Month: February 2023

“‘What’s Your Mom Gut?'”

As part of the assessment process, I always conduct an interview (usually with the mom) to get an overview of the issues of concern.

Typically, there will be multiple disorders that have been raised by other professionals along with the parent diagnosing by Google.

A mom recently said something like the following:

“When I asked about dyslexia, the teachers raised the question of either dysgraphia or dyscalculia.”

“Phonological awareness/auditory processing disorder was raised by another.”

“My sister thinks he has an oppositional defiant disorder and is sure that there is an attention deficit disorder.”

“My therapist raised the issue of an emotional dysregulation disorder.”

“My husband thinks he is spoiled and just needs more discipline.”

At some point when I feel my eyeballs snapping as they often do when I am in the midst of “disorder speak,” I try and cut through it with a simple question:

“Without any psychological explanation, what’s your mom gut?”

Since no one’s asked the mom this question before, typically there is  a moment of being slightly surprised that someone wants her opinion stated in this way.

“Well, I think he has a reading problem and he hates doing it, because it embarrasses him.  He will do anything to get out of it.”

“Sounds pretty on point to me,” I respond.

Takeaway Point

I have learned to trust “mom gut” over the years.

About 99% of the time they are on the money.

(The dads are another story.)

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Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  2022,

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“In the Restaurant”

A favorite pastime of mine is  watching how parents and their children interact.  There’s never a shortage of blog material.  For people watching, there’s not much better than cafes and casual restaurants where families tend to congregate.

This week I hit a bonanza minding my business (mostly) reading a book while having dinner in a local restaurant.

The bonanza was the family of four that sat next to me maybe three feet away.

There was an older sister about 12 and her younger brother perhaps 9 years old.  The parents looked to be  in their upper 30’s to low 40s.

What caught my attention was the non-conversation that took place.

Glued to their phones it did not look like the kids said one word to each other or to their parents.

At some point, I thought the mom looked a bit exasperated, particular with her daughter.

My sense was the mom was trying to get the girl off her phone, but the curly lip sneer she got back basically shut down any attempt by the mom to engage.  (The dad was no help, looking helpless and ineffective as he watched his wife try and get the daughter off  her phone.  I think they had already given up on the son.)

Dinner arrived interrupting this non-interaction for about 10 minutes while the children plowed through their food as rapidly as possible to get back on their phones.  As far as I could tell not a sentence was spoken in any direction, although the mom looked annoyed as she seemed to be trying to light a fire under the father but to no avail.

My guess is that on Facebook or Instagram they are presented as the model family with everyone liking and thumbs upping their birthday, holiday and vacation pictures.

Well, they certainly were entertaining, but probably not in the way they might have thought.

Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  2022,

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Sitting at the Poker Table

Parents tell me stories.

I listen for the wording and try and picture what’s being told, that is, who is doing what and how the interaction takes place

Just like playing poker, there are often certain “tells,” minor clues that reveal the larger the picture.

Listen to Marianne talk about the story of the nightly homework ritual with 9-year-old Felicia.

(As Marianne starts the story, Felicia sits grumpily next to her unhappy that she has no access to her cell phone.)

“Well, we usually start our homework around 7.  If we do a good job, then there’s about 45 minutes or so of iPad playing and then it’s time for us to go to bed. In the morning we get ready for school.”

(Felicia rolls her eyes throughout.)

The “tells” suggest that the mom is in too deep.  Is it her homework or Felcia’s?  Does she go to bed with Felcia?  Do they get dressed together and brush each other’s teeth?

Give or take, past the age of five or so most kids can handle things that are given to them at their appropriate level.

Takeaway Point

Double-check yourself the next time you we “start to do our homework.”

You don’t want to be giving away your money at the poker table.

Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  2022,

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“Top Ten List (of irritations)”

Those of you following this blog for some time know there are some recurring themes.

For others  newer to these posts, I will help to bring you up to speed with my top ten list of things that pluck my nerves:

  1. The LD-Discrepancy Model: Easily the number one issue that gets under my skin is the LD-Discrepancy model used in many states (New Jersey being one) to classify children in special education as learning disabled.  If you want a primer on the LD-Discrepancy model, this is a great overview: ( 
  2. Pathologizing Childhood: Not all child problems are neurobiological (“brain-based”) disabilities.   Some issues are “out of the head.”  (Perhaps the worksheet is poorly written with dreadful comprehension questions.) 
  1. “Diagnosing” ADHD Based on Small Data: Checking a few items (e.g., “Easily distractible”) on something like the Vanderbilt Scales given in the pediatrician’s office is not enough. 
  1. “We can’t diagnose dyslexia – you need to see a neurologist.” Parents are reflexively told this when they raise the issue of dyslexia.  Seriously, how many neurologists or pediatricians that you know give a battery of reading, spelling and writing tests necessary to assess dyslexia?  I work in a pediatric department with many specialists.  I don’t know any. 
  1. “This or That Thinking:” “I just want to get to the bottom of it,” parents will say.  “I just don’t know if it’s ADD or laziness.”  Truth is it’s almost never,  “this or that.”  With most kids it’s almost always, “this and that and that.” 
  1. Dyslexia Nation: How did the array of reading problems all come around to dyslexia?  A child could have a mild problem with reading that can be helped with good tutoring. This does not a dyslexic make. 
  1. “The Spectrum:” I’m always puzzled when people refer to “The Spectrum,”  as in, “He’s on the spectrum.”  Which one???  All the issues of concern are on a spectrum.  “The Spectrum” suggests there’s one and one only. 
  1. “Hey, Bud” Parenting: I hate to break the news to parents out there, but they are your children.  You don’t set limits with your buddies.  You set limits with children.
  1. Overplaying 504 Plans: Listen up, gang. The reality of 504 Plans is that they do not do that much.   They are not meant to offer services, but basic accommodations.     
  1. Screen Addicts: I get it.  Times change.  I don’t get the newspaper delivered any more.  I have my phone with me most of the time and am in a froth when I can’t locate it.  With that said, kids care about little else than their screen time.   They are becoming addicted.   We’re not facing it.

 Takeaway Point

OK…once, again, I’ve vented my spleen.  Problem is I don’t feel any better.

Well, it’s still cheaper than real therapy!!!

Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  2022,

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

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