Adjustment vs. Direct Instruction

June 01, 2018

You’ve been watching your child in the weekly tennis clinics offered at the school and you are not very comfortable with what you are seeing.  In contrast to those kids who look like they play pretty well, your 8 year old stands out.

In short, he isn’t very good.

In fact as his parent you quietly wonder if he isn’t a bit “tennis disabled,” so you talk to the people in charge of the clinic who make a bunch of recommendations such as:

  • When he is serving, allow him to serve half way to the net instead of from the baseline.
  • Widen the parameters of the court, so that when he hits to the other side he is allowed to hit in the doubles area.
  • Lowering the net so he can get the ball over more consistently.

What was most striking to you was the idea that all of the suggestions were accommodations or adjustments that would allow your child to feel like he was more a part of things.

There was no talk about what can be done to improve his skills.

I get this type of thing a lot when I read reports on kids.  Often, the reports are very top-heavy on proposed adjustments, but light on what can be done to directly work on the deficient areas.

Some of the common accommodations/adjustments include:

  • Give the child extra time (not that he wants it).
  • Seat child near front of the room.
  • Repeat directions
  • Place desk in area with fewer distractions
  • Use graphic organizers.
  • Use “peer buddies” to assist with comprehension.

While these may be helpful, they do not involve skill improvement involving direct remedial instruction.  Direct instruction means the a skill is taught to a child explicitly and then the child practices this skill until it becomes mastered. Sometimes this takes a long time.

Whether a child is “dyslexic,” “learning disabled,” “ADHD,” or “tennis disabled,” there are identifiable skills that are either mastered by the child or they are not.  These skills need to be assessed and identified.

Once identified, the deficient skills need to be targeted and remediated.

Takeaway Point

Accommodations (adjustments) are great, but don’t forget the other side of things (i.e., direct instruction).

Direct instruction with lots of guided practice is essential to move your child along the skills continuum.

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All comments (14)
  • Luqman Michel
    June 01, 2018 at 9:34 pm

    Yes Dr. Selznick I concur. Try to find out the root cause of the problem. I have taught so called dyslexic kids and the root […] Read MoreYes Dr. Selznick I concur. Try to find out the root cause of the problem. I have taught so called dyslexic kids and the root cause of the problems my students had was wrong instructions in Kindergarten and early primary school. Read Less

    Reply
  • Jeanne Voelker
    June 02, 2018 at 4:15 am

    I agree that skills must be taught--the world isn't going to accommodate our kids' lack of skills forever. And yes, direct instruction works; it just […] Read MoreI agree that skills must be taught--the world isn't going to accommodate our kids' lack of skills forever. And yes, direct instruction works; it just takes more time to work in some cases. When I worked as a poetry teacher in an elementary school in the 1970's, there were some students who were two-to-three years behind grade level in reading. They received small group direct-instruction in phonics from their reading specialist, and this helped them immensely. I was asked to help a group of students who had not yet succeeded in learning their times tables. I led them in rhythmic clapping drills (clapping and chanting the multiplication facts.) They loved it and they learned! Read Less

    Reply
  • Peg Dawson
    June 02, 2018 at 11:22 am

    I love this analogy. My thinking on 504 Plans has evolved over the years. The kids that I see with executive skill challenges should be […] Read MoreI love this analogy. My thinking on 504 Plans has evolved over the years. The kids that I see with executive skill challenges should be seen as kids who can improve their skills--but since they're unlikely to devise strategies on their own, they need to be helped to do this. Direct instruction plus lots of opportunities to practice is the way to do this. If this were built into general education classrooms, many of these kids would not require either accommodations or special education. Read Less

    Reply
    • Richard Selznick, Ph.D.
      @Peg Dawson
      June 04, 2018 at 12:17 am

      Thanks, Peg. Much appreciated. I totally concur with your point about the general education class. Glad we're on the same page. […] Read MoreThanks, Peg. Much appreciated. I totally concur with your point about the general education class. Glad we're on the same page. Hope you are well. Read Less

      Reply
  • Carolyn N.
    June 04, 2018 at 1:19 am

    Great article! Just what I needed to hear this week! Thank you, Dr. Selznick!

    Reply
  • Antonia Canaris
    June 08, 2018 at 3:10 am

    Well put. I see too many recommendations for adjustment. What the students need is to be able to read and write just like every other student. […] Read MoreWell put. I see too many recommendations for adjustment. What the students need is to be able to read and write just like every other student. Read Less

    Reply

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