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Parenting & Education in Ireland

Identifying a Learning Disability in your Secondary Student




Not all children who have special education needs come to the attention of parents or educators in primary school.

The human brain is an organ that tries to meet the demands placed upon it at any given time.

As anyone who has gone to school knows, the demands of the curriculum get greater and greater each year of schooling.

In secondary school the curriculum subjects become incredibly complex each year.

The fact that a student is being educated by many different teachers each year further complicates matters.



There are students who have had no difficulty suggestive of a special education need at primary school who suddenly seem to have a lot of difficulties in secondary school. Unfortunately they are often perceived as “lazy” or “unmotivated” and sometimes as “difficult” students.

If these labels stick and no thought or concern raised about a possible learning difficulty being present the student can become trapped in a cycle of failure and rejection by teachers.

The result could be early school leaving, behaviour difficulties to hide the learning problem, lowered self-esteem, loss of self-confidence and trouble at home.

It's important to recognise that some students, no matter how well they performed in primary school, may have a special education need that doesn’t appear until secondary school.



It is not possible to list the many warning signs of a hidden disability but generally speaking one should be considered any time a student with a previously successfully record in primary school begins to exhibit difficulties in secondary school.

There are a variety of causes to school failure at second level but a hidden disability can often be reasonably suspected when one or more of the following difficulties become noticeable:


Although a partial list it is a good guide for parents and teachers to thoughtfully consider the presence of a hidden learning disability.


Source: David Carey Psychologist, Visit Davids Website