What does 'burnout' mean for children with learning difficulties in primary school?

Know the signs of burnout

The school term has begun yet again, and while many of your children enjoyed a two week break to unwind, recharge and do the things that they are passionate about, many of your children will be well and truly settling back into the daily routine of school.

All children can experience burnout, but especially those with learning difficulties.

Does the following sound familiar?

"By the end of the week, Lilly is exhausted. She is emotional, she is quick to anger and she gets grumpy about going to her intervention groups at school. It becomes increasingly more difficult to get her out the door to school as the week goes on and every Sunday she becomes more and more anxious about doing it all again the following week. She is starting to lose energy and passion for her interests outside of school."

Children with learning difficulties can often experience burnout for a number of reasons. They usually have to work much harder than their peers to keep up, they often receive intensive interventions outside of school on top of an already exhausting day, their self-esteem can be affected when they receive additional supports at school and they can feel anxious about their learning. Sometimes, this eventually all catches up and the signs of burnout become obvious to their parents.

What to do to minimise burnout:

Allow extracurricular activities:

It is incredibly important to allow time for your child to pursue activities that centre around their passions, interest and strengths areas. This will help to continue to build your child’s confidence while it also gives them a break from school related tasks.


Implement consistent daily routines. This helps to minimise anxiety as children can predict what will be happening on each day of the week while it also helps them to manage their time effectively to complete homework based tasks e.g. Wednesday and Thursday’s at 4pm they may do their spelling words each week.

Monitor how busy your families schedule is:

While extracurricular activities and providing intensive interventions are all very valuable for your child, sometimes it can be overwhelming for children with learning difficulties who require a little more down time than usual to recharge their batteries after school.

Keep homework sessions short and fun:

Homework should be broken up into 15 minute segments with five minute breaks in between. The five minute breaks should include fun games and/or activities to keep the learning engaging.

Minimise distractions:

Have a designated homework space free from distractions. Any background noise such as the television and/or radio should be removed to allow your child to focus on their learning distraction free.

As parents, watch for the signs of burnout and be flexible with your child’s schedule. If you notice that they aren’t coping with additional intervention or an extra sport training night etc please adjust their schedule to lighten their load just a little.

Make sure you meet with your child’s teacher if your child is experiencing burnout to discuss possible tips, tricks and/or adjustments to their learning plan.

If you are concerned about anxiety, please get a referral to a Psychologist for ongoing support for your child.

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