Month: September 2009

Basic Reading Skills, Remediation Strategies, & Common Sense

Originally published as “Dyslexia, Reading Disabilities & Common Sense”

Use common sense and embrace remediation strategies than emphasize basic reading skills.

Many moons ago when I started out, I don’t remember feeling overwhelmed by the lack of common sense that seems to exist in the field of helping children with early reading skills. Today, though, there seems to be a short supply of common sense.

Caring, sensitive parents will come in to see me seeking direction for their child. Reviewing the various assessments that’s been done, I will typically see areas of need that have not sufficiently been addressed. Usually this rests in the core skills of reading, spelling and writing.

Yet, no one is helping these kids to develop their reading skills.

That’s where common sense seems to break down.

Why are the kids not getting what they need?

Essentially, the parents are told something about the child’s IQ and the lack of a discrepancy between his score and achievement levels.

Basic Reading Skills – The Problem of the 30th Percentile

If your reading skills are around the 30th percentile, you probably don’t feel too happy about it – or very secure. Yet, the 30th percentile is in the lower portion of the “average range.” Therefore, children are not likely eligible for receiving any special assistance or direct remediation strategies.

A child who is in the 30th percentile (or less) for word decoding and oral reading skills (reading fluency), needs help. This is common sense.

Why Schools Can’t Approach English Remediation

Please understand, I am not blaming schools or special education teams with this view of common sense. Most teams want to help children, but each state’s special education code holds them back. While a team may want to help kids develop their reading skills, their hands are tied by the criterion used to identify children.

On a related note, nothing in the accepted clinical definition of dyslexia talks about a discrepancy with IQ. This definition, though, is largely not the one’s used in any given state’s code.

Here’s the definition:

Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin. Difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition, and poor spelling and decoding abilities, characterize this condition. These difficulties typically result from an unexpected deficit in the phonological component of language in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge (NICHD).

Sound like anyone you know? Perhaps they should consider asking questions like “how to get disability insurance?” and other similar queries.

Targeting Skill Areas to Improve Reading Skills

If your child is having trouble with “accurate and or fluent word recognition,” then whatever IQ number has been identified doesn’t matter, and those skills need targeted attention.

Try a new remediation intervention: target skill areas with a laser focus. Simplify your approach and apply common sense!

Takeaway Point: Targeted Interventions

Your state code may not find the child to be eligible to receive services in the school. Find someone outside of school who understands such targeted interventions, and focus on the skill domain.


Not in the South Jersey area? For a free 15 Minute Consultation, contact Dr. Selznick: email –

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Tags: Learning Disabilities, Dyslexia, Reading Disability

“Do Your Personal Best All the Time!”

“James must try and do his personal best all the time.”

This was the teacher’s evaluation comment of a child I recently evaluated.

As soon as I read the comment, I felt my blood pressure rise a bit.  I don’t know about you, but I have yet to have a day in my life where I have done my “personal best all the time.”

I think I would settle for a few good hours of my personal best!

Once I started working with James it was  was clear he was not someone who was going to be able to sustain his personal best for more than a brief activity or two.  His issues were the ones often seen with kids who struggle in school.   Low-level writing skills and a weak capacity to sustain his interest for tasks that he saw as too difficult were very clearly a part of his style.

For James, his weaknesses were continually undermining him and his motivation.  He lacked skills that were needed to put forth the sustained effort that the teacher was seeking.  I have been seeing a lot of James-style kids lately.  These kids can’t work through their frustration, have great difficulty putting together a basic paragraph with any coherency, and are pretty disorganized.

I see these kids as having clogged fuel lines for many of the typical classroom activities.

What will unclog them?  It’s hard to say.

I do know that a patient, supportive teacher can work wonders in helping a child become a bit unclogged.  Once the child feels supported, there is often more emotional energy for trying to tackle more difficult tasks.
So, as we start this school year maybe we should watch those statements about, “doing your best all the time. “ Then you might start seeing more bursts of “personal best” throughout the day.

Tags:  Parenting, Struggling children, Learning Disabilities


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