Close the Academic Achievement Gap - Don't Throw in the Towel!

Today, I want to take a moment to open up a dialogue about something I feel very passionately about. In my field, there is a condition in our public school system called an academic achievement gap. These are gaps in academic skills that occur between children who suffer from learning disabilities and children who do not, and these gaps continue to widen when intervention takes place later in their lives.


A 2011 study by the American Education Research Association presented that “a student who can’t read on grade level by 3rd grade is four times less likely to graduate by the age of 19 than a child who does read proficiently by that time.”


As a brain-training professional who cares very much about her students, this isn’t the kind of disheartening news that I like to share. But the truth of it is, when kids do not receive the intervention that they need as early as possible, these gaps continue to widen. According to most scholars, the turning point comes at third grade.   


“A child who has dyslexia that is not identified until the third grade or later is already thousands of unlearned words behind the other readers. There is a gap that might never close without intensive reading remediation at this point. The best intervention is prevention in kindergarten or remediation beginning in first grade.” – PRIDE Learning Center


I care about this issue because my role is to guide children and families on their way to overcome obstacles, whether it’s dyslexia, ADD, ADHD or other reading and learning disabilities. As many of you know, I started Learn2Focus because my children were going through challenges of their own. And it was hard work. It wasn’t fun all the time, and there were instances where going through the exercises seemed tedious – not just for my child, but for me as well! But we all know successes do not happen overnight. Neurological challenges are difficult challenges to overcome, and require long-term commitments from both parents and children.

 I remember a time when I was in an advanced certification program for my daughter's benefit.  My child was struggling and seemed to be getting nowhere - she wanted to give up - I wanted to throw in the towel. After spilling my guts to the instructor, she calmly said, "Susi, you can't force neurology.  You can be confident knowing you are providing the appropriate input.  Even when you can't see results, the brain is working at it's own pace to repair and regenerate."  And so after she gave me a pep talk, we continued.  Had we given up, my child would not be in the place she is today.


 I know firsthand how hard the journey can be. It’s easy to quit or to put intervention off, because life happens, kids balk, motivation has it's ups and downs. Yet, I cannot stress how important it is to start intervention now and continue its training exercises faithfully. I often say that success only happens if the child and the parent are both dedicated. As I mentioned in last week’s blog, our education system may have certain principles in place to support children who struggle to learn, but these are not in enough. It’s up to us.


But what happens if parents don’t discover that their children may have problems in time? How far behind does the child need to be before some families decide that it is time for an intervention?


The good news: With time, support and practice, our kids can get dramatically better, even if they may already be teenagers or even adults. These “gaps” can be narrowed, and disabilities overcome. It’s still hard, but it is possible for our children to improve. We just have to take that first step and I encourage you to take that step now, together, and stay dedicated for the end result.


If you are interested in learning more about this gap, take a look at the article links below.