“I have a daughter who is paralyzed and, in a wheelchair, and a son with dyslexia. I always thought our life would revolve around our daughter, but the invisible disability is so much harder. It’s our son who takes all of our attention and energy. Everything in our family revolves around something that no one can see and we don’t understand.”
A mom recently shared this story with me – and I get it. Because smart but struggling students look like everyone else, they’re often misunderstood and a real mystery to everyone in their lives – including themselves!
Are they lazy? Unmotivated? Do they just need to try harder – put out a little more effort?
Our learning centers are full of bright, motivated students who struggle with reading, math, writing, speaking, or getting their work done. But outside the academic arena, they’re athletes, musicians, artists, actors – and Lego masters! They are silly, friendly, motivated, and kind.
Their learning differences don’t make them that different, but learning differences do get in the way of students working as comfortably and independently as they should. It can create real confusion and frustration for parents, teachers, and others working with them.
“Now I Can Exhale”
As a parent, when your child is struggling, you may feel like you can hardly breathe. You search for answers and will do almost anything to help – if you only knew what.
Here’s the first thing you need to know: smart, otherwise typical kids who struggle in school are not lazy or unmotivated. It’s not because you’re a bad parent or because of poor teaching. And most importantly, they don’t have to be doomed to a lifetime of underachievement or continued setbacks and frustrations due to learning and attention challenges.
Traditional tutoring and help at school, while supportive, doesn’t generally solve the problem. Parents are routinely told their bright child is just going to have to find ways to cope with or compensate for their learning differences.
Over the last 30 years, brain research has become more and more sophisticated. Neuroplasticity research tells us that with intensive and targeted training, the brain can literally rewire itself.
The skills needed for learning can be placed on a continuum, with academic and school subjects at the top. Building up to and supporting those skills are whole sets of underlying skills that need to be in place. When the underlying skills are weak, it can cause you to have to work harder and longer than expected, and it will most likely affect your attention.
If we want to correct a learning challenge, we have to identify the weak underlying skills that are not supporting the student well enough and develop them through intensive and targeted brain training. In our experience over the last 30 years, we’ve found that through this kind of training, most learning and attention challenges, including dyslexia, can change permanently.
As a seventh grader, Giana was unfocused and unable to complete her homework without constant prompting and support from her mom. She was squeaking by academically, not performing nearly as expected for her ability, and wasn’t at all independent. By identifying and developing her weak underlying auditory and visual processing skills, processing speed, and attention, Giana was able to move on to eighth grade as a confident, independent student. Years later, Giana came to visit us at the Learning Center and shared that the changes she made there allowed her to go on to be a very successful student in both high school and college and enjoy a career in the medical field.
With the right kind of help, most learning and attention challenges can be dramatically and permanently changed. Parents – it’s time to exhale!
Jill Stowell, M.S., is the #1 bestselling author of At Wit’s End: A Parent’s Guide to Ending the Struggle, Tears and Turmoil of Learning Disabilities. She’s also the Founder and Executive Director of Stowell Learning Centers. Visit www.StowellCenter.com.