Seldom have two words caused such anxiety for both students and parents. For some, poor grades can reflect feelings of inadequacy (as a student or a parent), worries about being held back a grade, or fears of not getting into a good college.
Who’s to blame for learning struggles?
For parents, these feelings can manifest as blame: blaming their child, their child’s teacher, and/or themselves. And while many people assume that less-than-stellar grades are a reflection of poor teaching, lack of intelligence, student laziness, or poor parenting, these assumptions are almost always untrue.
The truth is that bad report cards are not a reflection of IQ. In fact, many struggling learners have higher-than-average IQ scores. IQ assessments measure an average of the combined strength of all our cognitive skills—the underlying tools we need to successfully focus, think, prioritize, plan, understand, visualize, remember, solve problems, and create useful association. These skills include things like attention, visual and auditory processing, memory, logic & reasoning, and processing speed.
It’s very common for a student to have an average or above-average IQ score and a learning problem at the same time. For example, a child who struggles with reading may have a severe deficiency in sound blending and phonemic awareness (two sub skills of auditory processing), and be well above average in other cognitive abilities. When you lump it all together, it’ll look like there’s no problem because the IQ score is average (or even above-average. In fact, that high score is masking what could be a serious problem.
What about genetics?
It’s not surprising that parents who struggled in school themselves often experience anxiety over their children’s report cards. Concerns may stem from parents’ hoping that their children get better grades than they did. Parents may also fear that they’ve somehow genetically passed on their learning struggles to their offspring.
Certainly, genetics can contribute to a small part of learning struggles (like some reading difficulties); but the majority of learning struggles are simply the result of weak cognitive skills. In a way that is good news, since weak cognitive skills can be targeted, trained, and strengthened. They are not “set in stone.”
So how do you strengthen weak cognitive skills?
Cognitive skills training (also known as “personal brain training”) incorporates immediate feedback, intensity and loading, among other features. The most effective brain training starts with a cognitive skills assessment to identify weak skills, then uses customized programs of fun, intense mental exercise to strengthen those weak skills.
Unlike tutoring, which is academics-based, brain training is skills-based. While tutoring can be effective when a student has fallen behind in specific subjects (such as history) due to an illness, injury, or family move, cognitive training targets the underlying skills needed to perform tasks (like reading) that make learning easier in any subject.
If your child is struggling in school, take the first step toward helping your child become a more confident learner by having his or her cognitive skills assessed. Cognitive testing usually takes an about an hour, and can pinpoint the weak skills that are making learning (and life!) harder than it needs to be. Click on the link below to find a LearningRx center near you and speak with someone about scheduling a cognitive assessment.