Month: August 2012

6 Things to Think About As You Start the School Year.

It’s that time of year.  You feel the pit in the stomach starting to form again.

Here are a few miscellaneous thoughts to keep in mind to try and shrink the pit ever so slightly.

What’s the focus? 

Ask yourself what the focus will be in the coming school year.  Is the emphasis decoding? Reading fluency? Reading comprehension? Written expression? Math?  Pick one or two (or have a professional help you) and target those domains.

Be Realistic.

Be realistic about what the school can and cannot do. Certainly, advocate for the child, but parents sometimes go for the “moon, sun, and stars,” leaving the school feeling that they can’t deliver any of it. Consequently, you might also find it helpful to research ways that you can support your school financially. Most schools are critically underfunded and therefore organizing a fundraising event can be a fantastic way to show your appreciation and can even help teachers to gain access to additional resources to support their pupils. You can learn more about the importance of organizing fundraising events for schools on the GoFundMe site.

Communication Counts

The old adage, “you get more fly with honey than you do with vinegar” applies.  By and large, schools are made up of people who tend to be nice, child friendly types.  (I know.  I know.  I can hear you moaning in disbelief over your school.)  Try and approach the teachers more informally “mom (dad) to teacher.”  Use a lot of “I or we talk.”  Try not to put the teacher on the defensive.

Limit Emails

Email is a great way to stay in touch, but teachers are feeling buried by the amount and length that they receive.  Perhaps check in every few weeks with a simple, focused  question, such as,  “Just checking in to see how Marissa is doing with her friends?  We are really targeting her social skill development this year and would appreciate the feedback.”

Watch the Jargon

Kids are kids.  They are complex beings with a mixture of different variables working.  Yesterday I tested a girl who had a fair helping of anxiety with a good mixture of language processing/reading comprehension issues (not to mention a dash of impulsivity.)  So what’s her label?  Stay skill focused – “We’re working on helping Marissa practice not reacting so quickly when we ask her a question.

Practice Deep Breathing

Everyone calm down.  Breathe deep.  Remember to put a lot of the responsibility on the kid – “Gee, I’m sorry you didn’t do your homework.  I will have to write the teacher and let  her know what you chose.”

Good luck with the coming year.  Shrink the pit

Getting Over the Decoding Hurdle

 When my kids were little I wasn’t too worried about developmental milestones.  There was one developmental hurdle, though, that I was fixated upon  –   the  “decoding hurdle.” 

Most kids get over the decoding hurdle some time toward the end of first grade heading into second grade.  Once they get over this hurdle there is a sort of clicking, an “aha, so that’s how reading works,” experience.  From that point forward these kids who click in with decoding enjoy reading and are eager to start reading easy chapter books.  (As an aside this eagerness ends for the boys in the upper elementary grades where they shut –off to reading, but that’s another discussion.)

For the kids that do not get over the decoding hurdle within a reasonable timetable, this difficulty creates a bottleneck that frustrates all aspects of schooling and academic development. 

The label of “LD” or “dyslexia“ is far less important and immaterial to identifying that such a hurdle exists.  Even though it is better to identify it as early as possible (probably on your own outside of school), identify it at any age under the mentality of “better late than never.”

One story illustrates this last point.  Some years ago I evaluated a 24 year old young man, Jacob, who was trying to get into medical school.  He was getting frustrated with his performance on the medical boards, in spite of taking intensive practice exams.  When I tested him it was clear that he really never got over the decoding hurdle.  Large words that were unfamiliar (e.g.,  incessant, philanthropist, fortitude)  were brutal for him.   After the testing, Jacob was so determined to go to medical school that he started a special program of reading remediation to learn how to decode more effectively.

I am happy to report that Jacob is a successful physician today.

It just would have been nice if someone back in first grade said to his mother, “You know, Jacob is having trouble getting over the decoding hurdle.  We need to do a full-court press and target that skill.”


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