic strengths and weaknesses. Treatment therapies may vary too. 

5. Dysgraphia 

Dysgraphia is a specific learning difficulty associated with the written expression. 

Children will encounter challenges in spelling, grammar and punctuation. They will also struggle with putting their thoughts cohesively in the written form and could have messy handwriting with inconsistent spacing.

Treatment and tips for parents:

There are a number of ways to help children with dysgraphia. They include drawing exercises for improving handwriting, teaching children the correct pencil grip and using tools that help children with the learning challenge. 

This article by the International Dyslexia Association provides a helpful list of instructional activities that parents can use to improve the handwriting of children with dysgraphia. 

6. Dyslexia

Dyslexia is one of the more common learning disabilities that parents have heard of and is a learning challenge that mainly affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling. 

Children with dyslexia will find difficulties in phonological awareness, verbal memory and processing speed, and will encounter problems with writing, spelling and sometimes, speech. 

Treatment and tips for parents:

To help children with dyslexia, an appropriate literacy programme which includes phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension will benefit them and such a programme is provided by the Dyslexia Association of Singapore (DAS). 

Parents can help their child to practise phonological awareness by encouraging him/her to sing nursery rhymes or play rhyming games at home. Reading is another essential activity to help the child develop his/her listening and oral vocabulary. 

This article by DAS lists six key ways to support a dyslexic child in literacy.  

7. Dyspraxia 

Dyspraxia or development co-ordination disorder is a condition affecting physical co-ordination. 

Children will be observed to perform less well than expected in their daily activities for their age and appear to move clumsily. Young children with dyspraxia will show symptoms of delay in the early developmental milestones of crawling, self-feeding and dressing, for example. 

Although signs of this condition are present from an early age, a definite diagnosis of it does not usually happen until a child with dyspraxia is 5 years old or more. 

Treatment and tips for parents:

There is no cure for dyspraxia but therapies will help children manage their problems. These include teaching them to break down difficult movements into smaller parts and encouraging them to practise the movements. Getting the children to exercise regularly will help too. 

8. Visual Processing Disorder (Irlen Syndrome)

Visual Processing Disorder affects how visual information is processed by the brain. This is different from having poor vision and cannot be corrected by wearing glasses. 

A child with such difficulty will face challenges related to discriminating objects, judging distances and has poor spatial awareness. 

Treatment and tips for parents:

Visual Processing Disorder tends to run in families and the Irlen Dyslexia Clinic would be able to perform assessments to evaluate the condition. Irlen lenses could be prescribed to help eliminate visual distortion.

Read also: 7 Ways Parents Can Inspire Their Kids to Do their Best

Where to get help 

There are a number of places to get your child assessed if you observe that he/she displays symptoms of the above learning disabilities. 

Parents can access a list of books from the National Library Board to understand more of these common learning disabilities in children.