Ep. 1: Uncovering Why a Child is Struggling

Nov 10, 2020 | 0 comments

Millions of kids struggle with learning, processing, and social difficulties. These challenges interfere with their ability to reach their full potential. My name is Dr. Karen Wilson and I am on a mission to make sure that when kids are struggling, we find out why and we give them the support they need to thrive.

Welcome to the Diverse Thinking Different Learning Podcast. This podcast is a resource for parents and educators working with children with learning difficulties. It is my hope that after listening to this show, you will better understand the challenges that some kids face and know how to help them overcome difficulties, become more resilient, maintain a love for learning, and experience more success.

Today I’m discussing what struggles look like for kids with learning challenges, what parents and educators should do when they see kids are struggling, when to consider an evaluation for a child, and the benefits of targeted intervention. 


Show Notes:

[0:45] – Welcome to the first episode! 

[1:36] – This episode is about why the identification of learning challenges is so important. What do we do right and where do we go wrong?

[2:24] – Approximately 5% of school aged children have a learning disability and 13% of all public school students receive special education services. Another 15% are struggling due to an unidentified learning or attention issue.

[3:40] – Children who see Dr. Wilson are those who have been struggling in some aspect of their life at school and/or at home.

[4:10] – Struggles can look different in different children. It may be an issue with listening, concentrating, motivation, etc. Dr. Wilson lists many different examples of what struggles look like in different children.

[5:36] – With misunderstanding sometimes comes mislabeling. Mislabeling can lead to behavioral problems and can cause a lot more anxiety.

[6:57] – We see the struggle, but what we tend to do is to rationalize the difficulty. We say that they’ll grow out of it, they’re lazy, or they’re the youngest in the class. We are doing them a disservice when we do this.

[9:01] – When children have a learning disorder, they typically experience trouble learning skills in the regular classroom and tend to be behind their peers in one or more areas.

[10:13] – Dr. Wilson uses an example of a child struggling with reading comprehension. A common “solution” is to jump to an intervention. But if you don’t know what the underlying problem is, how can you appropriately intervene?

[11:05] – Some reasons a child may be struggling with reading comprehension is poor working memory, poor phonological processing, and some could have issues with receptive language. Dr. Wilson describes these in length and demonstrates how every child has very different needs.

[14:45] – The same is true for writing. Writing is such a complex task for students to tackle.

[15:12] – Some children experience fine motor struggles and become fatigued when writing. Others may have a problem getting started, which Dr. Wilson shares is called task initiation. Expressive language could be the issue or it could be an attention problem. 

[17:18] – Children have a lot to say and have a lot of great ideas. For children who are struggling with phonological processing, they know what they want to write but their spelling interferes with their ability to demonstrate what they know.

[18:08] – If you don’t know why a child is struggling, it is difficult to give them the proper support.

[18:42] – When Dr. Wilson conducts evaluations for children with learning difficulties in her private practice, she is able to uncover the reason for the struggle. These assessments serve as a guide for appropriate intervention to address the difficulties a child experiences.

[19:16] – 1 in 3 children with one learning disorder will also meet criteria for an additional disorder.

[21:01] – When we give children the appropriate, evidence-based intervention for their specific learning disorder, we can reorganize their brain pathways and we will see significant improvement.

[22:51] – Not all kids who struggle need a full, comprehensive evaluation. Some learning struggles could be tied to anxiety.

[23:58] – If a child has anxiety and a learning disorder, the intervention for the learning disorder is not enough. The anxiety also needs to be addressed.

[24:26] – A child struggling with anxiety may be irritable, extremely tired, have difficulty sleeping, and may have concentration issues.

[25:31] – As human beings, we spend approximately one-third of our lives in a state of sleep, yet 70% of American kids and adults get insufficient sleep. When kids don’t get enough sleep, you get poor attention or other possible issues in school.

[27:41] – When a real problem continues to be rationalized and unidentified, children may grow to have low self esteem and are at greater risk of struggling with anxiety and depression.

[28:37] – As adolescents, these children are also at a higher risk of dropping out of school and abusing substances.

[29:18] – We have to move from observing the struggle to getting students the appropriate intervention and stop rationalizing the problem.


If something in this episode resonated with you, I want to know about it. Thank you so much for listening!

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