Month: September 2018

The Waves of Special Education

You may not remember it, but there was a time in American education before IEP’s, 504 Plan’s and “special education.” It was in 1975 that federal legislation was passed, guaranteeing a free appropriate public education to each child with a disability. It was called Public Law-94 142.

Ah, that word “appropriate” has been a real challenge all of these years. How does one define “appropriate?”

To try and meet the spirit of the law and provide “appropriate” education to disabled kids (of which learning disabled makes up the vast majority of those classified) it seems to me that special education has had its various waves, with different concepts and notions coming in and out of favor.

For example, back in the day, (in the early years of PL- 94-142) “self-contained” classes were the norm. As a newly minted teacher, I remember my special education class, a small band of kids in an isolated room that was virtually the boiler room in a middle school on Staten Island.

From self-contained classes, the next wave that was supposed to be the answer for all struggling kids, was the Resource Room, a theoretically friendly academic environment where the child would arrive from his regular class on a set time each day to work on skills in a small group.

I used to hear about kids going to resource rooms all the time when parents would come in to consult with me. The parents would say something like, “He goes to resource room every day for 45 minutes.”

My question to the parent, which usually remained unanswered was, “I know he goes to the resource room, but what happens when he get there?”

Generally, the parents are not clear about what happens in the resource room. The schools always had a pretty consistent response for the parents – “We individualize to meet the child’s needs.” There was rarely talk of specific methodologies or approaches.

Now, I don’t hear much about resource rooms any more, even though they still exist in some school districts. Instead what I get a lot from parents is, “He gets ‘in-class support.”

“In-class support,” (it’s called different things in different states and districts) is the new norm. In-class support seems sweet on the surface. It comes across in very benign ways. Who would argue with “in-class support for kids with IEPs?

I wonder, though. Are they getting what they need based on the spirit of the law? Are they getting an “appropriate” education? I’m not in the classroom, so I really have no idea.
My guess is that on average the kids get pretty good attention from caring teachers who look to support the child in the classroom.

The issue for me is the one of direct instruction for these struggling kids.

That is, if I’m one of those kids who doesn’t read, spell or write very well, just giving me support is not enough. I need to be taught directly, with sensible methods targeting specific skills and practicing them enough over time so that they become internalized.

Otherwise, I’m just treading water, not really making any legitimate progress.

Copyright, 2018
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“But, It’s No Fun…” Homework Shenanigans From the Child Front

Dr. Selznick covers his technique for dealing with child meltdowns over homework.

Lately, I’ve had a run on “meltdowny” kids.

I know “meltdowny” is not a word, but I bet you get it. These are the ones who without a lot of provocation have a wild storm of a fit. Often it’s tied in to something like homework or anything related to the demands of school.

I’m not sure why, but there seem to be a lot more of them these days.

When I asked a child about it recently, he explained to me about his homework reactions, “It’s just not fun,” he plaintively told me.
“It’s so boring – It’ just not fun.”

I joked with him (sort of), “Hey, it was never fun. It’s school!”

I’m not sure he was buying it.

“Homework is boring…”

Somewhere along the line kids seem to have gotten the idea that school and homework are supposed to be fun, enjoyable activities that will ignite motivation for learning. Most of the homework that I’ve seen consist of packets to complete, with worksheet after worksheet in the packets.

The worksheets never look like much fun to me. But, then, again they never were.

Perhaps it was the “Boomer” generation in their post-hippie period era of raising children who may started the notion that homework could be more of an “experience” for the children, something more than the usual.

The current generation of parents has just taken that “homework-should-be-a-positive-experience” to an art form, in terms of their hopes as to how homework should go each night.

Inherent in homework is the value of teaching kids to manage their stuff, organize themselves, meet deadlines, and, oh yeah, to reinforce a few skills along the way. Keeping these in mind, it seems there is a value to homework. You can try and help your child as best you can, but sometimes the information can go beyond your knowledge, especially as they progress into secondary school and college. There are resources out there to help deal with specific subjects, like psychology, medical science, and computer science. For example, if your child struggles with coding in their computer science course, you can use professional companies like Do My Coding to give you both a helping hand.

Probably since the Colonial times, kids have detested homework. They always have. Think about it. Has there ever been a child in the history of American education who raised his/her had at the end of the day to ask the teacher if she could, “Please give an extra hour or two of homework tonight or more on the weekend.”

Why have Saturdays always been beloved? Easy. No one is bugging you to get stuff done. No homework.

Dealing with child meltdowns over homework

So, the next time your child starts heading toward a meltdown about homework that’s, “no fun and so boring,” while engaging in every possible maneuver to get out of doing it, shrug your shoulders, stay calm, and have a ready response such as, “That’s right, honey, it’s called ‘homework.’ They don’t call it ‘homefun.'”

If your child persists with raising his meltdown to another level of intensity, just go about your business. You know, take out the trash; do the dishes – anything to disengage and the storm will pass.

After the meltdown (storm) is over and the child resets, come back to your child without the usual parental add-ons such as yelling and punishing and say, “Are you ready to start now?”

It’s a meltdown – a form of a storm and they pass.


Copyright, 2018
Not in the South Jersey area? For a free 15 Minute Consultation, contact Dr. Selznick: email –
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Questions or topics that you want covered in future blogs, send email to:

Talking to Parents About their Kid’s Stuff: A Play in One Act

The Characters: Mom and dad of seven year old starting second grade after Dr. Selz has evaluated their seven year old child and reviewed some of the findings.

Setting – Sitting around a table somewhere in South Jersey.


Parents: So, what do we do? Where do we go from here? What does he need?

Dr. Selz: Look, it’s not talked about very much as I’m going to explain it to you, but here’s how I see it. Your son is at a key time in his development. A lot of kids around him (especially the girls) are going to be reading chapter books. You need to get your kid over what I call “the decoding hurdle.” He’s not over that yet.

Parents: What’s that? What do you mean?

Dr. Selz: About 70 % of the kids going into second grade will soon be over the “decoding hurdle.” It’s a term I made up. If you are over the hurdle it means you can read and handle big words pretty easily, like – fabulous- pretend – porcupine – mechanic. For kids over the hurdle, reading those words is no big deal.

Parents: Well, we keep hearing that everything is comprehension and that if we just read to Oliver everything would be fine. We’ve been reading to Oliver since he was a baby.

Dr. Selz: It’s just erroneous information. That’s not the issue for him at the moment. In the testing, Oliver read a simple sentence, “On hot days we got together…” as, “On a hot day we got together.” That’s a small example, but the meaning is changed the way that he read it. His comprehension is altered and the meaning changed entirely. Not to mention the significant substitutions he made. For example, the text read, “We liked to pretend…” He read that as, “We liked to brend…” “Brend” has no meaning. How can Oliver comprehend? Oliver is struggling.

Parents: Well, does he have Dyslexia?

Dr. Selz: At this moment that is not the most important question. We’ve already identified what I call “red flags” of concern that suggest dyslexia, but let’s see how he does once we give him what he needs. Whether we call him “dyslexic” or not at the moment, there are specific things that you can be doing at home to help Oliver. Let’s see how he does when we give him, good sensible remediation – the right stuff.

Parents: What about medication? Would that do anything?

Dr. Selz: Let’s say your child was one of the weakest swimmers in his group and the swim teacher said, “You know what will do the trick? I think you should try medication.” Would that make any sense to you? Of course not. Swimming is a skill that can be taught, learned and practiced. So is reading. That’s what the focus should be.

In Conclusion:
Perhaps Oliver may be put on medication one day. Maybe he will be considered “dyslexic.” But for the moment as the parents leave they understand that their mission is to focus on getting Oliver over the “decoding hurdle,” and to watch the “red flags” closely.


Copyright, 2018
Not in the South Jersey area? For a free 15 Minute Consultation, contact Dr. Selznick: email –
To receive free newsletter and updates, go to:


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