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Warning Signs that a Student is Struggling

Jun 13, 2018 by

When it comes to identifying learning disabilities, early detection is key. This is often done in early education settings including preschool and elementary grades. There are certain milestones that students are expected to reach by a certain age. These milestones should be considered guidelines. Every child is uniquely beautiful and different. Child will inevitably grow and develop at their own pace. But when a student is showing signs of struggling, they may need intervention. This can come in the form of academic support through the school, a private tutor or other educational programs and tools. So what are the warning signs to look for? There is no specific, all-inclusive list but below you’ll find some common signs that a student may need additional support.


Children are no different than adults in the sense that they will become frustrated and impatient when something becomes difficult or seemingly impossible to accomplish. When a student begins expressing frustration over school work, it may because they’re struggling with that particular subject area. Watch for warning signs of this. Is the student taking much longer than normal to complete a task? Are they exhibiting outbursts of frustration or anger when they get the answer wrong or can’t finish a project? Ask the student’s parents if they are exhibiting the same type of frustrated behavior at home. Children aren’t always open about how they’re feeling. This can be due to a variety of factors from embarrassment to the inability to express exactly what’s bothering them. Their issue could be a multitude of things including vision problems, cognitive function or reading disabilities.

Disinterest in School and Schoolwork

When students find a subject difficult or hard to comprehend, they’ll often shy away from it. Take notice if your student is suddenly disinterested in a subject or project they once loved. Was reading once a favorite past time of theirs but now seems like a chore or punishment? Was the student once engrossed in the science lessons but now shies away from participating in experiments and other activities? Difficulty doing something is often masked as disinterest. A student may begin to withdraw and pull away from school work they find too challenging or overwhelming. Is their homework coming back incomplete, only partially complete, or not at all? This is another sign that they’re disinterest is carried over at home.

Physical Ailments

Stress is a powerful emotion that can have extreme impacts on a person’s physical well-being. When a student is struggling academically, it will undoubtedly cause them a certain level of stress. This could be due to worry over disappointing their parents, getting into trouble, failing, or embarrassment. Stress can manifest itself in a variety of ways and some of these are through physical symptoms. If a student is suffering from headaches, stomach aches or extreme fatigue, it could be a sign that they are stressed over their school work. It’s important to inform the student’s parents about any illness a student is experiencing. But if these physical symptoms are paired with other signs of academic struggle, chances are, they could be linked.

Changes in Behavior

Changes in behavior can be associated to academic stress and the need for intervention. Some of these changes can be do physical ailments that are present, meaning stomach aches can cause a loss of appetite and headaches can cause irritability. Sometimes, a child will act out in frustration in a negative way. This can manifest itself as misbehaving or getting into trouble. If a once well-behaved student begins acting out, this may be their way of asking for help. Try to stay in tune with your students normal behavior which will help you more clearly notice sudden changes. Students may also act out in order to get attention. If you’re paying attention to them, maybe you’ll notice that they need help. Children aren’t always skilled in expressing what’s wrong and they may need your help with this.

Drop in Academic Performance

This is also a pretty clear and obvious sign that a student is struggling. A drop in grades is a signal that the student is having trouble comprehending the current lesson. Homework and tests are often used to gauge a student’s understanding of what’s being taught. If the student is having difficulty completing these tasks or is getting more answers wrong than right, there could be an issue. It may be as simple as the need for review or additional practice on that particular skill or concept. If the drop in grades is apparent across several subjects or in all of the child’s work, a deeper learning issue may be present.

Know Your Students

The best way to spot an academic issue early on is to get to know your students well. You are with them for a large part of their day, which means you’re just as likely to notice changes in behavior and performance as their parents are.

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