photos by Jessica Breaux

Why Do Smart Kids Struggle in School?

Therapeutic Literacy Center and Arrowsmith Offer Real Solutions for Improving Learning Capacities for Success in School and in Life

The professional and passionate team at the Therapeutic Literacy Center (TLC) knows that learning difficulties don’t have to be permanent. “We see it every day. Sometimes parents cross their fingers and hope that things will change, but it’s rare that change happens by itself. If it hasn’t fixed itself yet…when?” shared Founder Maria Bagby. TLC identifies and permanently strengthens the root cause of the problems and significantly improves learning capacities. “The investment in identifying and strengthening the underlying cognitive skills is uniquely different than educational therapy and tutoring.”

How is TLC different from other learning centers?
According to Maria, traditional tutoring and repetition of tasks may address the immediate problem if the cause is missed or poor instruction, but those strategies do not correct the cause of the problem. When a child is smart but struggling in school, it is painful for the student and for the family. And when a young adult is struggling with the demands of the workplace, it can be terribly confusing. “Difficulties in school and work eventually affect self-esteem in all aspects of life,” she said. TLC fixes the cause rather than focusing only on the symptoms.

“Sometimes parents cross their fingers and hope that things will change, but it’s rare that change happens by itself. If it hasn’t fixed itself yet… when?”

What programs does TLC use?
“I like to say that we have a ‘system’ – not a program. We don’t apply a program to a client. We have many programs and tools we use to individualize a plan. These include AST-R/S/C (Auditory Stimulation Training for Reading/Spelling and Comprehension, AMPS (Attention, Memory and Processing Skills), EFT (Executive Function Training), IM (Interactive Metronome), the Lindamood Bell programs’ tools, to name a few. In 2017 we added the Arrowsmith Program ( for the more complex learning needs. It’s exciting to expand our repertoire of tools we can use for individuals that have an IEP with a diagnoses of many more learning disabilities (now including non-verbal learning disability) and other more complex issues related to critical thinking, fluid reasoning, symbol relations, memory for information, quantification sense (related to math difficulties), visual and/or auditory processing, and what is referred to as symbolic and artefactual thinking.

Does TLC provide tutoring?
“Yes, we do. Sometimes tutoring is all that is needed. In these cases, we provide tutoring using strategies learned from the cognitive programs we use for therapy.”


Is this your child?
• Takes too long to do homework
• Says “huh?” or “what?” often
• Misses social cues and interrupts
• Has a hard time paying attention in school
• Has difficulty in reading, writing, or math
• Has ADHD but you don’t want to medicate him/her
• Has an IEP but you don’t feel it’s helping

Is this your teenager?
• Has difficulty completing homework
• Hard on themselves
• Has missing assignments
• Grades affected from being unorganized
• Defensive about school
• Depressed, anxious, or low self-esteem
• Lacking direction

Is this you or your family?
• Conflicts about homework
• Spending hours doing homework with your child
• Experiencing difficulty in parent-child relationships

If you and your child can relate to any of these scenarios, call to find out how TLC can help.

What else does TLC offer?
The center also offers a parent support group for parents and regular events with speakers on topics such as: “What exactly is ADHD? The components of attention and strategies to improve, “Why Doesn’t My Child Turn in Their Homework?” and “What happens when the Common Core approach isn’t working for my child?” The team at TLC knows that by making changes in underlying cognitive skills, we don’t have to struggle with learning in school and in the workplace. This realization is what prompted Maria to leave the educational system and establish TLC. The center has expanded three times since moving to Solana Beach in 2012. “We have facilitated 23 children exiting special education and many others that were in the process of qualifying in SST meetings. In the adult world, we have helped numerous young people make the transition from school to work,” said Maria.

Is TLC for everyone?
“No. I refer out about 15% of the people that come in to meet us. Our level of success is high – very high – but I skew our data by choosing only the ‘right’ kids to work with. My commitment is to work only with people that match what we have and to help find the right solutions for those that don’t work with us.”

“It’s a short-term investment for a lifetime of change.” – Maria Bagby, owner

Who do you work with?
“We work with smart kids that are struggling in school and in the workplace.

“We have students from grade one through young adult. Right now we have a woman in her 70’s strengthening her memory and processing skills! But most of our clients are families with students in grades one through high school. Many of our students don’t have any diagnosis at all and many have the support of having an IEP in school.” Additionally, TLC works with local audiologists specializing in Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) and serves as a Deficit-Specific Auditory Processing Disorder treatment center. We have treatments for the four main types or deficit areas and are having great success in significantly improving if not erasing the deficit completely. All therapeutic programs are customized to each individual need and are designed to be fun and life-changing. The culture at TLC is focused on relationship and knowledge that every student is incredibly smart with quirky glitches that are creating problems for them.

What do I do to find out if TLC can help me or my child?
Call us to schedule a consultation or attend a parent information meeting where you can hear other parents talk about their experiences.

The Learning Continuum




Business: Therapeutic Literacy Center
Owner: Maria Bagby
Director: Lois Yacko
Year of Establishment: 2012
Phone: 858-481-2200
Address: 990 Highland Dr. Suite 106-D, Solana Beach, CA 92075
Business Description: TLC solves learning challenges and disabilities by addressing the underlying skills causing the learning problems. The Arrowsmith program brings neuroscience research to the educational development of student learning.