Month: March 2022

“Upside Down & Stuck”

In many respects, writing is the window in to understanding what a child needs academically and emotionally.

Let’s take a look at George, a  9-year boy in the fourth grade.

George feels that other kids make fun of him because of the way he spells and writes.  George drew an interesting picture of a boy standing on his head, where he became stuck in that position.

Here’s the story George wrote about the picture:

thar was a boy his nam was tim he loves to do hand  stans he loves them so much that one day ha did one for soooo long he endendup stuck so stuck he was up sidedoun he  he did not like it at furst

it was hard to moov evryone laft at him but he remen bird he ha sowry wanted to try to eat with his feet he  tride it di not end up gud.

at school evryone laft at him then he gott brave he neded to stop he yeled as lawd as he cud he sed STOP at  wons evry was wilent them he sed your not being vary nise I donet like that you are making fun uf me how wud you fel if it was you evry one descst it thay sed you are rite the teseing stopped ha liked it and then faund owt haw to have fuN he was vary happy.  tha and

Here is the story translated as close as possible:

There was a boy.  His name was Tim.  He loves to do hand stands.  He loves them so much that one day he did one for so long that he ended up stuck, so stuck that he was upside down.  He did not like it at first. 

It was hard to move.  Everyone laughed at him but he remembered he was hungry and wanted to try to eat with his feet.  He tried.  It did not end up good. 

At school everyone laughed at him and then he got brave.  He needed them to stop.  He yelled as loud as he could he said Stop at Once!!!  You’re not being very nice.  I don’t like that you’re making fun of me. How would you feel if was you?  Everyone discussed this.  They said you are right.  The teasing stopped.  He liked it and then found out how to have fun.  He was very happy.  The end.

 Takeaway Point

George’s story conveys the sense of embarrassment that he feels on a regular basis.

Oh, by the way, George does not help, because it was determined his IQ just wasn’t high enough.

Yep, he’s upside down and stuck.


Copyright, 2022
Questions or comments email Dr. Selznick:




“Pie Chart Revisited”

As those of you who follow this blog knows there are two overriding missions that drive everything done in the blogs, books, tid-bit tips, and in interactions that take place with parents.

These are:

  • Help parents to cut through the tremendous amount of misinformation that exists children and their struggles.
  • To talk to parents in  plain, down-to-earth, non-jargon terms about the various issues.  (We like to think of this blog as a “jargon-free” zone.)

Essentially, it’s been the same mission for a number of decades (not saying how many at this point).

Here are some points to keep to keep in mind as we talk about the “pie chart.”

  • In most schools, just walking in the door, approximately 20-25% of the children will show mild, moderate to more severe problems with reading, spelling and writing. Within lower income communities the numbers soar to over 60%.
  • Of the population of struggling children not all of them will be “dyslexic,” but up to about 70%  of that group will be showing some difficulty with “decoding” and reading fluency.
  • Beside struggling in reading, spelling and writing, a significant percentage of this group (over 70%) will also have issues with things like sustained mental effort, inattentiveness, inconsistent focusing, lowered motivation, low frustration tolerance, and other related emotional/behavioral variables.
  • Probably about 85% of this group will have mild, moderate and more considerable issues with self-esteem, anxiety and insecurity..
  • Nearly 100% of the time with the struggling children, it will  always be a “pie-chart” of variables (as opposed to one-factor explanations, such as, “He has ADD.”)
  • .

The pie chart of may not have equal pieces of the pie as is illustrated in the pie chart above of a recently diagnosed 8-year old. In fact more often than not the reading, spelling, writing piece may be as large as a 70% piece of the pie, but the important point is for you as a parent to move away from “black-white” thinking as in  “has it”  – “doesn’t have it.”

It’s the pie chart that matters.

Takeaway Point

Unlike something like taking a Covid test, where the result is a “has it” – “doesn’t have it” diagnosis, in this corner of the universe, that does not exist.  There are always a mixture of variables interacting to a greater or lesser degree

To help you get perspective, it would probably be a good exercise for you to get out a few colored pencils (I know very old school) and start creating your child’s chart.

Keep focusing on your child’s  pie chart.

Copyright, 2022
Questions or comments email Dr. Selznick:

“Need to Meditate”

Odn any given week parents will come in seeking my advice about their struggling child.  Invariably they bring in work samples from the child’s school work.

As they tell the stories and show me what’s being asked of their child, I can literally feel my “CM” (Cranky Meter) rising and I think to myself, “It’s a good thing I meditate.”

One of the things that makes me particularly cranky is the way mathematics is taught.

Having never been a particularly good mathematics student myself, I think I would be in a state of total panic the way children are asked to manage math.

Not sure when the reverence for word problems emerged, but it seems that children are almost exclusively taught math through math word problems.  I believe it’s linked to the theory promulgated about 20 or so years ago that math should always be enhancing “higher order thinking,” which is embodied in the word problems.

Let’s look at, Chris age 7, a second grader who is a given a worksheet with 10 problems like:

“Winnie counts the oranges she picks.  Winnie counted between 400 and 500 oranges.  The number of of oranges is an odd number.  The number of oranges is the sum of two of the numbers below.  (Show your work.”)

137                  258                  114                  164                  281

 After Chris muddled through the ten problems with no idea what he was doing, at the top of the page was a grade of  “56% –  F”.

Keeping in mind the fact that Christ doesn’t know what a percent is or what the % sign means or even what an  “F” represents, there’s also another  point to consider just using this problem as an example.

Within this particular problem above, Chris also had no idea what an “odd number” was or the meaning of the word “sum.”

These words meant nothing to him.

Beside the math word problems, Chris has  very limited  reading skills.  So, giving him one math word problem after another is doing nothing for his “higher-order thinking or his basic math skills.

Takeaway Point

My “CM” is ringing off the hook.

I need to meditate more.

Copyright, 2022
Questions or comments email Dr. Selznick:




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