Month: July 2019

Reading Cause & Effect

One of the issues often forgotten in ADHD land is the underlying variable of social judgment and difficulty in being able to “read” cause and effect.  Difficulty with reading cause and effect impacts both social and academic functioning.

This is one of the reasons I struggle with the notion of treating ADHD as if it represents a whole pie chart with one treatment to consider, as in the  “take this pill and call me in three months” approach.

Stimulant medication stimulates.  Its purpose is to help you focus better.  That’s it.

There’s always more in the pie chart (or the soup pot) that a pill will not address, such as difficulty reading cause and effect.

For the life of me, I don’t understand how a stimulant will help someone who doesn’t read social cues or has difficulty interpreting while reading.


Let’s take Justin, a 15 year old I saw recently who has been diagnosed with “ADHD” by medical practitioners.  When I meet Justin and start to review what’s going on it is clear that there is more in the pie (there always is) than the, “He’s ADHD…that’s it.”

It was noted that Justin has a tendency to do the following:

  • Not think before doing.
  • Not realize certain actions bothers others.
  • Not notice when behavior causes negative reactions in others.

Variables of anger, oppositional tendencies and not “reading” situations well, result in all kinds of personal mayhem for Justin, not to mention Justin’s tendency to meltdown when he faces frustration without giving his behavior much thought.

In other words, in this soup pot was a good helping of a bunch of other stuff.

What does Justin need?

From my perspective, Justin needs to understand and practice the skill of cause and effect (yes, it is a skill).

For example, Justin recently mouthed off to a coach of his who ended up sitting him on the bench because of his mouthiness.  From Justin’s point of view, he was being treated unfairly and the coach “benched him for no reason.”  Even when his parents tried to explain it to him, Justin was outraged at the unfairness of it all.

This type of interaction experienced by Justin, is something that all kids may experience, but the fact of the matter is ADHD-style kids have these type of behaviors more often since they do not intuitively pick up on the cues or understand “cause and effect”  (i.e., if I say something that is rude or inappropriate, I don’t consider that there will be a cost).

Justin needs to have these interactions broken down in ways that he can have them pointed out to him in terms that he does not get overly defensive in order for him to potentially process what went wrong and where the break down occurred.

As you can imagine, since people are defensive by nature and (adolescents particularly so), this is not easy work and takes a long time with lots of back and forth over time for a kid like Justin to begin to look at himself.

Takeaway Point

If your child is “diagnosed” with ADHD and the primary (and perhaps only) recommendation is to be put on medication, you may want to ask something like, “Well, how will this address his difficulty with social cues?  What about the fact that comprehension is affected by inability to read certain aspects of the text.”

Copyright, 2019
Questions or topics email Dr. Selznick.  Not in the South Jersey area? For a free 15 Minute Consultation, contact Dr. Selznick: email –

To purchase a signed copy of  “What To Do About Dyslexia: 25 Essential Concepts” & Dr. Selznick’s other books and to receive blog updates go to

Matter-of-Fact Parenting

Every year I get older the kids stay roughly the same age.  So, when I was younger in the business the gap between the average 6 or 7 year old child and me was about 25 years.  Now…forget about it…you get the point.  The gap is hefty.

The reason I am mentioning an age gap is I am hearing more and more about kids having wild fits, excessive tantrums to the smallest bit of frustration and  I can’t help but wonder, “Is it me?”   Has it always been like this?   Did I have a higher tolerance for it when I was younger and now my nerves are more readily jangled by these stories or seeing them first hand?

I don’t think so.

My take is that things have changed, albeit incrementally over time, but like the frog who doesn’t know he is getting boiled in the pot as the heat rises a little at a time, he doesn’t notice the heat rising.

That’s what I think is happening to us with children – we are getting boiled by degrees.

We think it’s normal when a child throws herself on the ground, flailing away after being asked to clean off her dishes (when she wanted to be playing on her iPad instead).

Or the boy who slammed his fists down, running out screaming, “I hate your stupid guts” to his mother whose mother told him it was time to get off of Xbox and begin doing his homework.

Parents will seek guidance on how to handle such meltdowns.  In the back of their mind is the ever-present seed that typically gets planted regarding medication.  They will repeatedly hear from the school, “We’re not doctors, but maybe you should talk to your pediatrician or neurologist.”  (That is, get your child on medication.)

I often go in opposite directions (no surprise to anyone who has followed this blog for a while).

I believe parents need to practice a skill that seems easy on the surface, but in reality is very difficult to do – the skill of “matter-of-fact parenting (MOFP)”

With MOFP there are built-in, natural consequences to most situations.  Largely the consequences are not all that heavy-handed, yet they make their point.

For example, a child who is overly aggressive in the pool, is swiftly removed and given 10 minutes to sit quietly off to the side.  The parent must be vigilant, but each time there is a hint of aggression, the child is removed.  Not fun, but the training is worth it in the long run.

With matter-of fact parenting there are a few things taking place that I will list:

  • The child knows before an event/situation the cost of breaking a rule or crossing a boundary.
  • There is an objective tone that parents convey – it’s black or white. You do X then all is fine.  You do Y (the behavior of concern), then there is an immediate cost.
  • There is little to no yelling or haranguing on the parents’ part.
  • After the meltdown the child must do what was being asked.
  • The parents are clear, vigilant and decisive.

Parents often believe that they are doing this type of  thing with their children more than the reality.

The reality usually is that the behaviors of concern are allowed to go on far too long and that there is a lot more yelling, haranguing and threatening from the parents.  The child senses the weakness, the wiggle room and goes in for the kill with the full blown meltdowns designed to do one thing – get him/her off the hook.

Kids will do anything to avoid pain.  For them melting down for ten minutes is better than the pain of starting  homework or cleaning off the dishes.

Takeaway Point

Start practicing Matter-of-Fact Parenting.  Lay out the choices an let the child make them.  If he/she chooses poorly, so be it.  There should be a natural, built in consequence that has impact.

Copyright, 2019
Questions or topics email Dr. Selznick.  Not in the South Jersey area? For a free 15 Minute Consultation, contact Dr. Selznick: email –

To purchase a signed copy of  “What To Do About Dyslexia: 25 Essential Concepts” & Dr. Selznick’s other books and to receive blog updates go to


“Not in MLA Style”…Really???

I find myself shaking my head a lot in utter disbelief when I talk to parents about what’s happening with their children in school..

I also find myself being more and more outrageous in ways that I would probably not have been in my younger years. This week to a mom who describing what was taking place in school for her very special needs child, I said to the mom, “Is it ok if I use inappropriate language?”

“Go right ahead,” she smiled and responded.

“WTF,” I exclaimed in plainer language.  “Are you kidding me?”  (Thankfully, she laughed.)

This was in reaction to a writing sample the mom showed me of her severely learning disabled son who barely could write a complete ,  sentence no less an essay (which was being asked of him).  What triggered my reaction was on the top of his submitted writing for English class (he was 15) was the teacher’s critique with the comment that his writing was, “not in MLA style.”

In case you’ve forgotten English 101 from college, as noted in Wikipedia:

“MLA (Modern Language Association of America) documentation is used in scholarship throughout the humanities, especially in English studies, modern languages and literatures, comparative literature, literary criticism, media studies and related disciplines

“MLA Style???????”


I continually return to sports or related skill analogies in the work that I do with kids and my explanation to parents.

“We need to be in a zone of reality,” I start with the mom.  “If a person is asked to lift 50 pound weights because that is the norm for 10th grade, that’s all well and good, but if the person is barely capable of lifting 10 pounds, what then?  Do we tap our foot and moralize that “you need to be lifting 50 lbs.’ because that is what most your age can do.”

It’s patently absurd, yet I see this in different versions on a regular basis.

Whether the child is officially labeled “dyslexic” or “learning disabled” there needs to be a reasonable match between the child’s capabilities and what is being asked of him/her.

As a parent I would suggest that you try and be as vigilant as you can with regard to the work being given to your child.  If it seems like the trend is work that is in the child’s frustration zone (i.e., beyond the child’s capabilities), then you need to send it back with a note attached that what is being asked is fundamentally unfair.

I don’t think you can react to every assignment and you want to be careful not to overreact, but if you have double-checked yourself and made sure you are being fair in your request, then you are your child’s best advocate to sensitize the teacher as to the issue of what your child can or cannot do.

Copyright, 2019
Questions or topics email Dr. Selznick.  Not in the South Jersey area? For a free 15 Minute Consultation, contact Dr. Selznick: email –

To purchase a signed copy of  “What To Do About Dyslexia: 25 Essential Concepts” & Dr. Selznick’s other books and to receive blog updates go to


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