Why is my child having problems in school?

Parents often come to us with this question.  In most cases, finding the answer is not quick and simple.  There are many reasons why children struggle in school.  By the time parents come to see us, there have often been lots of opinions put forth by family members, school personnel, and others.  The question has usually been explored at least partially by educators and others with whom parents have discussed the problems.  When these avenues are not found to be sufficient to improve things, it is often helpful to take a closer and more complete look at various factors which may be getting in the child or teens way of success in the school environment. 




The many factors which impact on school success are often explored by conducting a psychological assessment.  This type of assessment attempts to uncover the reasons a student struggles and offers suggestions for how to assist the student.  A broad range of factors which influence school success and adjustment are typically explored including the following possibilities.




  • Underlying cognitive problems that make academic tasks difficult and frustrating.  (Such as intellectual deficits, learning disabilities, attentional problems, and developmental delays or disorders.)

  • High levels of stress in the child’s life that interfere with the child’s ability to learn, socialize, and/or behave appropriately in the school setting.  Stress may be related to a wide range of experiences such as family conflict, other family stressors, exposure to trauma, a difficult change or loss in the child’s life, difficulty with peer relationships, as well as many other possibilities.

  • Emotional or social problems that interfere with learning and school adjustment. 

  • Poor coping skills that hinder a child’s ability to deal with typical childhood stressors and frustrations.

  • Poor physical health or health habits which interfere with a child’s energy and availability to learn. 

  • Mental Health problems such as depression, anxiety, or thought disorders.
              • Academic programs or environments that are a poor fit for the child's learning needs.

An assessment may place more or less emphasis on each of the above areas depending upon the referral question, but by considering each area, we strive to identify those concerns that are having a negative effect on the child’s success in school.  We also look for the child’s strengths so we can use those strengths to promote the child’s overall development.  This information then allows us to offer guidance on how best to assist and support the child at school and at home.




Lyla Caudle, M.A. C. Psych. Assoc.