Month: May 2017

Selznick 9-Point Summer Plan

Summer. We’re almost there. You can feel it. The Parent Stress Meter starts to lower by degrees.

Every year around this time of year in parent magazines and other related sources, you will see articles like, “Top Tips for Successful Summer Learning” or some variation on that theme.

For the kids that have been struggling during the school year, here is Selznick’s 9-Point Summer Plan to keep in mind as we go into the haze of summer.

  1. Kids Need to Be Kids. They need to play, run around, and have fun. That should be the top priority in the summer.
  2. Getting Off the Screens. Break their screen dependency. Get them outside. You may have go through a Screen Detox period, but hang tough.
  3. Less Competitive. Maybe your child has been “stressing” through the year over all of the evaluations, worksheets and tests that he/she has received, and needs a less pressured, less competitive summer experience.
  4. Follow Their Lead. What’s your child’s leanings and interests? For example, if your kid is a reptile/swamp type of kid, try and find an outdoor camp that taps into his passion. There may not be an exact match in your area, but try and find something close to the interest.
  5. Turn Down the Heat. Save some energy and strive to turn down the yelling, badgering, and pecking that is popular in households. It isn’t working. It’s only making your household hotter and the kid isn’t saying, “Thanks for yelling, mom, I understand. I will start reading now.”
  6. Independent Reading in the Zone of Competence. Sure, it’s great to have the child read some books this summer, but, you must have them read in their “zone of competence,” that is their instructional comfort level. Make sure you know the grade level your child is reading. Talk to the local librarian to guide you on some good books within the child’s zone of competence. One simple test to determine appropriateness is to have the child read out loud from a random page in a book that you are considering. How does the child sound? If the reading is relatively smooth, you’re probably ok with the book, at least in terms of the basic readability.
  7. Family Games. Find some old school family games to play (see point 2 – video games don’t count). It doesn’t have to be overly involved – play some Uno, for example. Old school lawn games are fun too. Maybe start a group jigsaw puzzle. Again, there may be some initial whining as you go through Screen Detox, but if you work through it, they will come around.
  8. Tutoring/Skill Development. After all of the above are in place, summer is a good time to target key skill areas that are in need of development. Before you start, though, make sure you know what your goals are for the summer tutoring before beginning. What’s the target of tutoring? Decoding? Comprehension? Writing? Math? Word problems?
  9. Don’t Think About September Every time you start thinking about something like school and September coming, let it go. Notice your breath and breathe in the summer!

That’s it – The Selznick 9 Point Summer Plan.


Summer time and the living is easy.

For a free 15 Minute Consultation, contact Dr. Selznick: email –

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#Dyslexia & the “Reversal Thing”

Not a week goes by that a parent coming in to consult with me about their child does not bring up one of the major mythologies that are out there on dyslexia.

Of course, the top one that is almost impossible to shake from our collective consciousness is what I call the “reversal thing.”

Not sure how this happened, but somewhere along the line, we all were hypnotized.  No matter what your background or education the “reversal thing is deeply embedded in our thought process.

As we go into the summer with more and more backyard barbecues, try this little experiment.  Turn to your uncle or cousin and ask them, “Hey, Uncle Bill, do you know what dyslexia is?”

Invariably, Uncle Bill will say something very close to the following, “Isn’t that when (it always starts with “isn’t that when”) you read upside down and backwards –  like the words and letters are reversed, right.”

Uncle Bill is in good company.  The “reversal thing” is a dominating mythology.

When you look to the definition of dyslexia that is widely accepted, it states the following in the first part of the definition:

Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities.

Where’s the word “reversal?”  It’s not even in the definition.

I like to simplify things.   One way to think about dyslexia is to consider it as “reading inefficiency.” Or in the simple definition, it represents difficulty identifying words accurately and fluently.

For example, If I read “pricopinny” for  “porcupine” or “Sweden” for “seaweed” that’s a problem.  My reading will be conducted very inefficiently and my understanding will be greatly impacted.

 Takeaway Point

We will be discussing the top mythologies in upcoming blogs, but for now let’s try and loosen the “reversal thing” from your mental tree.  Listen to your child read.  Does he/she sound inefficient?  Are there lots of words like “pricopinny” substituting for real words like porcupine? If so, then you are probably in the realm of dyslexia (although it is important to understand that there are other variables or factors to consider).


For a free 15 Minute Consultation, contact Dr. Selznick: email –

To receive free Dyslexia Infographics and updates, go to:

On Writing, Chromebooks & Nubby Pencils

In my office I sometimes feel like I am in an outpost of the galaxy.  Messages come in periodically informing us of things going on in the schools, such as, “All the kids are now getting Chromebooks for writing.”

Out in my corner of the universe, I just scratch my head and wonder how something like Chromebooks is really going to help kids who struggle to learn how to write.

I see the use of Chromebooks as fun and they probably help kids become more technologically literate (not that they really need it, as most of them seem pretty literate as far as technology goes), but how does it help kids become competent writers?

For the 60% of those that I referred to on the positive side of the bell-shaped curve, Chromebook or even a  nubby pencil and paper can probably work fine for them in terms of being able to generate a solid paragraph or a three paragraph essay.

A second grade child who had no learning problems recently wrote this as part of a classroom exercise:

“Shells work great with mulch.  Mulch is wood, sand and mussel shells that go over the dirt to keep the soil wet and keeps weeds from growing.  That is what happened at the end of the story after Grace asks about the shells.”

The words were nicely spaced and there were clear punctuation marks. (The writing was completed with a nubby pencil, I might add.)

Contrast this with Charles who was also a second grader, writing about something funny that happened in school. When I asked 8 and a half year old Charles to write a story that had a beginning, middle and end  about something funny that happened  in school he told me, the following:

“When my totoere read what I root it made me lauhg so hard I could not stop”

For the kids with learning problems, those in the 30-40% group, neither Chromebook nor paper and pencil are effective medium for them since writing is hard no matter what.   Whether it’s old technology (a pencil with an eraser was at one time a cutting edge technology) or modern technology like a Chromebook, without direct instruction the child will be at a loss as to how to organize his/her thoughts into a solid paragraph.

Direct instruction means that the child will be directly taught discrete skills that will be practiced to mastery.  For the first child who wrote about mussel shells and mulch, it looks like she has a pretty good grasp of sentence and paragraph structure.  This child can already engage with open-ended writing.

Not so, young Charles.  For him, focusing on simple sentences for a while would be a good way for him to go.  Let him master writing basic sentences and after he’s done that he can write more complex sentences, ultimately leading up to the writing if a paragraph.

Takeaway Point

Sentences can be practiced on Chromebook or with an old school technology like paper and pencil.  It really doesn’t matter. What matters is recognizing that kids who struggle with writing, need patient, direct instruction to be practiced over time to mastery.

For a free 15 minute consultation with Dr. Selznick, email

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That Place on the Bell-Shaped Curve

There is that place of the bell-shaped curve that is always challenging for schools and clinicians.  I call it the “zone of no zone.”  It’s that area of the curve that technically falls in the “average range,” yet is problematic from a functional point of view.

A quick overview of the scores may be helpful.

For most psychological and educational tests, standard scores of 100 are right in the middle average (50th %ile).  Scores that fall to the lower portion of the average range hover around the score of 90 (which is the 25th %ile).  The 25th % ile means that 75% are better than you on any given task being measured.

From the school’s vantage point, most kids falling in the low 90’s typically are not classifiable, that is they are not viewed as being eligible to receive services in special education.

That is they are “average.”

Yet, from the parents’ point of view they see this “average” child struggling on a day-to-day basis and they feel at a loss with their child not receiving any extra attention at school.

Compounding this challenge is the confusion that can arise when an outside professional “diagnoses” a child as having a learning disability such as dyslexia even with the scores from the outside evaluation falling in a similar range.

A learning disability like dyslexia is not a broken bone that shows up on an x-ray yielding a “yes” or “no” as to whether the child has it or not.  There are so many variables that go into making the decision, tilting the diagnosis in one direction or the other.   Some of these variables are not quantifiable such as whether one or the other parent struggled with same issues or was previously diagnosed.   It’s an example of a non-quantifiable piece of information that adds to the story and needs to be factored in to the ultimate conclusion.

In most clinical assessments there is an interplay of the quantitative and the qualitative.  With special education assessments, the ultimate eligibility decisions are almost exclusively quantitative in nature.

Takeaway Point

If your child is falling out in that “zone of no zone,” that is the lower portion of average,   the likelihood is your he will be struggling even if viewed as technically average.  While the “average” child will not likely be viewed as eligible for special education, if you can, try and take action in your own hands.

You know your child better than any clinician or special education team.  Seek help, whether or not your child is officially “diagnosed.”

Get good tutoring and professional guidance on what you can do at home.

There’s no gain in waiting.

For a free 15 minute consultation with Dr. Selznick, email

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