I once worked with a young man who was so dyslexic that he couldn’t recognize his middle name in print. But he was also so smart, that he dated a reading specialist for several months and she never knew he couldn’t read!
Smart children and adults who struggle academically are often pegged as lazy or unmotivated. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
Not only do they have to put out MUCH more effort, time, and energy to complete tasks than their equally or less intelligent peers, but they often funnel considerable time, energy, and creativity into hiding their learning challenges.
While dating the reading teacher, Tony would go to whatever restaurant he wanted to take her to, get a menu and take it home. His mom would read it to him so he could be prepared with what he wanted to order. Then he would pretend to read through the menu on his date and order his pre-selected item.
Pretty smart, huh? So why couldn’t he read?
Innate intelligence is certainly a factor in academic success, but having a high IQ doesn’t automatically ensure it. Equally important are the underlying learning/ processing skills that support efficient learning.
These are skills such as:
- Auditory and visual processing that allow the student to get accurate and complete information to think with
- Memory, attention, and processing speed that allow them to get, hold onto, think about, and respond to information quickly
- Spatial orientation and organization that allow students to discriminate between letters and words that look similar, understand how math is laid out on the page, and see the organization in textbooks and planners
- Language processing and comprehension
- Reasoning, problem-solving, and higher level organization
Students who have weaknesses in one or more of these areas often have to work harder and longer than their peers in school. If there are several areas of weakness or one or two areas that are very weak, the student may end up with real challenges with reading, spelling, writing, and/or math.
This doesn’t mean they’re not
smart. It means that key underlying
learning skills are not supporting them well enough.
Important research starting as far back as the 1950s and 1970s showed us that underlying skills can be developed so that the smart but struggling students can stop struggling. Brain plasticity research in the last 20+ years has begun to reveal the amazing capacity of the brain to rewire itself for more efficient learning through specific and targeted training.
If you have a smart but struggling learner in your family (child or adult), chances are that the challenges can be dramatically improved or completely and permanently corrected.
To understand more:
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