The focus on services for children and adolescents that have a learning disability tends to center on school performance; the social and emotional challenges that these children may face are too often overlooked. While not all children or adolescents with a learning disability struggle emotionally, it is not uncommon for them to experience some social or emotional distress.
Many children with learning disabilities experience low self-esteem or a lack of confidence - this may be the most common issue that these children face, particularly before they get a diagnosis. To be classified as having a learning disability, a child must demonstrate (at least) an average level of intelligence while also not performing up to expectations in a given area. However, when a child sees that they are not keeping up with their classmates in a subject, they may mistakenly feel that they are not as intelligent as their peers; this can result in a lack of overall confidence in their abilities. Additionally, when children feel vulnerable about their academic skills or worry that they seem 'dumb' to their classmates, they may mask those feeling by taking on the identity of the 'bad kid', hiding feelings of insecurity and low self-esteem by being rebellious. Other children may present as apathetic; children diagnosed with a learning disability often have to spend a greater amount of time on homework and after-school tutoring - all of this extra effort and work to keep up can result in exhaustion, burnout, and a loss of motivation. Some children present with somatic complaints - headaches, stomachaches, etc., when no physical illness is apparent. Parents may also see their child express anxiety, sadness or irritability in regard to the difficulties and challenges that they face.
Struggling in school can be a demoralizing experience for children. For children with a learning disability, we need to attend to a child's emotional needs while helping to strengthen academic performance.