Why do Bright Children Struggle?

There’s nothing like steaming along in your home school journey just to get one of your really bright “littles” started in kindergarten and hum, maybe he is just not ready for formal academics is your new thought.  In first grade, even though there are struggles, forward progress is made. Your thoughts switch to, “We must be on track” just to find in 2nd, 3rd or 4th grade it all hits a wall.  The dreaded wall of frustration and meltdowns.  NeuroDevelopmental enthusiasts agree with Frederick Douglas, It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” What we do with our children each day, especially in the early stages of brain development, can affect their later coordination, their emotional maturity in handling life’s challenges and academic readiness/success.  

What has changed?

Decades of changed cultural norms of putting infants in unnatural positions – on their backs, in gadgets (walkers, saucers, bouncers, bumbos…), carried continually (wraps and carriers) or propped in a sitting position before developmentally ready has wreaked havoc on our children’s brain development.  Believe it or not, the mobility, tactile, visual and auditory development in year one produces a significant part of the brain’s foundation used for academics and functional abilities later in life. Many of our children lack the coordination of previous generations. You add the deficit in early development to the electronics and a sedentary lifestyle because of screens of all kinds, you have a recipe for challenges in many areas of life. It is my belief that the trends in child-rearing mentioned above combined with reduced direct interaction with the child to develop short-term auditory memory are huge factors in test scores plummeting for many years.  In addition, our brightest children being labeled “twice exceptional” (gifted with learning disabilities or labels) is skyrocketing.

Three Possible Reasons Bright Children Struggle

Let’s explore some of the possible causes of symptoms that lead to labels. 

Possible Root Cause #1 – Underdeveloped Visual System

Tragic is the thought that many really bright children don’t think they are very smart. Their high IQ reasonsincorrectly that if things are easier for other children, there must be something “wrong with me”.  Parents often struggle with unusual behaviors they don’t understand.

Aiden’s parents were torn between wondering if there brilliant mathematician was just being lazy and careless or if there was another reason for all these math errors. High-level algebra was a breeze yet his grades – F. On simple problems he would add when he was supposed to multiply or skip problems altogether.  To make matters worse, Dad was really peeved that he didn’t look him in the eye when he spoke to him! The only thing these parents knew was what would typically be expected of this age child

To their surprise, there was a developmental reason for this poor academic and social performance – poor central detail vision. This underdeveloped eye function (totally different than 20/20 acuity) results in blank spaces in what you see up close and causes you to look with your peripheral vision thus looking like you are looking away in situations where eye contact is deemed important. Think of how this family’s dynamics change when a discovery like this is made. The fact that this was not a behavior or character issue for Aiden but a developmental one changed much of the negative interaction in the home while the root cause was being addressed.

Possible Root Cause #2 – Poor Auditory Short-term Memory

Other families notice the maturity and responsibility level in their child is lower than expected.  The child acts like and gets along with younger children and seems socially immature with peers. This can be the result of low auditory processing and often causes additional friction in the family when for example, 10-16-year-olds constantly forget chores or can’t stay on task to get school accomplished. Have you experienced your displeasure growing when a really intelligent child just can’t seem to follow directions or remember details in a story being read aloud? From an ND perspective, these disturbing symptoms could also be caused by low auditory processing.

Possible Root Cause #3 – Incorrect Storage of Information

What about the maddening exercise of finally seeing the lightbulb come on in your child’s understanding of a certain concept in math or grammar just to have your hopes dashed the very next day.  She looks at the problem waiting for you to explain it because she doesn’t remember FROM YESTERDAY what she is to do. “Unbelievable!” you think to yourself as you try to keep the frustration from your voice.  Your thoughts, “What is going on here? I know she knew this yesterday.” This is what NeuroDevelopmentalists call inconsistent recall and the root cause, storing information in the wrong side of the brain. So far, we have mentioned just a few of the developmental issues that keep bright children from reaching their full God-given potential. Hopefully, this has given you pause to look for reasons for unusual behavior or performances instead of reacting negatively when relating with your bright children.

Dr. Jan Bedell, Founder & President

Dr. Jan’s passion is teaching ways to stimulate brains of all ages earning her the title, Brain Coach. Through the years her work has helped children, teens and adults discover their true God-given potential without labels.