Gina is a frustrated 17 year old junior in high school.

Feeling that she’s done everything  people have asked of her and more to prepare for the SAT’s, have left her frustrated with not great results.

Putting in practically an hour a day studying for the SAT’s (in contrast to the “the idiot boys,” she thinks, “who do nothing but play their stupid video games”),  she’s also  taken a six month course to improve her scores and “test-taking strategies.”

A year ago, Gina was vaguely “diagnosed” as “ADHD,” of the inattentive variety,  by a very wise-seeming grandfather type, medical specialist who spent about ten minutes with her, telling her, “I think you need medication,” while scratching his beard in professorial fashion.

Dutifully, Gina went on stimulant medication, but the SAT needle didn’t budg, nor did her test taking in school, where she continued to receive mediocre grade after mediocre grade.

At her parents’ request, Gina was evaluated by the school’s special education team. Their findings were not compelling, as scores clustered in the “average range,” even though some were in dreaded “lower portion of the average range,” (i.e., the 30th %ile).

The message indirectly given from the team to the parents was, “Yes, the doctor is right.  Even though we’re not physicians,  it does sound like ADD.”

When I meet Gina for an assessment, she was not on medication.  Working with her for over three hours, there wasn’t a moment of distractibility.  Gina recounted how hard she’s worked over the last year.

Here’s the thing, though, Gina had a metaphorical “heel spur,” that no one has ever commented on that impacted every aspect of her academics.

Here’s a glimpse into her “heel spur.”

As part of the assessment Gina was given tough words to read, such: 

  • mechanic
  • illustrious
  • tentative
  • pedestrian
  • investigative
  • metaphorical

Even though Gina ultimately read each one of these correctly, it was only after a great deal of effort for each of the words that she arrived at a correct response.

To give you a flavor of it, here’s how Gina read some of the words transcribed as close as possible to exactly what she said.

For “mechanic,” Gina quickly said, “machine…no, wait, medicine, no, mech…mech… mechanic,”

For “pedestrian,” there was a about a five second delay while Gina tried to figure out the word.  She started to say “pediatrician,” but stopped herself ultimately saying, “pedestrian.”

Illustrious,” started out as, “illustrated,” with considerable stumbling before arriving correctly at the word.

Technically speaking, Gina would probably have been given a check mark after each of the words, but the scores would not be telling the story of her “heel spur.”

When Gina read a high school level story to me out loud, there were no errors, but the reading was choppy, labored and strained, probably taking her nearly triple the amount of time expected for the reading of the passage.

Listening to her read the words and the story was exhausting (for her and me).

Takeaway Point

Often the scores don’t tell the story.  Regardless of the age of your child take out a book roughly within his/her grade level.

Have the child read out loud.  Is it smooth sounding without a lot of stumbling or choppiness?

If it is not, then there is a “heel spur” that needs to be identified and addressed.