This post was written by my colleague Maria Bagby, from Therapeutic Literacy Center. (858) 668-8366,

Why is learning to read, write and spell difficult for some of our children?

The real question is why isn’t it? We are hard-wired for learning to sit, stand, walk and talk.  But reading and writing have to be learned.  They are complex skills that are more difficult for some of us than others.  Unfortunately, 20-25% of us have a difficult time learning to read in the traditional school model. Here are five things to remember if your child is struggling:

 A learning problem does NOT have to be a permanent condition.  Most learning challenges are caused by a weakness in one of more areas of underlying processing skills. These are not academic skills, like knowing their letters, reading or writing, but cognitive process skills, or learning skills. When these are strengthened, the problem can be fixed.

Children don’t need a diagnosis to need help. Parents usually know first. Moms know for sure. For some children, challenges are real, whether formally diagnosed or not, and the underlying learning skills are the place to begin to correct them.

Treat the cause, rather than working around the symptom. Some will suggest that the best way to help someone with a learning problem is to help them get around it – to make accommodations.  Accommodating a learning problem is like riding a bike with flat tires. With lots of extra effort and someone holding the seat, it can be done. But wouldn’t it be better just to fix the flat tire?


Learning problems can be disguised as laziness or inattention.  Children may be told they need to “try harder” or “pay attention.”If a child looks unmotivated, it’s most likely a symptom, not the problem. If you don’t have the skills to do the job, it really doesn’t matter how motivated you are. Using the bike analogy, it’s like riding a bike with square wheels… how long and how far would you keep pedaling before you got tired or gave up?  Most “lazy” looking kids hang in there far longer than most people would tolerate!  Lack of underlying skills, not lack of motivation, is often the issue.

A wise mentor of mine once said, “We are not mass-produced.”  That rings true. Our brains are as individual as our fingerprints. Learning to read, write and spell requires that we identify to activate those processing skills necessary for learning to read.  It can be done.

-Maria Bagby, Therapeutic Learning Center

Well said Maria! I would also like to add that if your child is struggling with reading/writing, avoids homework, has low frustration tolerance, doesn’t persist with challenging tasks, or has a negative attitude towards school or learning, don’t wait. Better to address these things early so your child can recoup his self-confidence and self-esteem, and you can instill a true love for learning and a feeling of accomplishment and success. If you have any questions, contact Maria directly, or comment below. Thanks Maria!

-Dr. Deb