Month: December 2022


13-year-old Liam comes in trudging behind his mother, staring at his phone.

While I think I have a decent relationship with Liam having evaluated him a while back with a follow-up session or two, I also think there’s a pretty big part of him that is annoyed about being dragged in.  (He had been “socializing” with his friends up in his room on-line on a video game when his mom interrupted him about the appointment.)

An irritated mom kicked off the session.  “He’s doing nothing, nothing and failing classes.  Nothing seems to get through to him.”

I do my best to go low-key and use some type of humor with Liam to try and lighten the mood, but he’s not biting, not taking the bait.

The best I get is the “13-year old shrug.”  (I’m sure you know the look.)

Animatedly, I raise the joking level, “This is a ‘No Shrug Zone!!!!,” I shout.  “You have to give me something.  Throw me a bone.”

Shrugging again, at some point he mumbles, “I think I have executive function deficits.”

In over-the-top astonishment, I state, “Executive Function deficits!!!!  Do you know what that is?”

More shrugging, I get a low mumble, “No.”

“It means you are a rudderless ship.  Nothing is steering the boat.  The wind blows one way and you go where the wind blows.  It blows another way and there you go.”

Takeaway Point

The fact of the matter is children and adolescents showing these rudderless ships are difficult to turn around to the point where they are not just bobbing around on the water.

We’ll talk more ore in follow-up posts.)

Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  2022,

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“The Plight of Leora – A Play in Four Acts”

Leora a 10-year-old fourth grader has been struggling since kindergarten.

Every year the parents have raised their concerns with the teachers.  The answers are variations on a theme.

Act I:  In first grade it was, “She’s still young and it’s probably developmental.”

Act II:  In second grade, “She’s getting ‘Fundations’ (a reading program for young children)  in class and we’ll have the speech teacher see her ”  (Leave aside the point that she was only getting  Fundations twice weekly for about 20 minutes in a small group and Leora was fully articulate with no speech issues.)

Act III: Third grade, “ We see her as a little distractible and only a neurologist can evaluate ADHD and dyslexia, so we think you should see one.”  (Keeping in mind that neurologists do not evaluate learning problems like dyslexia.)

Act IV: In fourth grade, “We have her on a three-tiered system, where we will decide whether to have the child evaluated.  If she qualifies then she would get “push in” (as opposed to “pull out”) services.  (This would take a minimum of six months with the frequent result that the child does not qualify.)

To offer the parents something (they were quite desperate), I perform a screening with Leora that took about 45 minutes.

This is what I said to Leora’s parents:

“Leora can barely read at the second grade level.  She has significant issues with reading rate, accuracy and fluency.  She needs a lot of help.  Your instincts since kindergarten were right on the money.”

Rolling up their sleeves, the parents contacted a tutor who knew how to implement research supported reading (spelling and writing interventions) and got down to business.

Leora loved the tutor and formed a great bond with her and by all reports  is making nice progress.

Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  2022,

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“Tipping the Scales”


Some of you have been loyal followers of this blog for over 10 years, while others have joined more recently.

If you’ve been one of the loyalists, you know  there are some themes that cycle through the blog posts.  While I do my best to keep these fresh,  after 550 or so posts it’s hard to keep track of it all..

With that said, one of my favorite themes is to remind parents to move away from the “has it” – “doesn’t have it” mentality when it comes to things like dyslexia, learning disabilities, ADHD and practically all of your other concerns of a non-medical nature regarding your child.

I still know of no single marker, no “ADHD Test” or “Dyslexia Test” that says confidently, “yes, your child has it.”

It’s all weight of evidence that helps to reach a conclusion…

The evidence helps to tip the scales one way or another.   Even then the diagnosis can be somewhat speculative, especially when the child is falling in a range that is roughly average,  which happens to be the zone where schools typically don’t qualify a child to receive services.

Takeaway Point

Even if a practitioner has said to you the child has a disorder such as “ADHD” or dyslexia, keep in mind the fact that there is no single measure like a Covid  test  or an X-ray that yields a definitive diagnosis.

There can be numerous reasons why a child is not paying attention or reading very well, not all based in the child’s brain.

Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  2022,

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“Shannon , Shannon, bo Bannon”

Anxiety  over a child’s development starts early.

Recently a mom said to me, “My son is drowning in school. Do you think he has a learning disability?”

What was particularly striking about this question was the fact that the child in question was only just five and in the first half of kindergarten.

What to do in the earliest stage of development?

The earliest stage to pay attention to related to school literally starts at birth and typically ends when the child leaves kindergarten.

What should you be thinking about as a parent of a child in this stage?

I will state it simply. – bombard the child with language.

Please don’t misinterpret that to mean to talk the kid to death, as you will start being tuned out pretty quickly with incessant eye-rolling. (Yes, eye-rolling starts early too.)

Reading bedtime stories to the toddler and preschooler, playing different games emphasizing rhymes are fun and  great for promoting parent/child bonding, while moving language along,  contributing to early reading development.

Back in the dark ages (the 1960’s) There was a song called “The Name Game,” which played with names and rhyming nonsense words to names  (“Shannon Shannon Fo Fannon, Banana Fannon Fo Fannon, Fee Fi Fo Fannon, Shannon.”)

Also from another era a seemingly forgotten author who was brilliant with language was Dr. Seuss.  Just listen to the rhymes and the rhythmic beats of, “The Cat in the Hat Comes Back,” or “One Fish Two Wish Red Fish Blue Fish,” as you read them to your child.   The rhymes and rhythm will be internalized for later use when more formal reading instruction takes place.

Takeaway Point

One can do a lot worse (in fact many do, with gluing their child’s attention to an iPad) than playing the “Name Game” over and over  or reading “The Cat in the Hat”  to your young toddler or preschooler.

Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  2022,

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