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Helping a Slow Learner

Krishna Mahathi

Krishna Mahathi

Dr. Krishna Mahathi holds diplomas in Pediatrics and in the management of allergies and asthma. She has worked as a junior consultant in Christian Medical College,Vellore and then at the Learning Disability Clinic in Lokmanya Tilak Medical College and Hospital in Sion, Mumbai. Years of working and interacting with children and parents have given her insight into developmental disabilities. She wishes that there was more awareness and acceptance of the issues that differently-abled children face and hopes that through this blog, she can enable thse children and their families to make sensible and informed choices.


 “Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.” ― Plato

There are quite a number of children who do not perform very satisfactorily in academics in spite of having no intellectual or learning disability. They are usually called slow learners, along with children who seem to have cultural differences or distracting personal problems that make comprehension difficult. A majority of these children have borderline intellectual function. This means that their scores on the standard intelligence tests will be below those of normal individuals but not low enough to be labelled as intellectual retardation.

In India we use the adaptations of the Wechsler’s Intelligence scale for children, wherein a score of 85 and above indicates normal intelligence and a score below 70 is classified as mental retardation. These slow learners typically have scores ranging between 70 and 85.Classically, they have difficulty understanding new concepts and with abstract thinking. Many slow learners show difficulties in perception. They tend to ignore details and go for overall comprehension and production. Those teaching them may mistake this tendency as a reluctance to learn, or a lack of concentration. As society continues to stress academic performance over other skills in appreciating a child’s potential, we might be judging these kids too harshly and consequently breeding oppositional traits,violence,depression, and a tendency to suicide – all of which we can attribute to frustration and low self-esteem. It is crucial therefore to be able to identify, accept and understand slow learners. Although it is unfortunate that they don’t qualify for special education there is much that a well-informed parent and teacher can do.

Some characteristics that help to identify borderline intelligence are:


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Dr. Krishna Mahathi holds diplomas in Pediatrics and in the management of allergies and asthma. Years of working and interacting with children and parents have given her insight into developmental disabilities. She wishes that there was more awareness and acceptance of the issues that differently-abled children face and hopes that through this blog, she can enable thse children and their families to make sensible and informed choices.

8 thoughts on “Helping a Slow Learner

  1. Kritika Srinivasan

    Thanks Krishna for this post.

    For readers who are interested in reading more about slow learners – how to identify them, remedy weaknesses, etc., you can read this article that appeared in one of the issues of our magazine a couple of years ago. In fact the first feature that we did on learning disabilities was on Slow Learners! Here is the link: http://parentedge.in/handling-slow-learners

  2. Jasmina L Pathi

    I have a student who is 4 years. She has good grasping power and is hyper active. She keeps running and jumping around in the class. She also keeps laughing always without any reason. Can anyone suggest how do i make her sit and concentrate. Does she need any professional help or am I unable to understand her. Pl. help me in how to deal with this child.

    1. Krishna

      Dear Jasmina,
      Hyperactivity like most problems involves a multidisciplinary approach.It is diagnosed as a disorder clinically by a physician only if it persists for a certain period of time both at home and the learning environment.This means that you will have to involve her parents equally if you need to see results.All remediation should be consistent.Medication,exercises and occupational therapy helps.These children have to be taught a concept of time and orientation through play based activity that is what occupational therapy does.Yoga and pranayam relax but at her age sending her alone to practice makes no sense.Her family has to do it and make it interesting to her.Since you say she is intelligent it is also possible that she is a gifted child who finds the curriculum less stimulating.You need to work on teaching her more and teach her out of the book.She will need frequent breaks,don’t hesitate to let her walk around every 20 to 30 minutes and return.Your best tool is her grasping power.You can use it to your advantage.

  3. vijayalakshmi

    My elder daughter is studying in I standard and she is 8 years old. when she is 4 years old we started facing difficulty with her. she started speaking properly by 31/2 years and since from that time she told us she wont go to school. I asked her why? she wont reply and we verified with the teachers.

    she is very soft and if someone scolds she will start crying some times she never listen to any one. she also have sibling rivalary (my younger daughter had some physical problem and we was treating for that for the past 3 years).

    Then we took her to the psychologist and they told us she is of dull normal level and they told us to repeat her in Ukg once.
    we did that. now she is better but still she face the problem with writing.
    how to handle the child and how to make her write properly.

    she takes lot of time to write or other wise she is very good in listening and her capacity of knowing thisngs is awesome.
    it makes me to concentrate on her a lot but that creates rivalary and misunderstanding between two.

    Kindly help me to handle both the child

  4. Krishna

    Vijaylakshmi please accept your child as she is and remove the problem tag from her.At her age self confidence and a feeling of reassurance is more important than her academics.Give her a sense of achievement and responsibility often.Dictate grocery lists letters or play a game of memory where she remembers and notes down things she sees.Find out what her talents are and encourage expression of her feelings.Listen to her. Gradually she will open up and be able to tell you what is upsetting her.Sometimes the issue may be totally different from what you expect. The relationship between your children will change over the years and you will always have to work at giving them equal attention.Encourage them to do things together like helping you cook or keep the house.Play games with them where they are in one team.Dull normal intelligence need not hold her back from achieving anything but you must work on her academics continuously making sure that she understands concepts.Take it as a challenge on yourself to bring out the best in both your children.You can do it.

  5. Krishna

    You can consult yourpsychologist and request for a thematic apperception test for children or a rorschach test to help understand a child’s conflicts and behaviour


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