School is not easy for every student, and when difficulties arise, parents don’t always know what to do. One of the most common—and most serious—issues that struggling students have, says Eileen Huntington of Huntington Learning Center is when skills are missing.
“Academic skill gaps are the missing links between what children need to know in a particular grade or subject and what they actually know,” she explains. “Left uncorrected, those gaps in knowledge grow bigger, and students’ lack of important skills make it difficult or even impossible to keep up with classwork or continue moving forward successfully in a subject.”
Here are a few tips on what to do if you suspect your child has one or more skill gaps:
Observe carefully during homework time. What is tripping up your child? Is he or she functioning with some tasks and struggling with others? Watch how your child approaches homework and where specifically he or she gets stuck.
Talk with the teacher. Get his or her insight on what is happening in the classroom and if it looks similar to what you observe at home. Perhaps your child has been absent on important days and needs to catch up. Your child could be having trouble focusing during instruction. Or maybe your child’s skill gaps stem back to last school year and are only getting worse this year. Have an open conversation about what you are both seeing.
Talk with your child. Approach the conversation lightly, and ideally, not right after a frustrating homework session. Ask how your child feels during homework and in school. Your child’s perspective might surprise you and offer useful information that you can share with his or her teacher.
Contact Huntington for help. Unfortunately, skill gaps will only grow if they are not fixed. Your child needs individualized instruction on the areas where he or she is lacking understanding or missing key foundational information. In math, for example, many skills build upon one another. If your child never learned basic concepts and his or her teacher is now on the more complex subject matter, your child is likely having a hard time completing work correctly (or at all).
Skill gaps happen for a variety of reasons, explains Huntington. “Sometimes children hide their knowledge deficits well in elementary school because they’re able to compensate temporarily for the skills they are missing,” she says. “Other times children cover up their learning problems with a bad attitude or by causing distractions in the classroom.”
Whatever the reason or situation, Huntington can help. “We will evaluate your child’s abilities, identify the skills he or she is missing (or weak on), and create a targeted program of instruction that will help your child get back on track,” says Huntington. “The sooner you act, the sooner your child will regain his or her confidence and self-esteem.”