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Why Your Smart Kid Isn’t on the Honor Roll

Why Your Smart Kid Isn’t on the Honor Roll

For many parents, it’s one of the great mysteries of childrearing: Your very smart kid’s intelligence isn’t reflected in his report card. It’s confusing, isn’t it? How can such a brilliant brain bring home B’s? (Or C’s, or D’s, or worse.)

We think you’ve scratched your head (and pulled out your hair!) enough. Here’s a list of 10 possible reasons for the less-than-perfect performance and some advice on how to proceed.

  1. They need glasses. If your child can’t see the board during math class, avoids reading because it gives her a headache, or squints frequently, it’s time for a vision check.

What to do: Ask your child about their vision. Do they have trouble seeing the board? Are words blurry when they read? Do they get headaches during certain classes? Ask the teachers if they’ve noticed any squinting or heard complaints of headaches. Does your child ask the teacher to repeat things that are already written on the blackboard? Take your child to a pediatric optometrist for an eye exam.

  1. Their processing speed is weak. Why does a gifted child sometimes need three hours to complete homework that most kids do in half the time? Sure, it could be because she’s a perfectionist. But more than likely it’s that her processing speed is weak.

What to do: A cognitive skills assessment can measure this brain skill and the person doing the assessment can advise you on how to strengthen it at home (e.g., by adding a stopwatch to daily work) or with professional one-on-one brain training.

  1. They have anxiety or depression. Anxiety and depression can strike at any age—even in young children. Don’t assume that you’ll see the symptoms as they can manifest only in certain instances (e.g., test anxiety).

What to do: Talk to the school counselor or take your child to a therapist who specializes in helping children or teens.

  1. They’re bored. If school is way too easy, some kids lose interest.

What to do: Contact the school to ask if there are special programs for gifted and talented students.

  1. They have weak attention skills. When people think of ADHD, they often think of boys bouncing off the walls. While hyperactivity is sometimes a symptom of attention struggles, it’s often accompanied by things like disorganization and an inability to multitask. And ADHD tends to manifest differently in girls, often as inattentiveness and with less disruption to a class, so it’s often missed.

What to do: Have your child’s or teen’s attention skills measured. A cognitive skills expert can assess selective, divided, and sustained attention and offer ideas for strengthening these skills at home or with personal brain training.

  1. They’re tired. If your child is overscheduled (e.g., afterschool sports, music lessons, Girl Scouts) they may just be physically and mentally drained. It’s also important to make sure your children are getting enough quality sleep each night. Remember, there’s really no such thing as “catching up on sleep” on the weekends.

What to do: Reevaluate your child’s afterschool, evening, and weekend schedule to see if there’s anything you can cut out. Try an earlier bedtime to see if it makes a difference academically.

  1. They have poor planning and time management skills. Organization is not only a teachable skill, but also often a symptom of brain skills that just need some strengthening. Just imagine the brilliant inventor who is late for everything, or the genius musician who can’t plan their week but can play “Flight of the Bumblebee” after hearing it just a few times.

What to do: Download time-management apps, help your child plan their day and week and create checklists for things like homework. Talk to a personal brain trainer to get tips for training time management and planning skills at home and/or professionally.

  1. They can’t hear everything. An inability to hear instruction, directions, and answers clearly can have a significant effect on schoolwork and grades. Sometimes kids don’t even know it’s just them!

What to do: Have their hearing checked by an audiologist.

  1. They’ve missed too much school. If a recent move put your student in a new school mid-year, or if your child has missed quite a bit of school due to an illness or injury, they may have fallen behind in the material.

What to do: Ask the school about tutoring programs to help your child get caught up.

  1.  Their other cognitive skills are weak. Imagine an exceptional child with weak long-term memory (to recall facts, for spelling, or for reading comprehension) or short-term and working memory (for multi-step instructions and “carry the one”-type procedures in math). Or a very bright teen with dyslexia whose auditory processing skills hinder his ability to read fluently. Or the child with weak deductive reasoning who has trouble drawing conclusions and coming up with solutions for word math problems and other abstract learning challenges.

What to do: Have your child’s brain skills assessed by a cognitive skills specialist who can give you specifics on which skills are weak and what can be done to strengthen them.

As you seek out answers to improve academic performance, it’s important not to make them feel “broken.” Continue to offer positive reinforcement while you rule out possible causes and contributing factors. Remember, getting straight A’s is nice, but it’s not the only measure of success. A happy, healthy, well-adjusted student will often become a happy, healthy, well-adjusted adult!

To learn more about LearningRx 1-on-1 brain training, visit