While not all students with a specific learning disability will have a low self-esteem, there is evidence that these students may be at greater risk. It is also apparent that students who experience low self-esteem for a long period of time may develop mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. If there is a mental health problem present alongside a specific learning disability, this needs to be addressed or remediation of the learning disability will be limited. Therefore, it is important for parents to be aware of any long lasting changes in the student’s behaviour which may indicate they have a low self-esteem or mental health issue which requires support from a psychologist or therapist. Below is a list of possible factors to look out for. Many students will show one or two of these behaviours for short periods throughout their schooling as they attempt to cope with normal life demands. However, if a student displays a number of these behaviours over an extended period of time, then it may be time to consider professional help.

They write or read less, do fewer sums, or complete fewer assignments; the quality of their work deteriorates; they make careless errors;
They distance themselves from their brothers or sisters, friends, or parents and develop a belief that ‘no one likes me’;
They begin to use more aggressive communication such as put down statements directed at siblings, parents and or teachers;
They display more temper tantrums, mood-swings, inappropriate crying, and/or baby-like behaviours;
If their low self-esteem is related to physical image they may begin to eat more or less; and,
Their anxieties, frustrations, and uncertainties may come to the surface when they go to bed which interferes with their sleep.

If you feel the student requires extra support to develop their self-esteem or emotional well-being, a good place to start is to speak to your family doctor (GP) or the school psychologist. They should be able to refer you to a psychologist or therapist who can assist. You can also give the student options for seeking their own support such as through:

  • KidsHelpLine: 1800 55 1800 – A confidential, telephone and online counselling service specifically for young people aged between 5 and 25 years.
  • Headspace: 1800 650 890, Website: https://www.eheadspace.org.au – Provides online and telephone support and counselling to young people aged 12 to 25 years.
  • Reach Out: au.reachout.com – A web-based service that provides young people, their families and carers, with the information, tools, skills and connections they need to make positive decisions about their mental health and wellbeing.
  • Youth beyondblue: http://www.youthbeyondblue.com – Provides information and resources relating to mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.
  • Black Dog Institute (youth): http://www.biteback.org.au – BITE BACK is a new and evolving website which aims to improve the wellbeing and mental fitness of young people, based on the principles of positive psychology – the science of optimal functioning.