Motivation Problem Or Hidden Disability

Michelle Arquines
Wikipedian Assignment

Category: Learning Disabilities
Topic: Categories and Prevalence of Learning Disabilities

Article link:

Motivation Problem or Hidden Disability? Meredith G. Warshaw. Pediatrics for Parents; 2004; 21, 1; ProQuest Education Journals. Page 10.

This article speaks broadly about a few different types of learning disabilities, and how they disguise themselves in the classroom as a “lack of motivation.” Often, in a classroom setting, children who in fact have one of the disabilities are miscategorized as “unmotivated” or troublesome. The real issue may be an undiagnosed LD.

Symptoms of a learning disability are often subtle, according to the author. Therefore, is important as educators and parents to truly understand the root cause of the disconnection between the student and his/her studies – it often has nothing at all to do with motivation in the classroom. Though there are many more than the four presented here, the specific and most common learning disabilities that may be masked as lack of motivation, according to the author, are 1) auditory processing problems, 2) ADHD/Inattentive type, 3) Organizational Problems (termed here as “Executive Function Problems”), and 4) Dysgraphia.

It is important to note once again that these four categories of LD are often manifested in the classroom as an intelligent but unmotivated, angry, depressed, or extremely frustrated student. The longer that an LD goes undiagnosed, the more these characteristics will intensify. A negative reaction to school work is often exacerbated in students who are also gifted; as the author describes, children who are both gifted and learning disabled are often told, “you are too smart to not be able to do this!”1 Thus, it is important to recognize the symptoms of these LDs before labeling a student – either formally or informally — as having a motivational problem.

Auditory Processing Problems – the inability to process verbal information. Children with this diagnosis may understand information or directions given via spoken word in a one-on-one conversation, but have extreme difficulty receiving information auditorily in a group setting. Students may appear to be not paying attention in class, or may confuse instructions with multiple steps. The author advises providing written directions in addition to verbal.
ADHD/Inattentive Type – characteristics of this disability are similar to those of an auditory processing problem. A student may misunderstand questions and have difficulty following directions. With Inattentive Type, the student will also have difficulty maintaining his/her attention to a task. The author notes that the instructor should not perceive this as willful or rude. Students with Inattentive Type will often need to have instructions both verbally and in writing.
Organizational Problems (termed here as “Executive Function Problems”) – Students with organizational difficulty will have trouble planning and organizing their work. This may manifest itself as a disorderly work space, or the inability to write a well-planned paragraph on one specific topic, or difficulty getting started on a task. These students need specific instruction on organizational methods, on what to do first, next, and last. They will need assistance checking each day for their assignments, and will require a lot of “hand-holding getting started on writing assignments.”2 Once again, the author notes that the behavior is not meant to be willful or rude, and instructors should attempt to not perceive it that way.
Dysgraphia – this disability is characterized in the article as difficulty with written language – decoding and writing alphabetic characters. Students with this disability “lack the automaticity to write words while thinking about content.”3 There is frequently a disconnect between the thought and the written word. The author recommends that the instructor attempt to “disentangle the mechanics (of writing) from the generation of content.” It is further recommended that students begin using dictation at first and progress to keyboarding, allowing the student to begin to share his or her ideas without the physical limitations preventing him/her to do so.