Understanding Cognitive Impairments and Their Impact on Learning

Cognitive impairment is a term that encompasses numerous conditions and is not very well-defined. It refers to an individual facing significant difficulty in a mentally driven task which an average person doesn’t usually experience. Cognitive disabilities range from mild to severe impacting memory, problem-solving skills, and reading abilities. 

When diagnosing cognitive disabilities, clinicians generally analyze two aspects; the intellectual functioning of an individual and adaptive functioning. While intellectual functioning refers to the person’s ability to plan or reason, the latter refers to how well social skills are practically applied in everyday life.

Understanding Cognitive Impairment

Some learning difficulties are genetically inherited, whereas others result from altered brain chemistry or traumatic brain injury. Children with cognitive difficulty often depict problems during learning. A child with a learning disorder often faces challenges in one or more areas of education. Cognitive impairment in children is typically attributed to illness during pregnancy or inadequate medical care provided to the mother. 

In the cycle of normal psychological development, a child acquires a set of cognition and motor skills that help in memorizing, focusing, and speaking. A delay or gap in the development process leads to disability, which manifests through physical challenges in daily living and school activities. 

Impact on Learning

It is common for children with a learning disorder to feel disheartened when they cannot grasp information. In such circumstances, a teacher with a Special Education Master’s degree can help children with special needs by appropriately using knowledge and skills learned in the degree program, making learning less stressful. 

It is crucial to remind ourselves that we must understand the dynamics of learning disorders in children before finding solutions. Before diagnosing, doctors must conduct proper tests and assessments to understand further how cognitive disabilities influence emotional or behavioral factors. 

While it is not so hard to detect learning problems in children, teachers are often the first to notice that a child is suffering academically. The signs that help you identify whether a child is facing difficulty in understanding basic knowledge may somewhat look like an inability to master the time’s tables, however, less apparent signs can make it tough to help individuals cope with problems in school.  

Identifying the Signs 

You might overlook the signs when a child is experiencing difficulty learning and understanding the information delivered. However, as soon as the problem is identified, as a teacher, you can help individuals tackle challenges in the classroom.

A few indicators will help identify problems associated with learning in children. These include:

  • Lack of Hard Work

You might witness a child who is not putting in enough effort in the classroom, it could be due to several reasons like family issues, lack of a supportive environment or a learning disorder. 

Students with exceptional writing abilities can have trouble solving math problems. Similarly, a child doing well in answering questions during a class cannot get the point across on the paper. 

Often, students facing such issues might reflect a non-serious attitude but in reality, they are struggling and immediately need help. 

  • Poor Concentration

A student with a learning disorder often has difficulty concentrating on the tasks and during lectures; such a lack of concentration is associated with ‘working memory’. The term refers to the difficulty of handling and processing information. It is commonly seen in kids with cognitive impairment and manifests during classroom lessons. 

Signs include difficulty following instructions, daydreaming, and inability to understand and complete assignments on time. As an educator, incorporating strategies that promote attentive behavior will help students improve their attention span.

Break down tasks into small time intervals so that an individual concentrates on one task at a time. 

  • Incomplete Homework

One of the primary outcomes of a learning disorder is the inability to complete homework on time or missing it regularly. While it is convenient to lash out at students for incomplete homework, a well-qualified teacher would seriously consider the reasons that are likely to be many. 

For instance, a child will be embarrassed to hand in homework due to a lack of confidence in their work or mistakes. Sometimes children with memory deficits either forget about their homework or leave it pending. 

  • Poor Eye-Hand Coordination 

Cognitive impairment usually results in poor eye-hand coordination in children reflecting in different areas of schooling. Eye-hand coordination is a cognitive ability that unites visual and motor skills, enabling our hands to be guided by the visual stimulation received. If a child suffers cognitive impairment, it can lead to reading and writing difficulties. 

Individuals with poor eye-hand coordination have messy handwriting or sometimes experience eye strain. Motor and visual skills are linked, which is better explained by how most hand movements require visual input. For instance, when children learn to draw, they visually follow the hand holding the pencil. 

However, when visual skills are impaired it impacts the movement of a child’s hand. 

  • Low Self-Esteem

School is a minefield for students dealing with learning disabilities and struggling to keep up with peers or falling behind in schoolwork leads to feelings of low self-esteem. Low self-esteem significantly impacts the child’s behavior and learning, from interaction with others to lack of participation in classroom discussions. 

The consequence of low self-esteem in students is marked by poor academic performance and no desire to learn. Most teachers face the challenge while working with children is restoring belief in them to tackle challenges academically. 

A teacher cannot make a student feel good about themselves except for providing support and words of encouragement that gradually improves their learning ability. 


Intellectual disability is otherwise known as cognitive impairment and refers to an individual’s inability to learn as well as the slow development of various skills compared. One of the outcomes of cognitive disability is that children have a hard time at school. However, a student with a learning disorder can perform well in school with the teacher’s help and supplementary aids.

Learning deficits are depicted in a child’s academic performance ranging from poor attention span to inability to read or write, and missing homework, amongst other challenges. Identifying cognitive disabilities among numerous students can be challenging. Still, teachers must pay close attention to those facing issues to provide appropriate guidance and help.  

Vivek is a published author of Meidilight and a cofounder of Zestful Outreach Agency. He is passionate about helping webmaster to rank their keywords through good-quality website backlinks. In his spare time, he loves to swim and cycle. You can find him on Twitter and Linkedin.