Month: February 2021

“We Got the Diagnosis”

Most struggling children that I know have what I have refer to as a “soup pot of variables” interacting to a greater or lesser degree depending upon a variety circumstances.

You know what I mean with the “soup pot.” In the pot, there can be a helping of reading problems, with a dash of inattention,  mixed around with a teaspoon of oppositional behavior, and a tendency to melt down when things are not going well.

Parents will wander the landscape looking for solutions and much depends on whose professional doorstep that they land on in terms of what they hear regarding their child and the solutions offered.

Quite often, they will get “the diagnosis.”   Medication may be recommended as a result.  On some level, the parents may feel some relief that they, “finally got to the bottom of it.”

If parents go forward with the medication, the child may start focusing a bit better.  Some improvements are immediately noticed which helps to turn down the household heat.

Before long, though, the rest of the soup pot starts to bubble up again:

  • Tantrums emerge around homework time.
  • Demands are made to play video games until late at night.
  • Hatred  and resistance of reading (spelling and writing) are expressed.
  • Constant arguing takes place, especially when things are not going the way the child wants it to go.

This “soup pot” is always very challenging and it is one of the reasons I consistently push back on the view that we “got the diagnosis.”

So, what’s needed?

Each child and each family circumstance is unique.  Ask yourself what’s  your child’s particular “pot” and start peeling off the layers one at a time, rather than focus on “the diagnosis.”

For example, specialized tutoring and approaches to address challenging behaviors may be what you need to be doing in a “next-step” thinking mentality.

You also may want to consider having “adivsors” (professional and personal) on your team, so they can help you peel off the layers.

Copyright, 2021
Questions or topics email Dr. Selznick.  Not in the South Jersey area? For a free 15 Minute Consultation, contact Dr. Selznick: email –


Our Theories & Explanations: #Child

When you are in “Child Land,” there are all kinds of theories and explanations as to why children do what they do.  More than another generation, the explanations are tied into medical explanations or what I refer to as “disorder thinking.”


This type of thinking is usually revealed in the statements that are made as to what is behind the child acting a certain way.

Let’s listen to some recent statements:

We don’t understand, we adjusted the Vyvanse, but he is still aggressive with his younger sister.”

“My daughter is refusing to do her work –  we thought the Lexipro was working.”

The school said Michael was very disrespectful and rude this week – maybe his Intuniv needs to be changed.’

“Marla’s so unmotivated.  She just wants to do nothing.  It must be the medication wearing off.”

After starting on Concerta, Jack seemed to be playing better with other kids, but now no one seems to want to play with him.  Maybe we should try Adderall.”

And the beat goes on.

Things I don’t hear very much:

I know my kid is manipulating us when he avoids his homework to go play video games.”

“I don’t see her showing empathy with her friends –  she can be very insensitive.”

“Maybe the school is not the problem.”

“It’s not ok to say whatever you want in the class, even if you don’t like the work.”

“No one wants to invite Zach to their house or a birthday party; he never shares with the other kids and he has become alienating to them.”

One step it to help kids recognize that choices have built in consequences.  (“If I don’t share others will not want to play with me.”)

If we buffer kids continually from these consequences, there will be no reason for them to learn from their mistakes and try a different approach.

 Takeaway Point

Double check your hypotheses and theories.

Copyright, 2021
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

Bright Kids Who Can’t Keep Up: My interview with Dr. Ellen Braaten

Processing speed isn’t a one-dimensional concept. It’s not just about how fast received, or how fast we write or how fast we can process what we’ve heard. It’s really a combination of all those factors. In fact, processing speed deficits can be observed in visual processing, verbal processing and motor speed. Problems in one or more of these areas can manifest and problems with academic fluency and general difficulties….In every day life there is a cost to processing everything more slowly.
My interview with Dr. Braaten will take place over two sessions. Within the first, she will discuss some of the more common variables with processing speed weaknesses and in the second, she will discuss different aspects of how parents and teachers can approach children with processing speed weaknesses.

Part I Dr. Ellen Braaten author of “Bright Kids Who Can’t Keep Up” discusses many of the signs and symptoms of children with “processing speed” or sluggish cognitive tempo. Dr. Braaten highlights the many factors that can affect processing speed and what to watch for at home and in the classroom

Part I

[podcast_episode episode=”5422″ content=”player”]

Part II

[podcast_episode episode=”5436″ content=”player”]

“What’s the Ratio?”

In the consulting done with parents regarding their children’s school issues, I often talk about the “ratio,” that is the percentage of parent involvement with homework and other school work.

Even though it goes counter to the approach often adopted by parents, I find myself governed by the basic principle, “Do not do for others what they are perfectly capable of doing for themselves.”

Using that as a guiding principle, the ratio I typically recommend is about 80 – 20.

In other words, a child should be able to manage about 80% of their school work on their own, with a relatively small percentage of parent involvement or support.

Of course, there will be exceptions and you will need to go task-by-task to determine whether what is being asked of the child is in their legitimate range of capability.

But, far too quickly without letting the child work through his/her own difficulty, the parent attempts to rescue the child from feeling a sense of challenge or discomfort with the work.

Let’s take young Maria, age 9, a fourth grader.  Complaining to her mom on a near daily basis that she, “hates homework, because it’s so boring,” Maria does anything to avoid doing her work.  Rolling around in the chair, flopping on the floor and sobbing hysterically, are common occurences.

While her mother is kicking out all kinds of energy to get the work done, Maria will pull out her phone (yes, she has a phone at age 9) playing games that she has installed there, as her mother has apoplectic fits.

After a great deal of arguing and tense back and forth, Maria’s work gets completed (largely by her mother) and Maria goes off to play games on her phone and iPad (the other device she got for the holidays).

Takeaway Point

Write down 80:20 and keep it visible in every room of the house as a reminder.

Remember, it’s called “homework.”  It’s not called “homeplay.”

And, yes, it can be very, very boring.

Copyright, 2021
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

Wrestling With My “Underself”

There’s always that point  in the assessment process  that I know is coming that frequently gives me an anticipatory, somewhat squeamish feeling.  Let’s  call it, “The final chapter.”

(Underself immediately jumps in responding  to Self: “Really? After, at least 9, 995 assessments that you’ve done, you still get squeamish?  What’s that about?”)

“If you would just stop yapping,” I tell Underself, “I will explain it to you.”

I continue talking to Underself.  “After I’ve gone through all of the data explaining  things in straightforward ways so parents will ‘get it,’ there’s always the looming  question, ‘OK, so, what’s next? What do we do about it?’  It’s that question that makes me a bit uneasy?

(Underself yaps again raising the volume: “You can’t answer that????  Are you serious?)

“Look, Underself, it’s easy for you to just sit there all the time constantly  criticizing, but the fact is that parents have lots of preconceived ideas about what follows after an assessment, and many of these ideas are not grounded in the reality of the way it works in the schools.”

(Underself impatiently foot tapping:  “I’m waiting…go on”)

“Look.  Let’s take a child evaluated recently, Marty, age 8, a third grader.  He’s not on the school’s radar screen at this point.  He’s not classified.  There’s no IEP or specialized intervention taking place.  But, when I evaluate him, he has significant reading, spelling and writing issues.  His struggling is clear.”

(Underself:  “So, what’s the problem? What did you recommend?”)

“Well, here’s where it gets squeamish for me, because I know what he needs in ideal terms, but the ideal is rarely to never a reality.  Trying to explain that to parents makes me want to reach for the Tums.”

(Underself:  “Look.  This isn’t therapy. Just tell me what he needs.”)

“Ideally, he needs structured,  focused multisensory type of instruction that is well-supported  in the research.  Short of that, small group instruction (no more than three kids) would be ok using the same methods.”

(Underself:  “So, just tell that to the parents.  What’s your problem?”)

“I told you before.  This kid is not even classified – he has no IEP.  Even if he did have one, typically these things being recommended are not offered at the level that I am recommending.”

(Underself: “So, what do they offer?)

“Usually after a child gets an IEP they offer what is called ‘In-Class Support,’ but that’s like putting a lifeguard in the pool so the kid doesn’t drown.  It doesn’t teach him to swim.”

(Underself:  “I think you need to gobble some more Tums.”)

“Ok, Underself.  I’ve had enough of you… the parents are in the waiting room and I need to tell them what I recommend.  I just need you to stop yapping while I talk to them,” as I go out and face my sense of uneasiness.

Copyright, 2021
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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