Month: May 2020

“We Live in a Decaying Age”

Frequently, we adults are shaking our head and muttering about the state of childhood, as child behavior can “pluck our last nerves,” as the saying goes.

Collectively, we “tut-tut” and wonder how it’s all unraveling around us, with everything going into a horrific state of decline and decay.

You know how it goes. Kids are seen behaving a certain way and there is head shaking and wondering, “What’s the matter with kids these days?   What’s going on with their parents?”

Apparently Hesiod, the Greek poet who was a contemporary of Homer around 770 BC, was shaking his head too with his friends and acquaintances, as he noted, “I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on the frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words.  When I was a boy, we were taught to be discreet and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise (rude) and impatient of restraint.”

Some hundreds of years before Hesiod,  Plato while sitting at the feet of Socrates,  was “tut-tutting,” with similar head shaking, speculating, “What is happening to our young people?  They disrespect their elders, they disobey their parents.  They ignore the law and riot in the streets inflamed with wild notions.  Their morals are decaying.  What is to become of them?”

Moving up to the more modern era of the late 1200’s, there was considerable anguish expressed by Peter the Hermit, as he opined, “The young people of today think of nothing but themselves.  They have no reverence for parents or old age.  As for the girls, they are forward, immodest and unladly like in speech, behavior and dress.”  (Wait, how does a hermit know about these things?)

Even some  8,000 years ago adults were shaking their head while writing graffiti on an Egyptian tomb – “We live in a decaying age. Young people no longer respect their parents. They are rude and impatient. They frequently inhabit taverns and have no self-control.”  (Who knew there was underage drinking going on 8,000 or so years ago? Taverns?)

Who knows? It’s probably the dance we do, that we have been doing for some 8,000 years.

My guess is there is a form of collective amnesia within each generation,  that gets worse the older we get, where we puff up how we believe we were different as kids with the  manners and respect that we showed our elders, not like the current generation.

I, for one, was part of a pretty scruffy, disrespectful generation that held a big middle finger out to society and the older generation.

I’m sure there was a great deal of  head-shaking that went on then then, as parents and grandparents looked out at the decaying age they were living in with all of the hippies running amuck with their awful ear-splitting music.

I’m sure their nerves were plucked plenty.

Takeaway Point

All I can think of is the Talking Heads song, “Once in a Lifetime,” reminding us, “Same as it ever was…Same as it ever was.”

Schools Don’t Diagnose

This is a follow up to a recent blog post – “Back in the Zone (of No Zone): Back in the Zone (of No Zone).

Parents frequently talk to me about their frustration (insistence) that schools diagnose their child’s  dyslexia (or other learning disorders for that matter).

One of my favorite books in the field, “Dyslexia Advocate:  How to Advocate for a Child Within the Public School System,” by Dr. Kelli Sandman-Hurley, comments on this.

As she notes:

“School districts do not diagnose anything.  They don’t diagnose ADHD, autism, dyslexia, nothing.   It may seem as if they do because we tend to hear the terms autism and ADHD thrown around in meetings all the time, but they cannot diagnose those qualifying conditions either.  They can only determine eligibility under specific eligibility categories.  In the case of dyslexia, they will be looking at the specific learning disability (SLD category.”

Something that is a common occurrence will be a parent bringing testing to me that was conducted by the school special education team.   Numbers will jump out at me suggesting weaknesses, “red-flags” and even indicators of “dyslexia” or related learning disorders.

Yet, to the consternation of the parents quite often they are told that the child is not eligible for an IEP and will not be getting any services.

Each state and, to my knowledge, each school district interprets the federal code differently as to what leads to eligibility.

As Dr. Sandman-Hurley states:

“To qualify for special education services, the child must meet two requirements, which is the two-pronged approach to eligibility.  First, the child must have a disability and show the need for services.  In other words, just because a student has dyslexia (or any other disability) does not mean they automatically qualify for services.  Second, it must be shown that the child needs services in order to succeed in the general education classroom.”

In New Jersey, for example, there is an emphasis on the child’s Full Scale Intelligence Quotient or “FSIQ” in determining eligibility.  A statistically significant discrepancy must be shown between the FSIQ and the overall score in academic achievement (typically reading).

Infuriating and puzzling as this may be to parents, children showing signs of “dyslexia” or reading/learning disabilities often  do not have such a discrepancy in their assessment, and therefore they will not be receiving services.

Even if the child is found to be eligible for services, rarely is the child given what is called “direct instruction with multisensory methodologies,” which research and clinical experience show to be the most effective in remediating the deficiencies.

More commonly, the child is given, “In-Class Support,” which is much harder to define than direct instruction.  In-Class Support is the equivalent of having an adult in the deep end of the pool to keep an eye on the weak swimmers to make sure they don’t drown.

This is not teaching the child to swim.

My best advice to parents in this situation is to “bite the bullet” and seek services outside of the school.  While it may not be ideal, more and more providers of these methods are starting to report offering such instruction on-line with reasonable effectiveness.

This recommendation puts you more in the driver’s seat.  You can choose to take an effective action step, rather than remain in the  passive  position of hoping that the school will step-up.

Takeaway Point

Schools don’t diagnose.  They determine eligibility for an IEP.  Even if you obtain an IEP, it does not mean your child will receive direct instruction.

Take effective action on your own.

Weight Lifting

As the current “new abnormal” continues, virtually all children are receiving instruction on-line, there are a few old school considerations to keep in mind.

Much of the “instruction”  described to me by the parents with whom I consult with (on-line),  represents a digital version of worksheets of the “read this and answer the questions,” variety.

This digital type of assignment is fine for those kids I call on the “smooth road.”  Assignments are completed  without too much fuss, and then they can quickly get back to their iPads and Youtube.

For those on the rougher road (some with IEP’s others not), it’s a very different story.

An “old “school” concept that is a crucial consideration  rarely discussed any more is whether the material given is in the child’s zone of competence.

A simple analogy applies.

Let’s say you go into the gym to lift weights.  You go over to the barbells and see one that is 15 lbs.  The lifting is easy.  No sweat.  Next you try the 20 lb. weights. While you can lift them, you note a little more effort.  You don’t need help, but notice yourself tiring after a number of lifts.

Feeling a bit bold you go over to the 35 lb. barbell.  You try and lift it, but they don’t budge.  You can’t do it.  A gym attendant comes over and offers to lift with you, since the 35 lbs. are clearly out of your zone of competence.

In truth the attendant is doing about 90% of the lifting at this point.

It is no different with the work being given to children, whether live in the classroom or on-line.

Most of the consideration as to whether the child can “lift the weight” is correlated with their functional abilities with reading.  (Even with mathematics, so much of the work given is in the form of math word problems (i.e., reading), as opposed to pure calculations.)

Even if your child has not received a diagnosis of some kind, such as a learning disability like dyslexia, there is a simple “gym test” that you can do to determine if the child is in the zone of competence with whatever is being given to them.

Here it is – listen to them read the material being given.  How does it sound?  Is it relatively smooth and fluent or halting, stumbling ad faltering with lots of trouble in particular with the “big words?”

If it is the latter, then you need to become the gym attendant and do a lot of the heavy lifting.  That is, you need to read the material to the child and help them work through it, as it is clearly out of the “zone of competence.”

(Keep in mind that the simple read aloud test is just screening one aspect of reading.  With this screening there is no consideration of comprehension, vocabulary or reasoning, but it still gives you insight about whether the child is out of the competence zone.)

Takeaway Point

Can your child lift the weight or is it too much?  Most of the “smooth road” types are breezing along.  The rest need much more support.

(Be sure and check out the other blog in this week’s newsletter where we wrote a previous post about what was said about the complexity of reading back in 1964.  The renowned psychologist, Dr. Jules Abrams, is quoted.  His words are 100% on the money.  Sadly, Dr. Abrams recently passed.  May his memory be a blessing.)

(Here’s a link to the post:  What was said in 1964.)


Back in the Zone (of No Zone)

Today I chatted with parents about their 10 year old fifth grade child,  Lianna.   Since kindergarten they have watched her struggle.

They saw other children in Lianna’s peer group progressing, while she seemed stuck, barely moving forward.

Even though they would raise their concerns with teachers,  they heard statements like, “She’s so sweet – she’s so friendly,” or  “Well, she’s young for her grade,” or “She can always use spell check,” and other such statements.

As the grades went by the parents continued to share their concerns,  a frequently heard comment was, “We’re not doctors…we can’t diagnose, but…,” with the not so subtle suggestion that Lianna needed to be on medication

To say Lianna’s parents were frustrated is a major understatement,

At the start of fifth grade, Lianna was then tested by the school.  Based on the district’s use of a  “significant discrepancy,” she was not found to be eligible for an IEP.

This significant discrepancy was based on there being a 1.5 standard deviation unit discrepancy or greater between the child’s overall IQ score and their overall score in academic achievement, typically in reading.

The fact that Lianna maintained above average scores on nonverbal thinking tasks mattered little.   She was not eligible.  “Perhaps you should consult with a neurologist,” was what the parents were told.

Seeking another opinion, the parents shared the findings with me.

Glancing at the numbers it was clear that Lianna’s parents were correct in their view that she was a struggling child in spite of not being classified for special education.

Her overall standard score in reading of 88 put her at the  21st  percentile compared to other children her age.  However, her FSIQ of 92 (30th percentile) only resulted in a 4 point difference between her identified intelligence and her academic achievement.

I explained, “Look, you have seen your child struggling since kindergarten and the gap has only widened.  She’s in the 21st %ile in reading and the 10th %ile of spelling.  That is clear struggling.  However, based on the school’s model, there is no significant discrepancy.  She’s in what I refer to as the ‘zone of no zone.’”

I call this being in the  “zone of no zone,” because in spite of the objective data showing her struggling, no life preserver will be offered to Lianna.  In the model used by the school her IQ wasn’t high enough (in spite of above average functioning in key areas of intelligence) to justify giving her services or support.

This leaves Lianna’s parents the only choice to seek outside help in the form of specialized tutoring at their own expense, probably on a twice-weekly basis for at least two years to try and close the gap.

Takeaway Point

I’ve said it many times before – struggling is struggling no matter what name or label we give it.  Struggling children need help whether they are “eligible for services” or not.

Copyright, 2020
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


(***  Please note: Dr. Richard Selznick is a psychologist, clinician and author of four books.  His blog posts represent his opinions and perspectives based on his years of interacting with struggling children, parents and schools. )


Accommodations: Avoiding “Rubber-Stamping”

When a children have a learning disability like dyslexia, typically this impacts their reading fluency, spelling and writing.  For those who have been “diagnosed” as ADHD/ADD their central features are distractability, inattentiveness and impulsivity.

Quite often children have combined features from both of these syndromes.

As I noted in recent blogs (see recent posts on “504 & You” and “Accommodations ‘R’ Us” (Recent Blog Posts,) a top accommodation is to give such children “extended time.”


Most of the kids I see have no interest in “extended time,” even though behind the scenes there is much negotiation taking place between parents and schools for the child to receive this accommodation.

I emphasize again, I am not against extended time, but am against  the “rubber stamping” of extended time as a top “go-to” accommodation.

If the child works painfully slowly and finds him or herself unable to complete tasks within allotted time, then extended time is an appropriate accommodation.

For distractible and impulsive children who also struggle with reading (spelling and writing), such an accommodation has virtually no impact.  There is no “leveling of the playing field,” which is the central concept guiding the implementation of a 504 Plan in the first place.

Assume that for the children with the combination of reading problems and ADHD issues, has difficulty with managing large, multisyllabic words, following directions and staying on task.

For such a child giving time is not the issue.  Helping with directions would be a top, “level-the- playing- field” accommodation.

Further, the teacher can preview some of the tougher words prior to the child reading.  (“Let me help you with some of the words that are difficult.”)

How do you avoid “rubber stamp” accommodations?

Very simply, you ask a basic question such as, “What does he/or she need that would help level the playing field?”

Asking that question of the clinician who conducted the assessment or the school assessment team is essential.

The team and the clinician  should be able to come up with three or four good accommodations specifically addressing the child’s needs and identified deficits.

If an accommodation doesn’t make sense to you, push back a little and ask for justification and an explanation.  Do not accept recommendations of accommodations that do not match the child’s needs.

Takeaway Point

Be on guard for “rubber-stamped” accommodations.  Continually ask yourself and your team (both in and out of school) what does the child need?  What would help him/her to be on more equal footing with the others in class who do not have this identified disability?

Keep  working together as a team to come up with the individual accommodations that make sense and that address the areas of identified need.

Copyright, 2020
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


(***  Please note: Dr. Richard Selznick is a psychologist, clinician and author of four books.  His blog posts represent his opinions and perspectives based on his years of interacting with struggling children, parents and schools. )


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