Month: July 2017

“Help, I’m Being Held Hostage to My IQ!”

(The following is a modification of an earlier post.)

Sometimes I think that we have the notion that all of us before being born line up in heaven to receive our IQ scores.

You can almost imagine hearing the announcement from one of God’s helpers, “If you are about to be born step up so that we can stamp a number in your head.  You will carry this number around with you wherever you go on earth.  Line up everyone. Get your IQ scores!!!!”

Then as the line proceeds you would hear, “OK, let’s see, this one will get a 92- sorry that’s the lower portion of the average range, the 32nd percentile…no one will help you.  This one gets a 103 – well, maybe you’ll get help if you need it.  You might have enough points.  We’ll see how bad your reading is though.   Uh, oh, here comes a tough one.  Woops, sorry you get an 83 – that’s the 13th percentile.  Not likely to be much help for you.”

Fast forward to your time on earth.  You’re a child struggling in school.  You don’t read very well.  Homework is as painful as a toothache.  Your parents are irritable with you all the time.  In short, you need help.  Well, what happens if you have one of those unfortunate numbers stamped in your head?

Essentially this is what your parents are told – “We’re sorry, but state regulations are such that there has to be this very large discrepancy between the number that’s stamped in your child’s brain and the number we calculate to be the reading score. Otherwise, you’re just out of luck.   Next case.”

In other words, a child is often held hostage to his/her IQ. 

I see kids like this all the time.  It’s very unfortunate and parents are simply given the wrong message.

Struggling is struggling no matter what label is given to it.  If a child is struggling in fundamental, core areas of reading, spelling and writing, he needs help and support, regardless of what mythical number he is carrying in his brain.

Takeaway Point

There is probably no concept more misused in education than IQ.  The reason it is misused is the overemphasis on the overall score, the IQ.  Most people have a fair degree of variability in their intelligence test profile that explains strengths and weaknesses far beyond an overall number.  Understanding this variability is crucial.  If the school is not offering services to your struggling child, try to encourage the school to revisit their findings or find other ways to get support for your child

Adapted: “School Struggles,” (2012) Richard Selznick, Ph.D. Sentient Publications

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Slow “Clock Speed” & “RPMs” – “My kid is making me crazy.”

I evaluated a middle school kid recently who was recently “diagnosed” with ADHD.  You know the drill.  The school told parents that, “We’re not doctors and can’t diagnose, but we think you should see your child’s doctor.”

(Translation:  “Go to your doctor now and get your child on medication.”)

The parents went to their doctor, filled out some rating scales along with other forms and left with a “diagnosed” child, prescription in hand.

The parents were not ready to jump on that diagnosis, feeling that there were other issues that were not being addressed with the medication approach

Upon evaluating their daughter, what struck me was the tempo with which she completed so many of the tasks given to her.

For example, on a spatial task that had a two minute upper end time limit, Jenna concentrated hard  while trying to figure out the solution to the problem, it took her over eight minutes – quadruple the upper end limit of the test.

While reading, Jenna struggled with some of the larger words, but the biggest issue was the slow, labored manner in which she read out loud, again at a rate probably four times longer than average.

Even when Jenna was asked a question such as, “How many states are there in the United States,” Jenna was noted to take up to 60 seconds to come up with a vague answer

From my perspective, Jenna’s internal “clock speed” relative to her characteristic approach to solving problems, answering questions, or reading or was significantly slower than average.  I conveyed this imagery to Jenna’s parents to help them understand what was going on with her.

Along with using the image of “clock speed,” I like to explain these issues akin to “RPM”s (i.e., revolutions per minute in terms of a car’s engine, as in, “Your child has very slow RPMs”)

There is no legitimate fix (there are lots of illegitimate ones) that can alter sluggish clock speed or “slow RPMs.”

Keeping this in mind, here are some pointers that may help:

  1. We tend to get irritated with these children. We want them to hurry up and when they don’t they get yelled at a lot.  Really, it’s  like yelling at someone with a heel spur to run faster – no can do.
  1. Hard as it may be, try and keep an honest and open dialogue with your child.  You might even try referring to images such as “clock speed” or “RPMs.”  “Jenna, you have a very slow clock speed, and we need to find other ways of getting things done.  Let’s break the assignment down into smaller parts.”
  1. Get the teacher on board. Stay away from clinical terminology and use plain language. (“Jenna works at three to four times slower on average on most tasks.”)
  1. If you try medication, fine, perhaps it will help. However, recognize that things are rarely as simplistic as the “we got the diagnosis” mentality would suggest.

Takeaway Point

Children with slow internal clock speed or RPMs are often misunderstood and frequently punished or yelled at because of their characteristic way of interacting with academic tasks, as well as in “real life.”  Reminding yourself and sensitizing others that your child is not working slowly on purpose would be very supportive.


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

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What’s in Your Child’s Pie Chart?

Understanding children's behavior can't rely on labeling kids with simple, one-factor explanations.

When talking to parents about their children I am continually using metaphors, imagery that can help parents to better understand their children.

One of  the favorite images I use refers to  the “pie cart” of childhood.  How we divide up the pie is the concern that I try to convey to parents.

Far too often, I find the pie doesn’t get divided at all and parents are given a label, a one-factor explanation as to what is going on with the child.   One-factor explanations are used to explain issues that are rarely simple or straight forward.

Nearly every day at least once I will hear things like,  “He was diagnosed with ADHD.”  (“Really?  That’s it,” I think to myself.   “The whole pie chart is one large piece called ADHD?  There are no other factors or variables that are contributing to the child’s struggles.”)

One-factor explanations – labeling kids

Here’s a one-factor pie chart explanation.

Usually, with one-factor explanations, you get one-factor solutions, such as putting the child on medication.

I almost always find myself getting my back up when I hear this common one-factor, labeling of children.  It’s almost always more complex than that.

For example, the problem may not just be in the child’s head, it could be an outside the head issue.  Isn’t it possible that some of the reason the child is off task is due to the fact that he is given work that is boring and above his capacity level?

Who likes to be doing boring work that is too hard?

Two-factor explanations

Well that would at least divide up the pie into two pieces:

Three-factor explanations

Maybe the child is also prone to feeling anxious, giving us  a pie divided into thirds.

Complex Pie Chart for Understanding Children’s Behavior

Or in addition to being anxious while getting  boring and overly challenging work, and signs of ADHD,  he also has some reading fluency and decoding issues giving us an even more complex and new pie chart to consider.

And, what about, the child’s family and the fact that the parents have been arguing a lot lately?  Might that be in the pie chart?

Well, you get the idea.

As a general rule, I would encourage you to resist simple, one-factor labeling explanations. Ask yourself  (and the professional assessing your child) what else is in the pie chart?

Keep in mind, though, that you need to understand that the pieces are rarely as equal as the ones shown above.  Kids are not pizza pies with equal slices.

For example, here’s an 8 year old kid’s pie chart I saw recently who had significant reading issues.  The reading issues were the predominant variable, even though there were other factors of importance:

As the TV commercial says, “What’s in your wallet?”

“What’s in your child’s pie chart?”


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

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The Spirit of Huck & Tom Lives On

“It was kind of lazy and jolly, laying off comfortable all day, smoking and fishing, and no books nor study. Two months or more run along, and my clothes got to be all rags and dirt, and I didn’t see how I’d ever got to like it so well at the widow’s, where you had to wash, and eat on a plate, and comb up, and go to bed and get up regular, and be forever bothering over a book, and have old Miss Watson pecking at you all the time. I didn’t want to go back no more. I had stopped cussing, because the widow didn’t like it; but now I took to it again because pap hadn’t no objections. It was pretty good times up in the woods there, take it all around.” (6.4) Mark Twain, “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”

Most of the time our ideas for the week come from interactions in and around the office. Preoccupations center on school struggles, learning disabilities and related kid stuff.This week’s came on a dog walk. (Well, here’s Ella after the walk.)

The topic jumped out at me, handed on a silver platter.

Normally I feel pretty bleak about the direction we are going with modern childhood. I see kid after kid who seems to be increasingly disconnected from social interactions, addicted to screens, “socializing” on video games in their rooms with others they have never met.

I also hear the stories of all of the parental steerage and the over-involvement with every facet of their child’s life from academic to social and all of the parental preoccupation with sports.

As the Beatles said in one of their trippier songs, “It’s all too much for me to take.”

So, with the state of modern childhood and parenting knocking around in my mind, about a week ago on a gorgeous summer early evening, the Childhood Index went up considerably as Ella (the hound) and I were going around the bend of a picturesque pond that dated back to usage from colonial times, (In fact near the pond are the remains of an old mill dating back to the 1750’s.)

We came upon a pack of boys, about seven of eight of them perhaps around 12 years old. Ella and I watched them roll in on their bikes (self powered, not motorized) and, wonder of wonders, there were no parents in sight directing them.

No cell phones or iPads came out, yet they were collectively excited to be starting their activity, as they reached into their packs and started pulling out containers of worms and hot dog chunks.

They were about to start fishing!!!!

We couldn’t stop watching.

Eight boys, each one with a fishing rod, bait and no parents anywhere to be found. They did some of the usual boy stuff, like laughing at the inevitable gas passing, but when their rods bent with the fish biting, the collective boy excitement couldn’t be contained. If you’re lucky enough to be in the Texas Hill Country, fishing is one of the best things to do in Lake Travis, and you might just find a new hobby for you and your child to get into together.

When a catfish was pulled out (and dutifully put back in after) I felt the spirit of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer living through the boys. Fishing is exciting no matter what age you are, and some lucky adults get to spend their vacations on gorgeous boats in the sun doing nothing but (Click Here to find out how). It’s such a relaxing hobby at the same time, as well as being a great opportunity to socialise with others who enjoy it.

School was out and the summer sun was still high enough in the sky.

It even inspired me to go to the local library (remember that place) and take out “The Adventures of Huck Finn” for a good summer read.

All was right with the world.

Takeaway Point

A pack of worms, some fishing rods and boys – there’s still hope.

Maybe we haven’t emptied out childhood just yet.

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

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