Month: February 2019

The Pyramid of Fantasy

So often, in the work that I do with parents regarding their kids, there comes that squeamish point, where the parent asks the inevitable dreaded question…

“So, what do we do about it?”

Why it’s dreaded is there is almost never, and I mean never (at least from my point of view),  an easy answer to that question.

The answer depends on so many variables too numerous to list.

As part of the answer, I’ve lately been talking to parents about the “Pyramid of Fantasy.”

The pyramid is my way of breaking parents in to the reality of how it all works and what they can expect in the “real world.”

It goes something like this.

“Well, let’s talk about something I call the Pyramid of Fantasy.  At the top of the pyramid is what would be seen as the ideal, it’s the unicorn portion of the pyramid – basically it doesn’t exist.  Like in my mind’s eye, your child ideally needs intensive individual remediation with a teacher who is highly trained and experienced in the research supported methodologies to address his deficits.  Probably this intensive individual (i.e., one-on-one) instruction would take place five days a week, an hour to an hour and a half a day over the next few years.  The problem is, while this scenario I describe is what I would say is the ideal, it’s a fantasy.  It doesn’t exist anywhere in the world that I know, but his problems are significant and that’s what I would like to do about it”

“Moving down the pyramid, the school may be able to deliver a very small group (no more than three or four equally-matched kids) on a daily basis using the research-supported methods.  It’s not the most ideal (the fantasy), but it’s not bad.”

The problem is that level of the pyramid is also often not easy to receive either.  We’re still mostly in the fantasy zone.  The school may not have sufficiently trained teachers and they generally don’t do much “pull-out” instruction these days.

The next level down in the pyramid is pretty much the zone of possibility and reality – what you are likely to be offered if your child is classified.  If the child is classified as eligible of special education (many are not who are struggling, I might add), he is likely to be offered “In-Class Support.”

As far as I can tell, In-Class Support is the state of the art these days in special education in terms of the pyramid of fantasy.  What it represents is making sure that someone is close by your child in the deep end of the pool, keeping an eye out so he/she doesn’t go under water since he really doesn’t know how to swim.

Within this level of the pyramid, it is likely that you need to take some other action to gain a sense of control, by seeking help on the outside – usually in the form of specialized tutoring.  If you are really working toward the ideal, twice-weekly tutoring would be recommended, but often due to finances and schedule, such a scenario is not possible and you need to consider moving down the pyramid some.

The point of all of this is not to depress you, but to ground you in reality.  It’s possible that somewhere an absolutely ideal answer exists to the, “so what do we do about it, question.”  But giving parents the unicorn fantasy of what to do, is not helpful, so I emphasize the interventions that may not represent the ideal, but are more realistic and attainable.

Takeaway Point

When your child is struggling, strive to get the best, ideal interventions delivered as intensively and individually as possible, but keep the pyramid in mind.

To purchase a signed copy of  “What To Do About Dyslexia: 25 Essential Concepts” & to receive blog updates go, to

Copyright, 2018
Questions or topics email Dr. Selznick.  Not in the South Jersey area? For a free 15 Minute Consultation, contact Dr. Selznick: email –

Poor Judgment & Reading Comprehension: What’s the Connection?

When Kids struggle with comprehension it is interesting that often there is an overlap in “real life,” that is in the way the child interacts in his personal world.  In this era of  quickly labeling and pathologizing behavior automatically  as “ADHD,” this overlap is something rarely considered, but I think it is worth reflecting on its implications.

Here’s an example.

12 year old Liam is a boy who recently got into a lot of trouble when he used inappropriate language (along with other inappropriate behaviors) on the bus.  When the bus driver tried to correct him, Liam doubled down and got mouthy and defensive.

In other words, Liam showed a lot of bad judgment.

Compounding this, when Liam’s parents attempted to discipline him, rather than become low-key and contrite, he became belligerent, melting down while punching walls.

(I know, everyone’s pulling out their, “ADHD  cards” and quickly putting him on medication, but I’m not so sure.  We need to dig a little deeper.)

Upon meeting Liam, he comes across pretty straight-forwardly and readily admits he has a problem managing anger.  Particularly noteworthy, Liam felt bad about what happened.  He regretted his behavior.

So, what’s the connection with reading comprehension?

When I evaluate Liam in different areas, something that jumps out at me is how little time he spends reflecting on questions asked of him and how weak he was at forming an inference while reading.

In other words, he jumped to conclusions based on very little data and he wasn’t oriented toward being reflective or considered in his approach to the reading process, just like he wasn’t being thoughtful on the bus or with his parents.

Liam needs to learn to “read the signals,” to slow down, to consider and evaluate.  I also understand that’s a lot easier said than done.

When reviewing the assessment with Liam and his parents in pretty direct terms (with a hint of a New York accent), this is what I said:

“Look, Liam, here’s the deal.  We need to work on your inferencing skills – that is, we need to help you pay attention to the clues or to ‘read the signals.’  Like on the school bus, you started to act out to try and get everyone thinking you were funny and you didn’t think it through.  You didn’t assess the consequences.”

(Believe it or not, Liam is actually taking it in and nodding.  He gets it, so I continue.)

“Since you didn’t think it through or consider what you were doing, you got in a lot of trouble.  You were furious with your parents even though they were 100% right.  Here’s the funny thing, when I tested your reading skills, you did the same exact thing.  Like when I asked you questions that did not have a straightforward or direct answer, you had no clue.  How come?  Because you weren’t reading the clues, just like on the school bus.  This is stuff we can work on.  You can get better in these skills.  Finally, we can work on helping you manage your anger better, since you readily admit you have problems with it.”

Liam felt good about what was said to him and his personal “battery” was recharged, since he was told these were skills he could improve.  He was determined to start “reading the clues.”

 Takeaway Point

There may be a connection as to how a kid behaves on the school business, manages emotions and reads a book.  Look for common themes.



Writing Deficits on the Rough Road

Open-Ended writing is usually not difficult for children on the “smooth road,”  the ones without the myriad of variables leading to school struggling.

For the “Smooth-Roaders” their sentences are complete and varied in style.    There is flow to their written stories generated and logic in their paragraphs.

With open-ended writing, children are given some type of prompt, such as, “write about your favorite trip,” or “write about your weekend.”

It is open-ended, because it can go in any direction.  The idea is that the children will tap into their creative selves and be able to express themselves on paper.

However, for those children on the rougher road, the ones with a variety of learning problems, open-ended writing is brutal on many levels.

Here’s an excerpt from a writing sample of an 8 year old writing about his favorite vacation:

“Uurvl is a ghat pls for a sekal reris.  At first jassit park miat besley but the seord time you go it is cool…..Evening no it’s the slisy rias in the park it goes with Dr. serrl!  Thes saren is call serrl laanring.  Lastly, I’ll talk about the qrslins.  Tars go lef and rert and lef and rert and, you get the ideas. There are sehal rrenis why I love going to uurvl.”

Or there was the 9 year old who wrote a story to a picture that he had drawn:

“Once aqha time ther was a boy namd levi he lived in a hog house and it was so mosh fon. and he livel in lll borenrom lahe.  And he had loss of frahs and naders.  The End.”

In screenings of their cognitive and intellectual capabilities, both of these kids demonstrated at least average cognitive potential.

Neither child was classified or receiving any type of service or official accommodation under a 504 Plan.

When the parents questioned what they should do they were told by the school to “read to your child.”  There was also the veiled suggestion of putting the child on medication, “even though we are not doctors.”

For these children, reading to them or medicating them will not accomplish much relative to their fundamental inability to write.

Continuing with any open-ended writing will be particularly problematic,  as they have no concept of what a sentence is and their spelling is severely impacting their thought process.For them, the concept of what represents a basic sentence is not something they have been taught or internalized and they are in need of intense, focused remedial instruction,

I usually dwell in metaphors or basic images that help to put things to parents in down-to-earth terms.

The metaphor of taking them back to the shallow end of the pool is fully applicable.  They need to spend a lot of time in the shallow end of the pool (writing simple and basic sentences) and then incrementally moving out beyond, one baby step at a time.

Instead of encouraging creativity and “write what you feel,” they need to practice at the most simplistic levels building on a logical sequence of one skill leading to another.


To purchase a signed copy of  “What To Do About Dyslexia: 25 Essential Concepts” & to receive blog updates go, to

Copyright, 2018
Questions or topics email Dr. Selznick.  Not in the South Jersey area? For a free 15 Minute Consultation, contact Dr. Selznick: email –

Talkin’ IQ Blues

I’m sure you know the old school expression,  that something “sticks in your craw.”

Probably not a day goes by where something is not sticking in my craw.  The only good that comes of it is I usually get inspired by the stuck craw to generate something to write about in the  blog.

This week’s annoyance center’s on the overemphasis (in the schools) of the Full Scale IQ, typically generated by the test of choice, the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (5th ed.) or WISC-5.

While I am a proponent of the test and feel that it yields a lot of valuable information, too often the test is used as a justification to not help a child.

The notion of learning disabilities as it is generally written in special education code is that the child is eligible to be classified as “eligible” when he demonstrates at least average intellectual functioning (i.e., a good enough FSIQ) that ultimately shows a legitimate statistical discrepancy between the IQ and achievement (usually in reading.)

What happens, though if I’m a kid coming up with an IQ between 80 and 85, which ranges between the 10th and the 15th percentile, not a great place to be on the bell-shaped curve.

The reality is if that’s your score, kid, you’re likely out of luck.  While it won’t be said in such stark terms or plain language, the truth is this child would not be viewed as smart enough to get help.

That perspective bothers me on so many levels as the kids who are in the 80’s of IQ typically have serious academic issues and they are in desperate need of attention and support.

In a mixed grouping class (most are mixed grouping) of about 20 children, by pure statistical properties, about four or five will be  above average students.  Roughly ten or so will shake out in an average range.  That leaves about five or six or who are likely showing signs of struggling to a greater or lesser degree.

Within that group they may or may not have IEPs or 504 Plans.

They may have IQ  scores in the 80s and seen as ineligible, meaning they get no support or accommodation.

Whether children in this lower group have been “diagnosed” by outside professionals with ADHD, dyslexia, oppositional defiance disorder, sensory integration disorder, anxiety disorder, or have no official “diagnosis,” the fact is that lower group needs a lot of help

These are struggling kids regardless of their supposed label or whether they are or are not “eligible.”


To purchase a signed copy of  “What To Do About Dyslexia: 25 Essential Concepts” & to receive blog updates go, to

Copyright, 2018
Questions or topics email Dr. Selznick.  Not in the South Jersey area? For a free 15 Minute Consultation, contact Dr. Selznick: email –



Latest Posts