Is it a Learning Difference or Defiance?

Can you tell the difference between a child who is being defiant vs a child who experiences a learning difference?  Sometimes they look a lot alike.


Young girl with brown hair, forehead on a book on her desk in defeat. Lavender shirt. Bright white background. Caption reads: Is it a Learning Difference or Defiance?


If you have a resistant learner at home or in the classroom, can you identify where the resistance is coming from?


What Learning Differences Might Look Like

Resistance can show up in any number of ways, ways that we may believe are, well, less than desirable.  For example:

  • Pouting
  • Shouting
  • Worrying
  • Refusing to do schoolwork or homework
  • Procrastinating
  • Crying
  • Throwing tantrums
  • Shutting down
  • Declaring oneself incapable


How do you recognize whether those behaviors are a result of laziness or because of true learning differences?


What if you THINK you see a lack of motivation when what you REALLY see is a child attempting to mask an underlying fear?  Fear of being found out.  Fear that someone will learn the truth about how difficult reading really is, or math is, or learning… period.


Maybe a child is afraid to even begin a homework assignment.  They aren’t afraid of actually doing the work, or putting in the effort.  They’re afraid of putting in the effort only to prove to themselves that they don’t have the skills or ability to complete the assignment.  They’re afraid of disappointing all of the well-meaning adults in their lives who lovingly say, “just do your best.”


What if after doing their best, and taking their time, and working extremely hard to complete an assignment, and tapping into ALL of the cognitive abilities they can muster, someone important in their lives then asks, “Why didn’t you even try?”


Since I don’t know your child personally I can’t honestly answer the question for you, “Is it a learning difference or is it defiance?”  Here’s what I do know.


Children with learning differences WANT to learn.  They do NOT want to disappoint you. 


If you’d like to know if YOUR child’s apparent laziness, or lack of motivation, or resistance to schoolwork is a result of legitimate learning differences, and NOT outright defiance, please watch this quick but informative free online training, Looking at Learning Differences Differently.  (If you already have a free TPT membership, no extra sign-up is required.)


While all 5 lessons are valuable, lesson 3 in particular shares specific signs of learning difficulties that parents and teachers can watch out for.  This new understanding allows you to confidently tailor your own reactions and expectations based on what you observe.


Watch Looking at Learning Differences Differently here.