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 fears often manifest as blame; blame on the student, the teacher, or themselves. And while the assumptions that less-than-stellar grades are a reflection of poor teaching, lack of intelligence, laziness on the part of the student, 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 the sound blending and phonemic awareness (two subskills of auditory processing), and be well above average in other cognitive abilities. When you lump it all together and average it out, it’ll look like there’s no problem because the IQ score is average. In fact, that score is masking what could be a serious problem.
What about genetics?
It’s not surprising that parents who struggled in school often experience anxiety over their children’s report cards. While it’s likely that most of the concerns stem from parents’ hope that children get better grades than they did, another fear is that they’ve somehow genetically passed on their learning struggles.
Certainly, genetics can contribute to a small part of learning struggles (like reading difficulties); but the majority of learning struggles are simply the result of weak cognitive skills. Students with ADHD, for example, tend to have weak selective, divided, and/or sustained attention. Even learning struggles that are inherited don’t need to be lifelong labels or diagnoses; strong cognitive skills have a huge positive impact on learning.
So how do you target weak cognitive skills?
Cognitive skills training (also known as “personal brain training”) incorporates immediate feedback, intensity and loading, among other features, to target brain skills. Effective brain training customizes programs based on the results of an initial cognitive skills assessment and uses exercises founded on years of clinical and scientific research.
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 skills 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.