Identifying your child's academic struggles

Carolyn McWilliams, MA Educational Specialist, shares advice for parents on the best methods for identifying and helping your child when they are having trouble in school
Helping Your Child When They're Struggling In School
KidsInTheHouse the Ultimate Parenting Resource
Kids in the House Tour

Identifying your child's academic struggles

If your child is having trouble in school, the first thing to do is to be an investigator. See if you can step back a moment and begin to get an idea of what are the areas he or she struggles in and in what settings. So start taking some really kind of systematic notes. Notice, it’s bringing materials home, it’s handwriting, it’s math calculation – get an idea of what’s going on, so that you can go in and meet with your child’s teacher and be able to let them know what you’re seeing at home and be able to start working as a partnership together. Oftentimes just simply letting your teacher know – the teacher know – what’s going on or the struggles your child is having will be helpful and you can begin to see some kinds of changes, some little home-school communication. That said, there are other steps that you may have to move up to. There is sometimes testing for learning disabilities that can occur in the school environment or are done privately. There are… your pediatrician might be able to be helpful in analyzing some of the physical causes that might be causing them to struggle in school. The most important thing is not to escalate to the fact that my child is having trouble in school, but try to be as specific as possible and to work in a partnership with professionals that are also dealing with your child.

Carolyn McWilliams, MA Educational Specialist, shares advice for parents on the best methods for identifying and helping your child when they are having trouble in school


Expert Bio

More from Expert

Carolyn McWilliams, MA

Educational Specialist

Carolyn is currently an educational therapist and educational consultant helping students, parents, and schools meet the challenges of gifted students with learning challenges through her offices in Santa Monica, California. Carolyn also does general consulting with schools on topics from curriculum development to teaching study skills to interpretation of student test scores.

Carolyn began her educational career in Santa Barbara, California, where she received her B.A. and M.A. and became a Ph.D. candidate in Educational Administration with an emphasis on Curriculum and Instruction. She served as a supervisor of student teachers and taught courses across the educational curriculum during her eight years at UCSB.

After completing her studies, Carolyn moved to Los Angeles where she served as the head of Adat Ari El Day School in Valley Village and as a consultant on issues of learning and instruction to Jewish day schools across the Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Spectrum, as well as to elementary and secondary schools of all types. During this time she also served on the faculty of California State University at Northridge.

The parent of three highly gifted daughters of her own (one with learning challenges), throughout her career, Carolyn has designed innovative strategies, as well as unique programs to help gifted students achieve life success. She established the Johns Hopkins Center for Academically Talented Youth (CTY) Summer Commuter Program held at the University of California Los Angeles and served as parent liaison for the CTY to the press and larger community. She was the founder and head of Bridges Academy, which serves a population of twice-exceptional students in grades 6-12, from 1994-2003 (

Carolyn has been a classroom teacher in both Goleta Union and Los Angeles Unified School Districts. She was LAUSD Teacher of the Year, was one of five finalists for California Teacher of the Year, and was given an Outstanding Educator Award by the Los Angeles Times. She has published curriculum and articles in the areas of special education, social studies, English, educational computing, ESL, multi-cultural education, study skills, and classroom organization. She regularly presents at conferences and schools on topics related to curriculum, instruction, classroom organization, gifted students, and special needs populations. 

More Parenting Videos from Carolyn McWilliams, MA >