Month: January 2023

“Pull the Curtain”

One of my favorite comedic bits is the one from Jerry Seinfeld’s standup where he talks about the difference between flying first and passenger class.  As the stewardess brusquely pulls the curtain between the first class and the rest, she has a look of, “If you only worked harder,” looking at the hapless passenger class.

With that said, let’s look at Olivia,  a lively and engaging 8-year-old third grader. Involved with a range of typical 8-year-old pursuits, she’s well-liked by her teachers, coaches and peers.

There’s only one problem.

Olivia can’t read, spell or write very well.

Oh, wait, there’s another problem.  As determined in a recent special education evaluation, Olivia won’t be qualifying for her to get help in the form of an IEP.

You see, her score on an IQ test called the WISC-V came in at 91 (27th %ile) and her Composite Reading score was an 83 (13th %ile).

When the mom was told there wasn’t supporting evidence to generate an IEP, the mom was flabbergasted.

“Wait,” the mom said.  “My child reads at a level where about 90% of the children her age read  better than she does and she does not qualify for services?  How is that possible?  I think you’re telling me that Olivia is just not smart enough.  That is, if her IQ came in at 110 or 115, we’d be signing an IEP right now.”

There was no response to the mom’s statement.

Pull the curtain.

Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  2022,

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“Relational Component of Tutoring – the ‘Secret Sauce’ of Success”

One of the “go to“ recommendations I often make following an assessment is for the child to see a tutor if it is at all possible.

When done well, tutoring provides many benefits.  One often overlooked is the  intangible – that is, the relational benefit.

Working on skills with instructional methods that are sensible and supported by research is certainly essential, but so is the relationship established between  the tutor and the student.

When it is formed well, this relationship provides a type of energy, a motivation to overcome ever-present hurdles, such as feelings of discouragement,  low-motivation and insecurity, among other emotions.

How do we define or explain this  “energy?”  I don’t think we can, but I can see it when I observe  kids of all ages who have formed a bond with their tutor.

That’s why it’s not simply a matter of whether the tutor is Wilson or Orton-Gillingham certified, but is someone the child admires and looks forward to seeing.

As an analogy, if you’ve ever played on any kind of a team, you know how important the “energy” is between you and the coach or trainer.

It’s the “secret  sauce” of success.

Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  2022,

To Contact Dr. Richard Selznick for advice, consultation or other information, email

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“‘FAPE’ Realities”

Let’s say you have a 7 year old child just finishing second grade who struggles greatly with reading, spelling and writing and has been diagnosed with a learning disability (i.e., dyslexia).

The school has recently classified the child for special education and an IEP (Individual Education Plan) is put into place.

In spite of the IEP, you have not been thrilled with how your child has been handled to date, since there has been no specialized intervention and second grade is effectively done..  So you look into a specialized private school about 20 minutes away that everyone tells you is  perhaps one of the best ones in the country, the Dyslexia Nirvana School, commonly referred to as “DNS.”

Dyslexia Nirvana School comes with a pretty hefty price tag of $55,000 per year, so you want the public school to either provide what DNS does (specialized individual instruction daily) or to pay for your child to go there.

The parents ask me,   “Don’t you think the school should either do what DNS does or send her there at their cost?”

I know this is going to be one of those tough conversations, so I breathe deeply going into my meditative mode and then offer the following answer –

“Nope, I do not.”

“What do you mean,” they exasperatedly respond, surprised I am that blunt and direct.  “Do we need to get a lawyer?”

From there, I go into my understanding of special education and how it all works to try and help them get on board (not my favorite conversation).

“Here’s the deal,” I start. “The school is required by Federal Law to provide children who are given IEPs what’s called ‘FAPE’ (i.e., a Free and Appropriate Public Education).  (The operative  word in FAPE being “appropriate” which is challenging to define.) They are not obligated nor do they have the resources or the wherewithal to provide what a highly specialized private school offers such as the Dyslexia Nirvana School offers.”

I continue, “Here’s the guiding principle.  Think of Dyslexia Nirvana as one of the best, most expensive cars you can think of – maybe a Lamborghini.  Schools do not offer a Lamborghini and are not required to by law.  It’s not that they are supposed to provide a mediocre product, but they can’t offer what a specialized private school offers.”

“Well, we want her to have the best,” says the mom.

“Then, at least for now, you need to enroll her in the Dyslexia Nirvana School and pay the tuition on your own.”

“What do you mean ‘at least for now?’”

“Look,” I continue, “I’m not a representative of the school and I’m just sharing my understanding of how it works, but at this point the school has barely worked with her.  The program they are suggesting is ‘appropriate’ meaning it is an educationally acceptable program considered to be “appropriate.”

Let’s say some time goes by with this program and she makes very little progress. Then you are in a better position to say they are not providing FAPE and you can make an argument that she should attend the Nirvana School at their expense.  Let’s hope she makes progress, though.  We need to watch it closely.”

Takeaway Point

FAPE is the guiding principle, with the operative word “appropriate,” being open for interpretation.  Before you go for the Lamborghini and expect the school to pay for it, you need to go a step at a time.

Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  2022,

To Contact Dr. Richard Selznick for advice, consultation or other information, email

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“Rolling the Dice”

Oh, my, my, my, I’m the lone crap shooter, playin the field every night.”  ‘Tumblin Dice,’ the Rolling Stones)

In the last post we talked about kids who are “rudderless (see “Rudderless”).  This week we focus on the older ones, high school and college kids, who are rolling the dice in their attempt to avoid the pain.

The dice roll comes down to “should I face the current pain of my school work, or put it off for a later date (or never).”

Many choose the latter and hope that they get a good roll.

When college grades come out for the past semester, many of these kids are stunned by the result, having been in their ongoing state of denial.

“I don’t know how I could have failed,” reported 20-year-old, James,  “I did my work.”   Thinking that he was meeting his basic responsibilities, the reality is James probably handed in about 60% (at best) of  what was required.

The truth is on a day-to-day basis, James kept avoiding pain, continually rolling the dice.

James’ lifestyle also caught up with him. Never going into the library (not sure that James knew where it was on campus), he probably spent about 10 hours or more  tooling around the internet, texting his friends or playing video games (and probably doing too much vaping and edibles).

Another young man that I know attended a local college.  After getting to campus Liam avoided going to class, choosing instead to hang in the student lounge filling his time on a range of social media sites.

The internet is a safe haven for these pain avoiders. YouTube, TikTok and Instagram  can be quite the narcotic when there is all this painful and utterly annoying stuff like schoolwork out there to deal with.

504 Plans and various services are available at school if there is an identified diagnosis like ADHD, but unless the student makes an active decision to take responsibility for his or her own learning, the accommodations are essentially meaningless.

The two students mentioned above, did not avail themselves of any accommodations or services, even though their parents had spent a great deal of time and money to obtain a diagnosis leading to a 504 Plan.

Takeaway Point

Rolling the dice has its own inherent thrill and when you come up with the numbers you want  there is a payoff (“Yeah, baby”); there are endless ways to stay in the shadows and avoid the pain.

Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  2022,

To Contact Dr. Richard Selznick for advice, consultation or other information, email

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