Month: July 2016

A Little Dose of Patience (“Vitamin P”)


“Vitamin P”

A five year old boy I evaluated recently, Ari, seemed very sweet, although perhaps a little on the shy and a awkward side.  After I tested Ari, when I told his mom my largely positive impressions of her son, one of the things she was very concerned about was the fact that he was very bad at saying hello to people in social situations. “Do you think he has a social disorder of some kind,” she asked me.

Those “disorder” questions always stop me in my tracks. I am hopelessly wired for seeing kids as kids and less as having disorders.

To me under the “big tent of normal” there is a tremendous amount of variation. Here I had spent about two plus hours with her son and mostly what I saw was a boy who needed more time to mature and learn the difficult skill (for many) of saying hello properly along with a few other things.

I didn’t see this boy as disordered as much as needing one thing from the adults around him – patience (“Vitamin P”).

“Ah, he’s a great kid,” I told the mom. “It’s not easy for lot of kids to say hello or to be socially responsive when they are five. Give him time, reinforce him positively when you catch him doing the right thing and I predict the issue will be gone. Be patient with him. It isn’t easy being a kid.”

Was I right in my view?

I’m sure there would be plenty of professionals out there who would be more than ready to put a disorder label on this boy and initiate a range of treatments (at parent expense I might add).


I just wasn’t ready to go there.


Ari needed a lot of patience, which is often in short order with kids.  We expect a lot from them far too early.

Takeaway Point

“Vitamin P” goes a long way (and it doesn’t cost anything!!!!!!)

The Decade of Dyslexia

Every decade has a new emphasis.  In the mid 1970’s “learning disability” was a scalding hot term.  Following the 1970s, ADHD was the topic of the decade.  This was followed by autism (or children “on the spectrum”).

We are now in the decade of “dyslexia.”  Not very long ago the term “dyslexia” in the schools was sort like Voldemort (“He who shall remain nameless.”).  Now, it is my impression that we are using the term “dyslexia” very freely, perhaps too freely.   I can’t prove it, but there seems to be a meteoric rise of people who think their child has dyslexia.

Increased awareness may not have changed peoples’ perceptions all that much.

Try this experiment this weekend at your backyard family gatherings.  Ask your relatives what they know about dyslexia.    Without exception, I would predict that you will get something like, “Isn’t that when you read upside down and backward…or you reverse all those letters.”

If you are in the minority who of those who do not view dyslexia through the reversals explanation, you may be tempted to say, “No, it is not that at all,” but your explanations will not be understood.

It’s one of the problems with the ‘D Word.”  As much as our awareness of dyslexia has increased considerably with all of the grass-roots movements and legislation taking place, it is extremely difficult to shake the notion of reversals and upside down from people’s awareness.

There are numerous other interfering mythologies that do not easily go away, chief among them the notion that, “Only neurologists can diagnose dyslexia.’

I try to do the best I can to educate people and help shake out certain notions long held.

No matter what, though, it’s very hard to shake the perception at the heart of people’s thinking regarding reversals and the upside down view of things.  This perceptions continually gets in the way.

I know it goes against the popular tide, but I prefer to say a child has a “reading disability,” (recognizing that this terms is problematic, too, since it doesn’t mention the spelling and writing issues).

To me reading disability translates better to most parents.  The term is understood pretty intuitively. There is less preconceived mythology and baggage.

Takeaway Point

Keep chiseling away at the mythologies.

Enjoy your backyard barbecues.  Keep working on the relatives.  Maybe they will get it one of these days.

Direct Instruction?

A mom called this week to talk to me about the school district offering a computer program (“Orton-Gillingham based, was the claim) that was providing “direct instruction.”  The mom questioned whether the program was “direct instruction,” as the school was telling her it was.

Listen, if I get a tennis ball machine to feed balls to me, that can be very valuable for improving my game, but it’s called “PRACTICE.”  When the tennis instructor breaks down the skills for me, shows me how to do a skill, watches me hit, and gives me feedback, it’s “Direct Instruction.”

Related to the issue of direct instruction vs. practice, parents will also be told that their child is slated to receive “in-class support.”  In-class support may involve direct instruction, but this needs to be clarified, as chances are the in-class support is of the “don’t-let-the child-drown in the deep end of the pool” variety.  That is, a lifeguard is  close by in the deep end of the pool with the child, but not teaching the child to swim.  That is usually what “in-class support” involves.

Direct instruction involves the teaching of specific skills in a structured, sequential manner, with one skill being directly taught to mastery, leading to the next skill to be taught.

As a side point, while it is nice if the child is given one-on-one instruction, direct instruction can also be delivered in a small group (ideally, no larger than four in a group).  A tennis teacher can do a fine job directly instructing in a group.

Takeaway Point

Practicing on the computer with a program that has been designated as “evidenced based”  (aren’t they all) or that has the elements of, say an Orton-based program, may be very good for your child to do as an activity.  It is not “direct instruction.”  Chances are “in-class support” isn’t either.



“Cool Anger:” Putting Yourself in Time Out

What’s the number one parenting tool used by 99% of the modern parents, that’s 99% ineffective?


Yep, it’s our “go to” parenting strategy.  It’s our fallback, our parental comfort zone when our kids are getting on our nerves, crossing boundaries, breaking basic rules – you know, being kids.

The second most used and ineffective parent fallback strategy is the time honored one of, “Time Out.”

As parents we think that when our kids do something we must reactively display hot anger or put kids in “Time Out.”  It’s like we pull out our Parent Play Book, Chapter 3, “The Use of Yelling, “ or Chapter 4, “Time-Out for Dummies,” and off we go.

Let me ask you this.  Is it working for you?  If it is, keep on yelling or making the kid go into Time Out while he or she is screaming like a wild banshee.

If it’s not working (and that’s where I am placing my money), then it’s time to try something else.

A much more effective approach is to apply the skill of “cool anger.”  Cool anger is more honest (it’s much closer to how you feel) and, ultimately, more impactful, but most parents usually don’t understand the skill or have become afraid of using it, thinking they are inflicting shame and guilt on their child.

Let’s look briefly at “cool anger” in action.

Young Gavin, age 5, gets in trouble at school by spitting at someone while he is waiting in line.  Gavin thinks he’s being cute.  He is not.  When it is time to pick Gavin up at the end of the day, the teacher is meets you outside and is upset about what happened.

Once in the car, the usual reaction would be to yell at Gavin (Chapter 2), combined with the threat of time out (Chapter 3).  (By the time the kid gets home after the car harangue, he is probably enjoying his snacks and watching TV.  All is fine.  No sweat.)

An alternative to the usual parent chapters would be to make things very chilly and uncomfortable for the child.  Rather than yelling in the car, in the alternative approach there would be virtual silence, but cool anger would permeate.  There would be no, “How was your day sweetie,”  fun songs, iPads in the car or movies on the car screens.  

In short, it would be an uncomfortable environment.

Once inside the house, a brief, chilly and clear statement would be made that goes something like this:

“Here’s the deal.  I am very angry with you for spitting at school.  Spitting is 100% against the rules.  Right now, I am too angry to speak with you.  Everything is off – no iPad, computer, TV, video games or anything.  You’re not allowed to play outside either.  You can sit there for the next hour or so and do nothing.  I will be busy taking care of things around the house.  You are not to be bothering me.”

Once that is stated, that’s it.  No further discussion. Turn on your heels and go about your business.  No yelling, haranguing, lecturing or punishing.    As the evening goes along, you can warm up by degrees, but I would suggest that the tone of the night should be very, very subdued (boring) until bed time.  The usual Fun Parents are not so fun(that includes Fun Dad).

Takeaway Point

Cool anger sends a powerful message and puts responsibility squarely where it belongs – on the child.  The hope with this approach is that the child broods a bit, thinks about what he has done and feels some remorse.

Cool anger sends a powerful message and puts responsibility squarely where it belongs – on the child.

Turn down the heat.   It’s going to be a chilly night.


Adapted from, School Struggles, Richard Selznick, Ph.D. (2012), Sentient Publications


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