Is my child slow? Some mums and dads might have asked this question before, but were too embarrassed to ask it out loud. There is nothing to be ashamed of if your child isn’t learning as fast as you had hoped.
In the same way that kids grow and develop at their own pace, so too do they bloom academically in their own time. Here’s how you can encourage and nurture their intellectual development.
Is my child slow? 11 Signs and what you can do about it
1. Is my child slow? Maybe, if your child has a short attention span
A child who is lagging behind academically might have difficulty focusing on new information or instructions. They can also be easily distracted. Parents and teachers may find them difficult to teach.
How you can help: Be patient. Try to speak to them at times when they are relaxed and not anxious. Give them opportunities for active play. Often, a distracted child just needs to run around before being open to listening.
Breaking lessons into small, manageable sections can help them stay attentive. For instance, if you’re teaching them to dress themselves, why not start with buttoning first and leave the tying of the shoelaces for later?
2. Your child has a poor memory
In the same way that they have difficulty focusing, slow learners might also struggle with retaining new information. They might be overwhelmed by the barrage of details they need to remember on a daily basis, both at home and in school.
How you can help: Repetition is key. Of course, be consistent. Though they might have trouble remembering, it is not entirely impossible for their memory to improve.
For instance, try to visualise what they learned and have them repeat lessons back to you. Stimulate learning by sharpening their visual memory. Did they just learn how to draw shapes? Match these drawings with everyday objects in the home to improve memory.
3. Your child is unable to follow simple instructions
Is my child slow? Yes, if even basic directions can be difficult. Directions that should be easy for kids their age can be a challenge for a slow learner. This is because they tend to find it tough to take on unfamiliar tasks.
How you can help: Offer short, specific instructions and make sure to give them one direction at a time. Allow them time to process it all.
Most importantly, make sure tasks are age and developmentally appropriate. All children will struggle with following instructions at one point or another.
4. Your child has difficulty distinguishing letters from numerals
Though for other kids numbers and letters look different, to some slow learners they look like similar shapes. Some slow learners don’t just find stringing words together a challenge, simply telling letters apart is a hindrance to reading.
How you can help: Fun, illustrated flash cards can help them differentiate and identify numbers! Just because a slow learner can’t read well (yet) it doesn’t mean they are not visual learners.
5. Your child struggles with reading and writing
Is my child slow? Most likely, if reading and writing are difficult to learn. These are obvious signs that your child has some catching up to do! But don’t worry, this doesn’t mean that they’ll fall behind for the rest of their lives.
How you can help: Inspire their love for reading by giving them books that interest them! Read with them. Nothing beats good ol’ story time in inspiring a love for reading and nurturing a close bond.
Make learning to write more fun for kids by playing crossword puzzles or word games (depending on their age). Interchange between pencil, pens, chalks, crayons, or even paint to make it more enjoyable!
6. Your child displays poor hand-eye coordination
Hand-eye coordination doesn’t just benefit kids in sports. It is a vital part of learning, as it is a basic skill needed in writing, drawing, and reading.
One study even found strong links between hand-eye coordination and learning as well as social skills.
How you can help: Offer your child tactile toys to play with, like LEGO or Playdoh. Crafts — like making macaroni necklaces, puzzles, and colouring — are also great ways to enhance coordination.
Not only do these hone their fine motor skills, they also nurture their creativity and resourcefulness.
7. Your child is disorganised
Kids who are slow learners can have difficulty keeping items and tasks in order. They are prone to making a mess, or leaving their toys lying around. More than being a sign of hindered learning, it can negatively impact their daily life as they grow up.
How you can help: Provide consistent daily routines. You can try coming up with a colour-coding system to organise their things. Clearly marked shelves and drawers at home can help encourage them to keep their things in order.
8. Your child struggles with sequencing
In the same way that they are disorganised with their stuff, slow learners might have difficulty arranging words, ideas, and actions. This can be both signs of learning struggles as well as attention issues.
How you can help: When he is telling a story, try to ask questions that will help clarify the order of events — what came first, next, last?
When going through tasks — like putting their toys away — go through the procedure step-by-step to make sure they grow more familiar with sequencing.
9. Your child is unable to grasp concepts regarding time
A child might be slow if they are unable to easily tell time, even with a clearly marked clock. In some cases, they might also need more time to know the difference between right or left.
How you can help: Go through the numbers 1 to 60 and then associate times of day with familiar activities. For instance, you can say, “in the morning at 7:00 am, we get up and brush our teeth.”
Even making DIY clocks with them can help them visualise time better!
For kids who can’t grasp right or left, you can try what worked for my nephew. We brought him to familiar street with a gas station on the right and a grocery on the left.
Whenever he’s asked where his right hand is, he would just picture where the gas station is and can quickly respond. Later on, he no longer needed to picture it because the concept finally stuck!
10. Your child is unable to see tasks through
Because slow learners often struggle with being easily distracted, they can find it tough to finish tasks they find uninteresting or boring.
How you can help: According to psychologists, showing empathy can encourage kids to finish important tasks, even if they might find them tedious.
Empower them by letting them know they have a choice, instead of imposing instructions.
For instance, if your child doesn’t want to take a bath, first ask them why. Then, tell them you understand how they’re feeling and offer a positive way of looking at the task.
You can say, “I know you would rather play, but bathing now can help you become clean and healthy, so you can play more in the future.”
11. Your child speaks or listens “immaturely” for their age
A child who is “slow” for his age might struggle with sounding out words. They can also suffer speech delays, or conditions like stuttering or reversing syllables or letters.
How you can help: Though babbling or “baby talk” has been known to be good for language development, once your child starts school, talk to them like an adult. Patiently listen and respond to them in ways that enrich their vocabulary and train of thought. Ask questions and welcome their concerns.
A constant, supportive exchange is the best way to hone speech. Don’t pinpoint what they are saying wrong, but rather highlight the right diction and pronunciation without embarrassing them.
Just because your child might seem slow in other aspects, it doesn’t mean they are not skilled or gifted in others. For instance, maths might be a struggle, but your child might be adept at art or music.
Kids learn best when their self-esteem is nurtured and boosted. Try to bring out the best in your little one and soon they will bloom — at their own pace, fully secure in knowing that you love them no matter what.