Surviving Your Child’s Academic Struggles: The Value of a Neuropsychological Perspective

One of the most painful and anxiety inducing experiences parents have to endure is when their child is not making it at school. The realization that something is wrong may come about as a result of a call from the teacher or after attempting unsuccessfully to help a child with homework or understanding a concept taught that day at school.

What are parents to do?

First, it is essential to try to contain the worry that is induced by this discovery and even more important to fight the urge to be critical of your student that may result from your well-meaning, but ineffective attempt to help.

Second, it is important to avoid taking steps (i.e. immediately running out and hiring a tutor) without first having some understanding of the specific nature of your child’s problem and what kind of person or professional is the right one to address it. Many tutors are former or current teachers and while they may be competent at teaching a class, they may not have the skills to understand and address your child’s problems. Keep in mind that there is a difference between tutoring to achieve task completion (i.e. homework) and tutoring that addresses the root problem of your child’s difficulties.

What do parents, tutors, and teachers need to know?

-Academic subjects are really just names of groups of abilities that are needed to perform successfully in that subject area. For example, students with reading fluency problems may be experiencing difficulties with auditory/phonological processing, orthographic/visual  processing, long term memory, processing speed, or a combination of the above. WITHOUT KNOWING WHICH UNDERLYING ABILITIES ARE AT FAULT, INTERVENTIONS MAY BE PRESCRIBED THAT DO NOT TARGET THE DEFICITS, PROLONGING THE PAIN AND SUFFERING RESULTING FROM A LACK OF MASTERY OF THE CURRICULUM.

Identifying the root causes of a learning difficulty is best accomplished by a comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation. A competent assessment will scientifically go through the steps involved in diagnosing the presence of ability deficits and construct a tailor made intervention plan to address the problems. This includes helping tutors, teachers, and parents with specific ways to individualize instruction to maximize success.

-Identifying the root causes includes not only an analysis of your child’s ability strengths and weaknesses, but also their executive functions. Executive functions are brain processes that direct the brain to engage your child’s abilities in order to meet task demands. For example, children who procrastinate may have a very high threshold of stimulation needed to activate them.

The key here is: understand before doing. It will save time, money, and psychological pain for you and your child.

To learn more about obtaining a neuropsychological understanding of your child’s problem, click here


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