Month: April 2024

“The Power of Nonchalance” (#ADHD; #Executive Function Disorder)

Synonyms for “nonchalance:”   apathy, complacence, indifference, unconcern, torpor

Antonyms for “nonchalance:”  concerned, interested, motivated

A parent came to talk to me about her 14-year-old-son, Brett.  Previously “diagnosed” with ADHD of the inattentive variety, various stimulant medications have been tried with him without much benefit.

“Look,” the mom said, “I don’t really know if he’s ADD.  The doctor spent about 15 minutes with us after we completed this rating scale. I do know he’s nonchalant.  It’s like he’s just indifferent to everything, especially anything school-related and it’s driving me up a wall.”

(“Nonchalant.”  Now, that’s a word I don’t hear very often, certainly not used in clinical terms or descriptions.)

Upon meeting Brett, I knew exactly what the mom was saying.  It was a very long hour trying to find out what his point of view was on the topic.  It’s not easy to talk to someone who shows indifference and apathy.  Essentially, the session involved Brett having little to say with a fair amount of shrugging when asked various questions.

“All he cares about are his game systems and phone,” his mom nearly shouted in the session.  (All the while Brett sat their blasé’ and nonchalant.)

The mom’s frustration brought to mind a famous short story I had read many years ago by Herman Melville, called  “Bartleby, the Scrivener.”  (“Scrivener,” talk about a dated word.)

As I recall, Bartleby was the 19th century version of a paralegal working in a law office.  Whenever he was asked to do something by his office superior, Bartleby had a standard response – “I would prefer not to.”  Bartley basically did nothing and just stared out the window ignoring his boss with nonchalant indifference.

This, “I’d prefer not to,” position gave Bartleby a lot of power and resulted in making Bartleby’s boss bonkers.

Another example told to me was about 11-year-old Jackson who was asked to help his mom to pull weeds in preparation for some landscaping.

Since he was engaged with playing Grand Theft Auto, he was not interested in helping, offering his own version of,  “No, I’d prefer not to.”

With his stance, the mom’s anger thermometer skyrocketed while Jackson’s power increased.

Psychologists and other behavioral types will have all kinds of systems to try and get the motivation going in the right direction, but it’s a tough battle.

If you have a Bartleby, my best advice is to try and side-step the control battles  that inevitably ensue, as challenging as this may be may be.

Recognize that ultimately it’s your child’s choice whether to engage with the requested task or not.  You might want to have an honest sit down and speak in very direct tones delivering a clear message.

“Look, there’s no give and take here.  It’s all a one-way street.  Things you take for granted such as your phone and game system are paid for by us.  They are privileges, not rights like food and shelter.  Ultimately, it’s your choice.  However, unless things change we’re putting your game system and phone in our safe until you’ve earned the privileges back.  If you don’t want it to go that way, then choose differently.  Get in the game.  Either way is fine.”

Takeaway Point  

Go buy a safe if you don’t have one.

They come in handy when you need them.

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Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  2023,


My Interview with Documentary Film Director, Jamie Redford (#Dyslexia)

(***This blog is a revision of an earlier post.)

Understanding dyslexia is challenging, primarily because of the deeply embedded mythologies that we hold.  Chief among them is “the reversal thing.”

To  illustrate, try this experiment.  With any friend or relative ask them, “What do you know of dyslexia?”  With pretty good certainty I predict you will get the, “Isn’t that when,” response, as in  “Isn’t that when you read upside down and backward?”

It happens every time.

Not sure how we all got so hypnotized to believe that mythology, but of the last 100 or so dyslexic kids I evaluated, not one of them showed any sign of reading upside down or backward.

A few years back when I was doing my School Struggles podcast series as a part of The CoffeeKlatch Network I had the honor of interviewing James (Jamie) Redford, a documentary filmmaker, who had directed  the award winning film, “The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia.”

James Redford Was the Son of Robert Redford — Life & Death of the Filmmaker Who Died at 58

The interview centered on the struggles that Jamie and his wife,  Kyle, had gone through in helping their son overcome his struggles with dyslexia.

James was warm, accessible and a pleasure to interview.  I remember thinking at some point in the interview that I felt like I was talking with an old friend over a cup of coffee.

Sadly, James passed away in October of 2020 at the age of 58 from complications related to liver cancer.

In this replay of the interview, we think of Jamie and thank him for fighting the good fight.

Here is the interview:

Jamie Redford Interview: Rethinking Dyslexia

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Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  2023,


“Not Reading the Signals”

An issue often overlooked with children diagnosed as  ADHD is a frequently occurring underlying variable of social judgment and difficulty with “reading” cause and effect.  Difficulty with reading cause and effect impacts both social and academic functioning, such as understanding inferences with reading comprehension.

This is one of the reasons I struggle with the notion of treating ADHD as if it represents a whole pie chart with one treatment to consider (i.e., medication).  There’s always more in the pie chart that medication will not address.

Stimulant medication’s purpose is to help one focus better.  That’s its job.  It’s not  to help you “read the signals” in social interaction.

Let’s take Brent,  a 12-year-old I saw recently who has been diagnosed with “ADHD” by medical practitioners and being treated with medication.  When I meet Brent and start to review what’s going on with him it is clear that there’s a lot more than the broad conclusion of, “He’s ADHD.”

For example, it was noted that Brent had a tendency to do the following:

  • Blurt out inappropriately.
  • Not realize certain actions bothers others.
  • Class clowns  to excessive degree
  • Challenges with reading comprehension.

In other words, in this ADHD soup pot there was a good helping of other stuff.

Brent had been prescribed medication, but there had been little talk about these other variables, leaving the parent with the impression that the medication would take care of all.

What does Brent need?

From my perspective, Brent needs to begin to understand and practice the skill of cause and effect.  When it’s framed as a skill, that means it can be directly taught and practiced.

For example, Brent recently mouthed off to a coach of his who ended up sitting him on the bench as a result.  From Brent’s point of view, he was being treated unfairly and the coach “benched him for no reason.”

Even when his parents tried to explain it to him, Brent was outraged by the unfairness of it all.

Perhaps with a therapist, Brent needs to have these interactions broken down in ways that he can have them pointed out to him in ways that he does not get overly defensive in order for him to potentially process what went wrong and where the break down occurred.

As you can imagine, since people are defensive by nature and (adolescents particularly so), this is not easy work and will take a takes a long time with lots of back and forth for a kid like Brent to begin to look at himself.

Keep in mind that It may take an outside person to help in the teaching of this skill, as the interaction with a parent trying to do this can be fraught with danger.

Takeaway Point

If your child is “diagnosed” with ADHD and the primary (and perhaps only) recommendation is to be put on medication, you may want to ask something like, “Well, how will this address his difficulty with social cues and reading comprehension?”

Feel free to make comment below. 

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Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  2023,

Join the Fun: “Empowered Parents Summit”

I am honored to be a part of this Empowered Parents Summit.  So many great speakers are presenting their view of parenting in the modern era.

I will be talking about issues related to my latest book, “Beyond the Power Struggle:  A Guide for Parents of Challenging Kids.”

Here’s the link to the conference – remember it’s free!!!  Click Here: Registration Summit Parenting Conference

Feel free to make comment below. 

To receive future blog posts, register your email:

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

Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  2023,




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