Saturday, January 18, 2014

7 Mistakes to Overcome When Kids Struggle in Schools

Here are 7 mistakes parents and kids can make when children are struggling in schools.  Sign-up for more homework tips on Stowell Learning Center's homework page.

30% of ALL students struggle with some aspect of learning. Most of these struggling students have average to above average IQ scores. In other words, they have plenty of ability, but something isn't working quite right.

These students CAN be in regular or honors classes and learn as easily as the rest of the class, BUT it takes the right kind of outside help in order for them to really thrive in school.

Here are the 7 heartbreaking mistakes parents make when their child has difficulty with school.

I hope this is helpful to you as you work on solving the "puzzle" of learning difficulties. 

Mistake #1
Waiting Too Long Before Looking for Help

Panic is not what most parents want to do. School can be hard and some students take a while to get adjusted to the workload, the new ideas, and the routine.

But if a child has trouble keeping up...if they struggle with the foundational elements, then something is probably wrong.

For students who are not keeping up, school is a very painful place. They begin to believe they aren't very smart. Their self esteem gets little piece each and every day.

And coming home is no fun either because they spend hours doing homework that takes other kids just a few minutes.

School should not be a struggle for most students. It can be challenging, it can be some work, but it shouldn't be a constant struggle.

Reading, writing, and spelling are easily learned by most children. If your child keeps working harder at those subjects than other students, then there is something that should be done. The sooner the "fixing" process is started, the sooner the student can relax and enjoy school.

And the sooner the family can relax and enjoy life again.

Students who struggle with homework for more than a few weeks need help. 
Mistake #2
Assume A Learning Problem Just Isn't That Big A Deal

"School isn't everything."
"He can read, he just can't spell."
"He does well at math; it's just reading he has trouble with."

These are all signs that there is a larger learning issue going on.

Learning problems don't get smaller if you ignore them. They always get worse. If it lasts for a few weeks, it needs attention. It won't go away, but it will get worse.

And these days, being a good learner is essential to getting and keeping a job. Having the ability to read, write, spell, and comprehend, will allow people to gain new skills as the job market continues to change.

Your child's future employment is now directly connected to their ability to have a FULL set of efficient learning skills.

Mistake #3

Think Students Will Grow Out of Learning Problems

This is just like #2 previously. Parents believe that maturity will take care of learning issues.

Learning problems are caused by the way that the brain processes information. It's not a matter of trying harder, or waiting until they get older.

Until the brain is trained to process information differently, the same learning problems will continue to persist year after year.

There are specific programs that are designed to make those changes. They aren't a "magic pill" or a "quick fix." And they aren't inexpensive.

But the technology and understandings are now available for any student who wants to make those changes.

Mistake #4
Assume That The School Will Fix It - Trust the School To Solve the Learning Problem

This is probably the most devastating of all the mistakes. Parents believe that the school's job is to fix learning problems.

Parents take test results to the school and think that something good will happen.

Whether it should or shouldn't be, solving learning problems is NOT what schools do.

Schools focus on getting curriculum taught so that students can pass standardized tests.

Schools are not trained to fix learning problems, they aren't staffed to deliver that kind of service, and they don't have the budget to do it.

It takes specialized training and specialized programs to make the permanent changes that result in actually solving learning problems.

Mistake #5
Buy Into The Myth That Nothing Can Really Be Done to Permanently Fix Learning Problems

Old thinking, old research, old patterns insist that learning problems will always exist.


Brain research over the last 25 years has destroyed this myth. Unfortunately, schools and colleges just haven't caught up.

Having a learning problem is like riding a bicycle with flat tires. All the effort in the world won't make riding it any easier.

Schools focus on WHAT students learn, not HOW they learn. In other words, it is their job to teach knowledge and curriculum. They may provide support for struggling learners, but they don't actually correct the underlying issues causing the problem.

Some tutoring places teach better techniques for riding a bike that has flat tires.

But the BEST approach is to fix the tires!

Once the tires are fixed, there is no need for someone to hold the seat.

We KNOW it can be done because we change lives every day.

Mistake #6
Misread The Signs

Trouble reading "My child doesn't have learning disabilities, Dyslexia, or anything serious like that; they just have trouble with spelling."

This is a VERY common mistake.

Here are some typical signs that parents misread:
  • Trouble spelling
  • Trouble reading
  • Taking much longer on homework or class assignments
  • Difficulty making / keeping friends
  • Clumsy
  • Disorganized (yes, really!)
  • Difficulty getting thoughts written down on paper
  • Trouble copying from the board
  • Not being able to follow directions
  • Confusion with knowing left from right
  • Says "Huh" or "What?" a lot
  • "Lazy"
These may not seem like signs of a learning problem, but they do show "holes" in the underlying processing skills that are needed for efficient learning.

The underlying, foundational skills simply don't fully develop in 30% of the population.

The good news is that these skills can be developed completely, but only through a deliberate course of remediation.

Mistake #7
Ask The Wrong People For Help

Tutors, schools, pediatricians, and psychologists have their own specialties. Fixing learning problems is not really their field.

Standard testing doesn't usually diagnose problems with underlying skills.

And there aren't a lot of places that know how to "fix the tires." But the number is growing all the time.

Those that do know how to make real and permanent changes can completely make-over the lives of both students and families. It looks like a miracle when it happens!

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