On a recent radio interview, the host asked me if there was one thing that parents should watch for that would tell them that their child is struggling in school?

There are actually many things, not just one, but the first thing that came to my mind was the conversation that a mom starts to have with herself.

“Is he just lazy?”

“Maybe he’s not that smart.  No, I know my child.  I see how smart he is in other things.”

“Could he do it if he tried harder?  No, that can’t be it either – I can see how hard he’s trying.”

“I hate seeing my child so frustrated.”

“How is it possible that 30 minutes of homework takes us 3 hours day after day?”

“Did I do something wrong?  Maybe I should have read to him more.  Maybe I shouldn’t have let him have so much screen time.”

If you are having a version of this conversation with yourself, there is a pretty good chance that your child is struggling with school, and being lazy, unmotivated, or not trying hard enough are not typically the reason why bright students struggle in school.

Nor is it the parents’ fault.


There are a myriad of underlying learning/processing skills that need to be in place in order to work comfortably and to potential in school.  Research indicates that for about 70% of the population, these skills are in place when students start their educational journey.  For the other 30%, there is some degree of difficulty with a key auditory skill that supports learning to read – and that is only one of the underlying skills (skills such as memory, attention, auditory and visual processing, processing speed, sensory processing, language processing, and executive functions).

Weaknesses in underlying skills can make it difficult to pay attention and cause students to have to work harder or longer than expected, even if they are smart and motivated.

So you are most likely right on target – your child is smart.  He’s not lazy. He is trying. But he is struggling in school.


If your child consistently struggles in any of these areas, it’s probably time to get help:

  • Poor study and work habits
  • Homework is a nightly battle
  • Poor spelling
  • Difficulty maintaining attention
  • Difficulty organizing thoughts on paper
  • Reverses letters, numbers or words
  • Does not complete school assignments
  • Poor memory
  • Difficulty following multi-step directions
  • Poor coordination
  • Poor reading comprehension
  • Low self-esteem
  • Avoids reading


Our goal at Stowell Learning Center is to dramatically improve or completely correct learning and attention challenges.

If we want to correct a learning challenge – not just accommodate it or find ways to cope with it – we have to identify and address the weak underlying learning skills that are not supporting the learner well enough.  This is not likely to happen at school or in traditional tutoring, because these work with teaching subject areas.  Specialized therapies may address underlying skills, but generally only in a very specific area.

We know that every student is different, whether diagnosed with learning disabilities, dyslexia, auditory processing disorder, ADHD, or not diagnosed at all but working too hard or too long on school work.  We need to meet that student right where he or she is and be able to address whatever combination of weak underlying learning/processing skills that are keeping the student from working to potential.  With a more solid foundation of mental tools, we can remediate the academic skills and they will stick!


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.



“Helping smart but struggling students dramatically improve or completely correct their learning and attention challenges by developing the underlying learning skills that are not supporting the learner well enough.”
We serve children and adults with diagnosed or undiagnosed learning and attention challenges including learning disabilities, dyslexia, ADHD, auditory processing disorders, and autism spectrum disorders.
Jill Stowell, M.S.
Author:  At Wit’s End A Parent’s Guide to Ending the Struggle, Tears, and Turmoil of Learning Disabilities
Founder and Executive Director – Stowell Learning Centers

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