Someone I know who is 16 but can’t read or write properly and is failing in school. Appears to have difficulty making conversations. Exhibit child-like characteristics; cries when being yelled at or not given what they asked for.

They Don't have any friends, spends their majority of time watching cartoons and playing games. their overall behavior is as if they are 10 - 12.

It doesn't look like they have a mental issue or development problems as far as I can see. What can I do to help them get out of this situation and grow up to fit his age?

I tried giving them some interests and tasks to do to change their routine, but they only care for a while and go back to their usual behaviors.

  • 4
    "It's not that he has a mental issue or his brain is not growing or anything." -- are you a doctor? What training do you have that makes you competent to say this?
    – user19912
    Commented Aug 13, 2016 at 17:48
  • "looks fine?" That's not any kind of way to assess emotional or intellectual development. Leopold has a good point. Sounds like this might go deeper than just being spoiled or pampered. Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 16:09

2 Answers 2


From your description, this person should receive some professional care sooner rather than later!

However, that is up to their parents, not you. The best you can probably do is to convince their parents to seek help for his learning problems. Try to convince them it could make life better for all three of them.

You won't get a diagnosis from a site like this, but being unable to read and acting like a 8-10 year old at 16 sounds very much like they have some developmental impairment. The younger therapy starts with that, the more chances of them learning at least how to function better.

The person's parents seem to be in denial over this or simply completely unaware that there is more going on than their child being stupid or lazy. Talking to their parents in a non-judgemental way is the only way to find out. Remember that they are likely under immense stress from dealing with their child all day, so don't be too harsh on their anger and frustration. Ask them about their own experience and feeling and see if they are open to getting help.

Depending on where you live, you have a last resort of calling the local variety of Child Protective Services. This is really a nuclear option though and may destroy any trust the parents have in you.

  • 2
    Calling CPS is an extremely dangerous option - you do that only if you want that family potentially destroyed via government intervention (eg. In the case of child abuse).
    – Demis
    Commented Aug 14, 2016 at 19:03
  • 2
    In the case of child abuse, I'd say the family is already destroyed by the abuser and the child needs rescue. In the Netherlands, our CPS is very reluctant to do such a thing when it's about inadequate care or neglect and they will try all kinds of assistance first. I've heard some stories from the U.S. that suggest you may not be as lucky there. Hence the "last resort" and "nuclear option".
    – Cyrus
    Commented Aug 14, 2016 at 21:01
  • Agreed - just saying this is generally a dangerous thing to do in the US, and is only worth doing if completely breaking up the family is your goal.
    – Demis
    Commented Aug 14, 2016 at 21:03
  • Please update the answer to include something that can be done other than only "seek professional help." An answer where that is the only course of action is not valid. The answer may include that as a suggestion in addition to another course of action, but is not very helpful in terms of this site when it is the only component of an answer.
    – user24631
    Commented May 11, 2018 at 18:25

This sounds like it requires a multidimensional approach, across various disciplines. This boys parents should also work with a Parenting Coach and Educator along with the school, special instruction/education, Speech Language Pathology, and reading specialist. I find it strange that this boy is 16 and didn't receive any services. With such characteristics the question is who was neglectful, not if. This case requires a major Intervention, and time is of the essence because by the time this boy is 18, his challenges are his problem and his alone.

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