This week I met a real cute, spunky, spirited 7 year old second grader, Noah, who was having the common struggles with reading, spelling and writing. When asked about three wishes he told me, “to be Superman, to fly, and to be able to teleport.” Once he wrote down his wishes (not very clearly I might add), he quickly amended his wishes to note, “But if I became Superman, “that would cover me for the flying one,” he astutely noted.

He was that type of kid.

After he had done nicely on different hands-on, non-verbal tasks I exclaimed, “Wow, look at you, you’re a pretty smart kid, aren’t you?”
Without skipping a beat, Noah responded, “Yeah, but my smarts drain out of my ears when I get to school.”

While I intuitively understood what he meant, I asked him to clarify his statement.

“Well it’s like this,” he explained.” “The other kids are not that smart, but when they get to school they get smarter, but when I get to school it (the smarts)drains out of my ears.”

Translation: “The other kids can read spell, and write. That’s not something that I can do very well. Therefore, I am not as smart as the others.”

With all of the emphasis these days on scores, IQ/achievement discrepancies, RTI, Common Core, and the work-sheeting of childhood, it is good to keep in mind there are significant emotions behind these struggling kids.

Always operating on a 45 degree incline, while others around are on a flat plane, drains motivation, resulting in a discouraged kid whose battery dims like our little Superman, Noah, whose smarts are draining from his ears.

What are the solutions? Here are a few:

• Take time to connect with the child’s strengths. For example, this boy above was very imaginative. When he said about wanting to become Superman and teleporting, I said, “Me too!!!!! Great wishes.” He loved that I admired his wishes and it made helped him feel validated and supported.

• Understand the 45 degree plane is very real for kids with learning disabilities and dyslexia. School can be exhausting. By finding the connection points with a child, fuel is added to the emotional tank.

• Talk to the teacher about reduce the worksheets. They are overwhelming the strugglers. Not one kid ever came home excited from school telling you, “Mom, guess what, I got a great worksheet today in school.” Never.

The solutions are intangibles, not things that will show up as goals in an IEP, but they matter.

Takeaway Point
Don’t let the “smarts” drain from the kid’s ears.