Is it because as a teenager, he looks mature and like he should have the skills to be doing better?
Is it because he’s now so discouraged that he acts like he doesn’t care?
Is it because his work doesn’t reflect his intelligence, making it look like the issue is just a lack of effort?
A therapist in our Learning Center Network brought this student to my attention. He’s not one of our students, but he could be. Because this incongruity comes up all the time: Poor grades, poor test scores, but the parent is told that the student is doing fine.
This particular high school student – let’s call him Zach – was found to be dyslexic and have both auditory processing and comprehension delays based on my colleague’s testing.
I think these kids’ struggles get missed or overlooked for a variety of reasons.
- Students with dyslexia or other learning disabilities often look and act just like their peers, so the poor performance is mistaken for what might be lack of effort or motivation in a typical student.
- Parents help their struggling students so much with homework that the poor grades are a reflection of low test scores, leaving the perception that the student is not studying hard enough.
- These students are masters at hiding or compensating for their struggles so it may look like they’re “fine” but they’re not.
- It is a common belief that dyslexia and learning disabilities are a permanent condition, so barely passing with a C or having to retake a few classes in the summer becomes “acceptable.”
When students struggle in school, we need to ask the question, “What is causing this otherwise bright, capable student from reading, learning, or performing as well as he should?”
To find the answer, we have to identify what underlying learning/processing skills are weak or not supporting the student well enough.
Then we need to sweep away the old myth that says that learning and attention challenges cannot be changed – that the person must just accept and learn to live with them.
Thirty years of brain research and our experience working with 1,000s of children and adults with learning and attention challenges, has shown us that by identifying and developing the weak underlying learning/processing skills that provide the critical foundation for learning, most learning and attention challenges can be dramatically improved or completely corrected.
If you are being told that your child is doing “fine,” but you see signs that tell you he is struggling, you are probably right. And the way to change that is by getting at the real root of the problem.
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