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I'm just not smart like the other kids

“Mom, I’m just not smart like the other kids.” 

As a parent, hearing this statement could be your worst nightmare. Perhaps your nightmare is your child coming home from school with an increased level of frustration – homework time takes forever, the list of assignments and unfinished lessons continues to accumulate, and your child’s self-esteem appears to be dropping like a stone. Your concern is mounting, and you ask yourself, “what is a parent to do?”

The first step is to book an appointment with your child’s teacher(s). Ask the teacher(s) how much homework should be expected. Ask about daily routines and whether or not your child is utilizing class time effectively. Daydreaming, lack of attention and outbursts of unacceptable behavior are all telltale signs of a possible reading difficulty.

Reading difficulties are extremely common, but, if caught early enough, are usually fairly easy to correct. Most reading difficulties are caused by a fundamental gap in a child’s knowledge of the reading process and the basic cognitive sub-skills associated with it.

One thing that is extremely important for both the parent and child to understand is that there is no correlation between early reading attainment and intelligence.

Reading difficulties are very visible to both the child and the parent and should not be dismissed lightly. An early struggle with reading can severely impact self-esteem and lead to problems in other areas of school.

When children struggle with reading and language arts, it is not long before it spills over into social studies, science and mathematics. Eventually, the child will experience difficulty with recess and lunch hour, for as the level of self-esteem drops, the level of frustration and - in some cases - anger elevates, which in turn will impact their behavior both in and out of the classroom.

To prevent a reading difficulty from becoming an even bigger issue, parents need to be first and foremost an advocate for their child. Experience tells us that if a parent feels there is a problem with their child’s reading, there usually is. Parents know their children best, and wise people always acknowledge the intuition factor.

As a child struggles to read and starts to fall behind their peers, the grade attainment level begins to drop. A gap will develop between what the child does know versus what they don’t know. Without fast and effective intervention, the gap will continue to widen and the visible difference in attainment will become more apparent. As the gap widens, the child’s belief in themselves as a learner becomes diminished. If left untreated, the child will eventually believe that they are just not capable of learning.

The time to deal with reading issues is the moment you think there are some. The earlier a reading difficulty is dealt with, the easier it is to correct. Check with your child’s teacher, find out where your child’s reading level is, and do not stop asking questions and seeking advice until you find answers that are satisfactory to you.

Sometimes teachers can correct the problem, but sometimes they can’t – or, if they can, the wait time is too long. Six months or a year can be a lifetime to a child who is struggling. There are a lot of reputable reading programs. Investigate the various programs in your area and find the one that works for you.

Lani is the Founder of UP Academy. A private school in Calgary, founded in 2017, UP Academy is a 100 percent independent school serving motivated students who fall through the cracks, feel they do not fit in the public system or simply want to accelerate their learning. They  offer a more focused approach to learning where each child benefits from a personalized learning program.


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