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  • Jennifer Cardinal

Falling Through The Cracks

I recently completed neuropsychological intakes with teen triplet girls and their mother to address concerns related to learning struggles. I was touched by their situation as each girl expressed heartfelt dejection and increasing lack of confidence. Although each has unique experiences, they described common struggles related to their ability to complete schoolwork in a timely fashion and excessive worries about their performance. On paper the sisters look like typical high achieving students with strong marks across subjects. However, this does not reflect the reality of their situation. Their high grades come at the cost of excessive hours devoted to schoolwork and associated worries that keep them from having any kind of balance in their lives. In reviewing their records and past testing results, low processing speed was highlighted, and delayed completion time was noted in both testing and assignment conditions. Their mother reported that even with adapting their schedules to lessen their load, the girls average 6 hours per night to complete homework. As far back as 2017, despite high scores on the girls’ End of Level testing, each of them required significantly more time than their peers (up to 6 times as long).

We haven’t completed the neuropsychological testing yet but even without clear diagnoses, it is clear these girls need significant support. In fact, part of the frustration we often see -that mirrors what the triplets deal with- are processing deficits that are not always associated with clear explanations. Of course, anxiety is typically seen given the significant stress children experience and their desire to perform well. Often by the time children with these performance problems reach their teens, it is difficult to tell the difference between processing deficits and performance-based anxiety. In my opinion it is often “a distinction without a difference”. These sisters, like many others, are falling through the cracks. Their teachers often see their struggles as indicative of high-strung, perfectionistic tendencies and because of the girls’ high scores don’t recognize the extent of their deficits.

Each of the triplets expressed gratitude to me merely for the recognition and empathy shown for their very real struggles. It is jarring to realize how alone they must feel in their day-to-day educational experiences. We must recognize children who endorse this profile and advocate for them even when a qualifying clinical diagnosis is not identified. Their struggles are real and negatively impact their quality of life. They deserve better!


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