Underperforming at school. | R.L.


As a parent myself I fully understand that whilst we know our children very well, sometimes understanding them is a difficult task. I have said many times that the job of bringing up a child is a rewarding one but one which is often challenging and frustrating. Many stressful conversations with my wonderful daughter is testament to this! It is amazing that for this most important role there is no manual or user guide! We learn by our mistakes!

There are many times throughout a childhood where we need to seek help from others; our own parents, professionals and teachers alike. At MTA we often speak to parents who are struggling with fully understanding why their own child is not coping with or underperforming at school.

Obviously there can be many reasons which include attitude, skill, and knowledge. As parents it is only natural to want the best for our child but academic success, whilst important, isn’t the end goal. What we really want for our children is a happy and fulfilling life. With encouragement and the right support, they can build a strong sense of self-confidence and a solid foundation for lifelong success.

There has recently been a huge amount of research and evolution within the area of learning difficulties. Around 1.5 million people in the UK have a learning disability. It’s thought up to 350,000 people have a severe learning disability. This figure is increasing. Learning disabilities are neurologically-based processing problems.

These processing problems can interfere with learning basic skills such as reading, writing and/or maths. They can also interfere with higher level skills such as organisation, time planning, abstract reasoning, long or short term memory and attention. It is important to realise that learning disabilities can affect an individual’s life beyond academics and can impact relationships with family, friends and in the workplace.

You may have heard the names such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, ADD, ADHD for these difficulties but for parents and children they can simply present themselves as differences in relation to the next person.

You may just be aware that your child seems to behave and react differently to others in the playground, at home or in new situations or you may have been told by a teacher that your child is developing slowly, causing disruption or is not trying hard enough in school.

Please do not worry; Help is at hand
At MTA we advocate that parents need to be proactive.

If you feel that you can sense something awry or the school has; you need to investigate what he / she might need to help with their differences. You may have seen that your child is not wanting to go into school, takes a lot longer with homework, does not enjoy reading or maths, feels very negative about their abilities, and feels everyone else find things much easier than them. Whatever it is, it is worth investigating if your child needs professional support.

Early intervention is key to helping a child with learning difficulties. This is not only because children of primary age are learning the foundations and can often pick things up quickly and learn routines to help themselves but also so the emotional damage of not ‘achieving’ or ‘succeeding’ in school can be minimised.

Teachers have many children in their classes, all with a range of needs, they may miss signs that a child needs support. For example it is estimated that 20% of the population in a classroom is dyslexic, maybe the 1 or 2 severely dyslexic pupils in a class of 25 are known to the teachers but what about the other 3 are moderately dyslexic who have not been identified and are not being supported adequately.


As parents we know our children best and that is why we need to actively pursue a path to helping support them.

Keep things in perspective
A learning disability isn’t insurmountable. Remind yourself that everyone faces obstacles. It’s up to us as parents to teach our children how to deal with those obstacles without becoming discouraged or overwhelmed, giving them plenty of emotional and moral support.

Call in the experts
Just to write this article I have spent hours reading much of the research; it is a minefield and I am definitely no expert. However, there are fantastic professionals here on the island; Rose at MTA is one such lady who can really make a difference. I am sure any parent would breathe a sigh of relief knowing that they can trust some with their precious cargo.

Testing is available
text Arrange for your child to be screened for various learning difficulties such as dyslexia or dyscalculia, to get a clearer idea of their needs. You may then want to move towards a full diagnosis and assessment of your child. This may not always be needed, if the school and the parents feel at a particular age basic extra curriculum support is what they need or if there is a professional available to carry out extra support within the school. However, if exams are looming then an assessment may be able to provide the student with accommodations such as extra time or a computer, that will enable them to work to the best of their ability in an exam.

Focus on strengths, not just weaknesses
Remember your child is not defined by his or her learning disability. A learning disability represents one area of weakness, but there are many more areas of strengths. Focus on your child’s gifts and talents. Your child’s life—and schedule—shouldn’t revolve around the learning disability. Nurture the activities where he or she excels, and make plenty of time for them.

Remember when a condition goes undiagnosed, children are at risk of falling behind.
Learning difficulties are not a reflection of intelligence but they often get in the way of academic achievement and can result in feelings of frustration, anxiety and embarrassment for a child who is less able to progress at the same rate as his or her peers in a conventional classroom setting.

What’s worse, consistently underperforming, feeling uncomfortable in front of peers and receiving negative attention from parents and teachers can cause an otherwise highly motivated child to lose interest in school. He or she may develop a poor self-image that can lead to emotional issues in and outside of the classroom.

If you are worried about your child, please call us now at MTA to arrange an initial discussion.