Month: October 2021

Our Explanations & Theories of Struggling Children

While meeting with parents to discuss the concerns they have regarding their  children’s struggling, numerous theories and explanations are often offered as to why children do what they do.

Typically, the theories are linked to medical explanations or what I refer to as “disorder thinking.”

Let’s listen to some recent statements:

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

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

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

The school said Michael was very disrespectful and rude this week – maybe his Intuniv needs to be changed.  Or maybe it’s his ‘sensory’ problems again.”

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

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. Perhaps we need to look at how we are dealing with him at home.”

“Even if you don’t like doing the work in school, it’s not ok to refuse to do your work and say whatever you feel like. It isn’t a choice – you don’t have to like it.”.

“Zach never shares with other children and no one wants to invite him to their house or to a birthday party.  He only wants it his way.

 Takeaway Point

The point is not that children may not have certain disorders or possibly benefit from medication when appropriate, but double-check your hypotheses and theories.

There may be other things at work.

Copyright, 2021
Questions or comments email Dr. Selznick:

Reaching “Decoding Nirvana” – Stage III

If your  child is reaching Stage III of reading development, congratulations,  you’ve reached the Promised Land!!!

You’re in Decoding/Fluency Nirvana.

Typically, Stage III corresponds to about the middle of third grade  continuing through the upper grades, when the children are putting the more mechanical aspects of  reading (and spelling and writing) behind them.

Stages I & II are the equivalent of learning notes chords and scales ( (Stage I)   (Stage II)), while Stage III involves playing the songs.

For the “smooth-road” kids it isn’t that hard to get to Stage III.  A couple of grades go by and you are there – no fuss, no muss – no testing, no tutoring.

But for the children of concern, those with learning disabilities, dyslexia, sprinkled in with a  dose of ADHD/ADD, it’s been a much longer and bumpier road.  If these children get to Stage III, often it is well beyond the expected age/grade range.

Why does Stage III represent the “Promised Land?”

Once a child reaches this stage the mechanical aspects of reading (i.e., decoding, fluency, word reading efficiency etc.) are no longer a factor.

When a child is in Stage III,  the entire focus  can be put on developing a child’s range of comprehension skills, such as higher-order reasoning, inferential thinking, drawing conclusions and increasing vocabulary.

As the original theorist of the Stages of Reading Development, Dr. Jean Chall, noted,  within Stage III the child is no longer “learning to read, but reading to learn.”

Copyright, 2021
Questions or comments email Dr. Selznick:


“Further Down the Road” – Stage II

Stage II of reading development is an exciting period of time, especially if the child is in this stage at the expected time – usually beginning in the second grade and ending in the middle of the third grade.

In this stage your child has mastered most of the high frequency (sight) words and can read them automatically.  They are also starting to show a pretty good understanding of one-syllable word patterns and their component sounds.  More complex words such as  stomp, branch, reaching and even and nonsense word like “grimp” would be good examples of words that follow early Stage II.

As we have been talking in previous blog posts utilizing the metaphor of learning to ride a bike, you can think of Stage II as one where the child starts out a bit insecure, but with more and more practice gains greater confidence and fluidity to the point where the child is independently enjoying the activity.

The primary activity of Stage II is reading – lots of it – both orally and silently, starting with small chapter books that are easy (but not too easy) for the child to independently read.

While in the early stages many large words could overwhelm the child, but as they progress through this stage they will be able to manage more of the words efficiently and read them correctly.

One final point, in this stage it is often useful to help a child break more complex, multisyllabic words down into the component parts and to practice this skill of breaking the words down. Examples of these words might be the following: ladder, mechanic,  porcupine, dinosaur, parrot.  Most children within this stage would know the meaning of these words, but reading them efficiently may be a different story altogether.

How will you know your child is getting ready to leave Stage II?

Essentially when they know almost all of the high-frequency (sight) words and can show they are starting to  read material containing less-controlled words relatively smoothly and fluently.

Effectively, the child is “riding the bike” independently and can now move on to the final stage.

Copyright, 2021
Questions or comments email Dr. Selznick:


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