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Slow Learners

Submited by- Team Sitagita on 15 Sep, 2011 PREGNANCY & PARENTING  PARENTING  

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Vikram keeps failing in his school exams. His classwork is of poor quality and he cannot understand anything explained to him unless simple, concrete examples are given to him from everyday life situations. He also finds it difficult to understand things, which are outside his range of immediate experience.

This means that he will not be ready for formal learning (reading, writing and arithmetic) at the same age as the other children of his class. He is probably at a lower intellectual level than his classmates. However, he is able to take care of his personal and social needs under guidance and is also capable of learning at the concrete level. So, he probably falls in the category of the mentally retarded, although his retardation does not seem to be very severe. He belongs to a sub-category of the retarded, generally referred to as the slow-learners.

Who are the slow-learners?

Slow-learners are those who fail in school because of their low intellectual abilities. Their IQ ranges from 55 / 60 to 85 / 90. They have a wide range of abilities and a variety of characteristics depending on their background.


  1. In physical appearance they are no different from normal children and therefore likely to get admission into schools for normal children where the curriculum is drawn up to meet the needs of average children. So they find it extremely difficult to cope with the education imparted in these schools, unless special provision is made for them and the curriculum is oriented towards practical and real life activities.
  2. They are capable of being educated in ordinary schools and even achieving a moderate degree of success, if they are allowed to proceed at a slower pace and the syllabus is adapted to suit their abilities.
  3. But, they will not be able to keep pace with the average children and never be able to learn all the things we expect normal children to master by the time they leave school.
  4. They will not be able to go for higher studies despite all the guidance and educational facilities made available to them.
  5. They have poor memories. Their attention span is short and they cannot concentrate on one topic for long.

Special problems of the slow-learners:

  1. Since in physical appearance they look like normal children, parents and teachers have the same expectations from them as from the latter.
  2. When they are not able to live up to these expectations, parents and teachers scold and punish them instead of trying to find out the reason behind their failure.
  3. Their classmates make fun of them.
  4. Consequently, they are bewildered and confused, wondering what wrong they have committed.
  5. Since their basic needs of being loved, accepted and recognised are not met, they develop emotional problems and behaviour difficulties.
  6. They generally have a low self-concept due to their limited experience of success and due to the low opinion expressed of them by parents, teachers and others around them.

These problems arise when:

  • A child with low intellectual abilities is not identified at an early age ( before 7 years ).
  • The goals of and the expectations from his education are unrealistic and not geared to his pace of learning and intellect level.
  • When parents refuse to come to terms with the fact that their child has low mental ability. The tense emotional situation at home makes the child feel insecure.
  • Insecurities also creep in if the parents, due to self imposed guilt feelings, are inconsistent in their handling of the child: sometimes over protective, sometimes rejecting her totally. The child does not know what to expect.
  • Teachers show a lack of understanding and give the child a sarcastic and harsh treatment. This may make the child resentful, aggressive or destructive on the one hand or withdrawn on the other. In some extreme cases the child may start playing truant and become antisocial. He/she may fall a prey to drug addiction and other vices since these children lack the power of critical thinking.

The responsibility of parents, teachers and society toward slow-learners:

  • Teachers and parents can be of great help to these children by identifying them at an early age. The delayed attainment of developmental milestones and language usage and vocabulary of these children can easily be noticed if parents and teachers keenly observe these children`s behaviour and development.
  • Teachers should particularly observe such children closely and refer them to the counsellor or psychologist for expert opinion.
  • Cumulative and anecdotal records of any significant behaviour, incident, fact or speech pattern of these children should be maintained in every school. These are of great help in understanding the child better.
  • Teachers and parents should be understanding towards these children and treat them with more affection than harshness. They should not resort to physical punishment.
  • Teachers have a special role to play in helping parents come to terms with the fact that their child has low intellectual ability. This can help prevent deep-seated emotional problems in slow-learners.
  • Normal classroom programmes should also make provision for children with low intellect level:

Since slow learners cannot go in for higher education, schools should provide them with an educational programme for useful living in order to make them socially competent.

Since they are good at practical things, jobs requiring handling of concrete objects and situations would be ideal.

Some modification of the curriculum to suit the needs and intere

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