As parents struggle with the inclusion of Common Core Standards and the “new math,” questions arise as to the cause of their child’s difficulty.  While administrators, teachers, and the legislature continue to fight for their position on the standards, our children are trying to meet the challenge of Common Core Standards.  Parents don’t always have the luxury of time to sort through the issues.  Parents need to figure out why their child is struggling and need to know now.

Sometimes it’s hard for parents (and even teachers) to determine if certain struggles or behaviors are just a normal part of the learning process or an indicator of a deeper issue. LearningRx’s Brain Trainers see certain problems as red flags that a cognitive skill weakness may be causing serious learning struggles and holding back a child.

Cognitive skills are the underlying mental tools that make up an IQ and include skills like logic and reasoning, attention, memory, processing speed and auditory and visual processing. If one or more of these skills is weak, reading and learning can be difficult. If a cognitive skill weakness is the underlying cause of problems in school, the struggles will not ease until those weak skills are strengthened.

So, as you head into conferences or any time you talk to your child’s teacher, listen for these red flag phrases:

“I know he’s smart, but…”

  • His work doesn’t show it
  • It’s just not coming out
  • He makes sloppy mistakes


This is one of the most frustrating symptoms of weak cognitive skills for parents and teachers: a smart child locked inside a struggling student. This phrase is a good indicator that several cognitive skills are very strong, while others are deficient and are causing a breakdown in the process of information in the brain.

“He’s below grade level in reading.”

Most reading struggles can be linked to weak cognitive skills. Studies show 88 percent of all learning to read problems are caused by weak phonemic awareness skills — the ability to hear, blend, unglue and manipulate the smallest sounds in a word. Reading struggles can also be caused or compounded by deficiencies in visual processing, memory, attention and processing speed. If your child continues to struggle in reading, it will eventually lead to problems in other subjects.

“He takes a long time to…”

  • Finish schoolwork
  • Answer questions
  • Follow directions


Some kids take longer because they’re more of a perfectionist, but weak cognitive skills are generally to blame if a child is always the last student done with an assignment, doesn’t finish it, or takes hours to complete standard homework loads.

“He continues to struggle with…”

  • Math facts
  • Paying attention
  • Following directions


Some struggles are normal when learning anything but if your child takes a longer than the average amount of time to master grade-level learning, a cognitive weakness is most likely the root cause.

While ongoing struggles in reading and math are often clear signs of a cognitive weakness, other behaviors are also strong indicators of a weakness. Symptoms that may come up in a parent-teacher conference include:

  • The inability to stay on task
  • Bouncing from idea to idea
  • Making sloppy mistakes
  • Turning in incomplete work
  • Not turning in assignments at all
  • Impulsiveness
  • General attention issues
  • Spelling problems (including forgetting words after mastering them)
  • Problems with if/then analogies
  • Struggles following instructions
  • Difficulty comprehending numbers, directions, answers
  • Trouble discerning left and right
  • Poor ability to use maps
  • Hesitation to read aloud
  • Poor organization skills
  • Forgetfulness
  • Avoiding prolonged mental efforts
  • Dislike or disinterest in school


If you hear any of the red flag phrases at conference time, or if the teacher says your child has several of the above signs, it’s time to schedule a cognitive skills assessment. After determining which skills are weak, then you can focus on the most effective way to strengthen those skills and ease the problem.

While certain games, exercises and activities can help strengthen weak cognitive skills, the best way is generally intense, one-on-one personalized brain training. LearningRx brain training graduates now average a 15-point increase in IQ. For more information visit

This article appears in the February 2015 issue of SpaceCoast Living HEALTH.
Did you like what you read here? Subscribe to SpaceCoast Living