The new year is an opportunity for your child to make important and positive changes in their academic performance. If your child’s grades are not exactly where they need to be and they have been struggling in school, perhaps it’s time to evaluate the cause of their learning struggles—and do something about it!
While physical disabilities are more easily identified, learning struggles and disabilities—especially in intelligent children—are often more difficult to recognize and understand. Parents and teachers often think that because a child is very intelligent, they’ll eventually just catch on, catch up, or compensate for a specific struggle like attention deficits. The truth is that most learning struggles are due to one or more weak cognitive skills, and nothing will change unless these brain skills are strengthened.
LearningRx compiled this list of red flag phrases commonly heard during parent-teacher conferences and the translation of what they could mean to help turn around your child’s school performance.
IF THE TEACHER SAYS: “I know he’s smart, but…”
- …his work doesn’t show it.
- …it’s just not coming out.
- …he makes sloppy mistakes.
IT COULD MEAN: Several cognitive skills are very strong while others are deficient and causing a bottleneck of information in the brain. For example: he may have strong logic & reasoning, visual processing, and processing speed but weak attention or working memory skills. A detailed cognitive skills assessment will tell parents which brain skills need to be strengthened to let a brilliant child or teen reach his full potential.
IF THE TEACHER SAYS: “She’s below grade level in reading.”
IT COULD MEAN: She has weak phonemic awareness skills. Although reading struggles can also be caused or compounded by deficiencies in visual processing, attention, processing speed, and memory, studies show 88% of all reading problems are caused by weak phonemic awareness skills. Phonemic awareness skills are those that give us the ability to hear, blend, unglue, and manipulate the smallest sounds in a word. If your child continues to struggle in reading, it’s not going to go away on its own, and it will eventually lead to problems in other subjects too. This is why it’s important to address the learning skills weaknesses early.
IF THE TEACHER SAYS: “He takes a long time to…”
- “…finish schoolwork.”
- “…answer questions.”
- “…follow directions.”
IT COULD MEAN: A child who takes a long time to follow directions isn’t necessarily being defiant; they could have slow processing speed. Likewise, taking a long time to answer questions or finish schoolwork doesn’t mean they won’t get to the answer eventually—it may just take awhile. Some kids are just perfectionists. However—if they’re always the last one to finish a test, if they constantly don’t finish assignments, or if takes hours to complete standard homework loads, more than likely weak cognitive skills are to blame.
IF THE TEACHER SAYS: “She continues to struggle with…”
- “…math facts.”
- “…reading comprehension.”
- “…applying math formulas.”
IT COULD MEAN: Learning new things can sometimes be a struggle for even the brightest kids. But a child who takes longer than her peers to master grade-level material likely has one or more weak cognitive skills. It’s important for parents, teachers, and kids to realize that no one is just born bad at math. They’re not destined to be bad at math. Understanding and excelling in math is simply about having strong cognitive skills—like working memory, visual processing, and logic & reasoning.
In addition to these red flag phrases, there are specific behaviors that can be strong indicators of weak learning skills. Take note if teachers mention any of these:
- An inability to stay on task
- Bouncing from idea to idea
- Making sloppy mistakes
- Turning in incomplete work
- Not turning in assignments at all
- Disinterest in school
- Hesitation to read aloud
- Poor organizational skills
- Struggling to follow instructions
- General attention issues
- Problems with “if/then” analogies
- Difficulty comprehending numbers, directions, answers
- Trouble discerning left and right
- Poor ability to use maps
- Avoiding prolonged mental efforts
- Spelling problems (including forgetting words after mastering them)
If you hear any of these red flag phrases from teachers, consider scheduling a cognitive skills assessment. It’s a noninvasive test to evaluate which brain skills are strongest and which could use some brain training to maximize the child’s academic potential.
Brain training improves the underlying skills such as processing speed, attention, logic & reasoning, and memory needed to facilitate learning. Personal brain training strengthens the brain’s ability to think, remember, recall, and apply what is learned. It makes individuals better, faster, and more efficient learners regardless of the subject.
Best of all, strong cognitive skills will stay with your child long after they’ve graduated. They’ll carry them into their career and throughout life because strengthening connections in the brain is permanent.
We’re excited to partner with LearningRx to giveaway “Robot Turtles” (ages 4+) by ThinkFun (a $24.99 value!)—one of the games from the LearningRx Smart Mom’s Toybox. This game helps to develop logic and reasoning skills by teaching kids to code. Additionally, our winner will receive a copy of the book “Unlock the Einstein Inside: Applying New Brain Science to Wake Up the Smart in Your Child” by LearningRx founder Dr. Ken Gibson!
And don’t forget! Nashville Moms Blog readers who use the discount code “getsmarter” will receive 50% off a cognitive skills assessment at LearningRx (Nashville-Brentwood or Murfreesboro) now through January 31, 2015.
Bridgette Butler is co-owner and director of LearningRx Nashville-Brentwood. LearningRx brain training specializes in treating the cause—not the symptoms—of learning struggles. Contact the Nashville-Brentwood center at 615-953-8899 or www.learningrx.com/nashville-brentwood or the Murfreesboro center at 615-867-8717 or www.learningrx.com/murfreesboro.