Over the last couple of decades ADHD (commonly referred to as “ADD”) is frequently diagnosed with struggling children.  Within the doctor’s office, the child’s history is reviewed along with the parent filling out a rating scale (typically the Vanderbilt Scale, which is not norm-referenced).

When it comes up positive for things like “overly distractible” and “inattentive” a diagnosis typically follows.

As a result of  the considerable numbers of children diagnosed with ADHD, parents stream into schools requesting 504 Plans for their child to provide the child with accommodations.

Let’s look at Liam, a  fourth grader I recently evaluated who was previously diagnosed with ADHD  based on the Vanderbilt Scales) and it was recommended that he be put on medication.

Once getting “diagnosed,”  the mom pushed the school to set up a 504 Plan and also came to came to me to get my perspective.  (They heard of my “Pushback Disorder.”)

While evaluating Liam,  he didn’t present as inattentive or distractible.  In fact, in many ways he was quite focused, particularly for hands-on tasks.    The mom rated him pretty high on the inattentive side of things.

I saw Liam, at best, as “quasi-ADHD” (a term I made up). In other words,  it wasn’t a “slam dunk” to label him as having ADHD.

What I did learn from Liam was he was overly caught up in a myriad of screen preoccupations (e.g., YouTube, Fortnight, etc.).  School and homework were just basic annoyances that he had to deal with primarily get his mom off of his back.

Liam’s mom complained that he never seemed to know what he had to do for school and her blood pressure rose daily over Liam’s obliviousness. Frustrated that Liam never wrote down any assignments (“Why should I,” says Liam.  “It’s online somewhere.”).

To lower her blood pressure,  mom has taken to downloading the Google Classroom App on her phone so that she can try and figure out what Liam has to do (while Liam plays Fortnite).

Liam thinks that it’s pretty cool his mom has the Google Classroom App, so she can keep track of what he’s supposed to do, rather than continually ask him.

It’s the mom’s view that the school should be relaxing the deadlines in a 504 Plan due to his “ADD.”

I pushed back some on the mom.  I wasn’t buying that Liam wasn’t handing in his work due to a disability.

It struck me that the purpose of 504 accommodations in school was essentially to “level the playing field” for children with handicapping conditions, not to be giving Liam the message that he can hand in homework when he chose to  or not at all because of his “diagnosis.”

It was my view that it wasn’t a 504 issue.  It was a lifestyle issue.  That is, Liam had a pretty cool lifestyle and he wasn’t about to compromise it.

Why stress when his mother was doing all the stressing.

(***Please note:  All blogs represent the opinion and perspective of Dr. Richard Selznick.  Comments and questions are welcomed, but are blocked by the hosting site.  Please email questions or comments:  

Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  2022,

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

To receive future blog posts, register your email:


“‘Bright Kids Who Couldn’t Care Less'”

A common complaint that parents bring to me is some variation on the theme of the child being poorly motivated.

Parents will say things like, “He just doesn’t seem to care about anything (other than screens).  We’ve tried everything and nothing seems to motivate him.   Now, if it’s something he likes doing like surfing at the beach, he will get up early and do it all day. For that, he’s motivated.”

One of the things that gets my back up is when professionals fall to simplistic explanations after the parents have checked off a few of the classic items on a rating scale at the doctor’s office that point to “ADHD.”

While the child may have this neurodevelopmental disorder, I could easily come up with about 20  different things that contribute to the child having low motivation.

A favorite author of mine who has written a number of excellent books on learning issues and struggling children is Dr. Ellen Braaten.

While cruising around Barnes and Nobles recently (yes, people still go to real bookstores sometimes), I came upon her latest book whose title says it all:  “Bright Kids Who Couldn’t Care Less:  How to Rekindle Your Child’s Motivation.”

Even though we don’t know each other, I’d like to think we are kindred spirits.

While parents often want to focus on the question, “How do we fix it,” I try and push back and remind parents that their children are not car engines and that there’s nothing broken.

I encourage parents to follow the child’s strengths. (That is the theme of The Shut-Down Learner.”)

Following the child’s strengths is a lot easier said than done and getting a child through the rigors of school can be extremely challenging  (The last time I looked surfing wasn’t a part of most school’s curriculum.)

Dr. Braaten also emphasizes building on strengths to help break the cycle of low motivation.

One of the things I particularly liked about Dr. Braaten’s book is a chart that she includes that highlights what low motivation looks like at different ages.  For example,  how does low motivation look with a five year old compared to a 17-year-old?

If you’ve been frustrated as many parents are with issues of motivation, I strongly encourage you to get a hold of Dr. Braaten’s book.  It’s loaded with great ideas and offers good food for thought.

I believe your perspective on why your child is unmotivated will broaden once you go through her book.

(***Please note:  All blogs represent the opinion and perspective of Dr. Richard Selznick.  Comments and questions are welcomed, but are blocked by the hosting site.  Please email questions or comments:  

Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  2022,

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

To receive future blog posts, register your email:


“504 Realities (Part II) – Raising My ‘IQ'”

In last week’s post we talked about some of the basics involved with 504 Plans (504 Plans – The Reality : Part I ).

Remember, that a 504 does not offer any interventions,  but accommodations. It is intended to provide equal access to the mainstream to those identified as having a disability.  By far, ADHD is the disorder that receives the most 504 plans in school.

Of the things (among many) that raises my “IQ” (i.e., Irritation Quotient), are 504 accommodations that seem rubber-stamped or given by default.

A classic example is the provision of extra time, which is the top of the list of accommodations typically offered to ADHD children. (Not sure I’ve ever seen a 504 Plan that doesn’t give extra time as its top accommodation.)

To illustrate and expand upon my irritation, let’s look at Carl, an impulsive child who rushes through his work (and practically everything else he does).  Diagnosed by his pediatrician with ADHD, the parents took the physician’s prescription with a request for a 504 to the school.

The team met with the parents and set up a 504.  Among a few other accommodations at the top of the list was the provision of extra time (i.e., double time) on tests and classroom activities.

Given Carl’s characteristic impulsive style, the last thing Carl needs (or wants) is extra time.

As Carl blitzes through everything, it’s unclear how double-time helps Carl, as he is finishing a typical fifteen minute task in under three minutes (without checking any of his work).

Perhaps, rather than giving Carl extra time, which doesn’t help him at all, they can have the teacher’s assistant slowly go through his answers to help him to double check them, something he rarely to never does.

As you go into yo.ur 504 meetings  try and have an open and honest conversation (admittedly, not easy to do) regarding your child.

To guide the discussion there should be one central question.   That is, “What are the few things that can be done  to  help the child to function more effectively in the classroom?”  If time extension isn’t helpful, then don’t put it in the 504.

Takeaway Point

Be practical and realistic.  Come up with two or three things that you think would legitimately help your child

Keep it simple.  Keep asking the central question.

(***Please note:  All blogs represent the opinion and perspective of Dr. Richard Selznick.  Comments and questions are welcomed, but are blocked by the hosting site.  Please email questions or comments:  

Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  2022,

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

To receive future blog posts, register your email:

504 Plans – The Reality: Part I

Parents will come to me loaded with terms only partially understood,  like referring to “504 Plans.”.

I will hear things such as the following:

“We just need to get him a 504.  so he can start reading better.”

“Yesterday, she had a meltdown in school and no one wants to play with her.  The 504 just isn’t working.”

Listen folks.  We need to get real.  Even if you are able to obtain a 504 Plan, that does not result in giving the child the help that may be needed.

It’s not the purpose of a 504 Plan.

Tack this on your office wall and repeat it as a mantra:  A 504 does not provide any service or intervention!!!  

This point is absolutely essential to keep in mind.

The notion of the 504 is that the child identified by an outside professional as having a disability necessitates developing reasonable accommodations so that the child can function as free as possible of any handicapping barriers  in the mainstream setting.

The word “reasonable is  open to a great deal of interpretation.

So is the word “adequate,” which comes up a lot in special education lingo.

Second mantra to post on your wall:

Schools are not required (by law) to provide the “best” education when it comes to special education, but an adequate one.

The Toyota – Lexus analogy has been used frequently to explain this.  While the Toyota may not have all of the features of a Lexus, it certainly is adequate to get you from here to there.

Takeaway Point

504 Plans do not offer services.

504 provides accommodations, not interventions.

More next week.

(***Please note:  All blogs represent the opinion and perspective of Dr. Richard Selznick.  Comments and questions are welcomed, but are blocked by the hosting site.  Please email questions or comments:  

Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  2022,

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

To receive future blog posts, register your email:

“Hemming & Hawing”

OK… Among other disorders that I seem to have, readers of this blog know I have confessed to my  “PBD” or “Pushback Disorder.”

PBD usually manifests whenever parents tell me something that has a hypothesis (i.e., an opinion) as to why their child is doing or not doing something.

Usually, there is some type of disorder attached to the hypothesis.

Some examples include:

  • “My child is sensory seeking.”
  • “My mother’s uncle has clear ADHD and it runs in the family, so I see it coming out with our 7-year old when she refuses to do her homework.
  • “Emotional self-regulation is challenging for William – he always demands to be first in everything.”
  • “Her dyscalculia is running rampant – she just can’t do math word problems.”
  • “George hates reading so much – all he can focus on are video games. I think his dyslexia trips him up and he escapes to video games for safety.”

While all of these hypotheses may be true to a greater or lesser degree, ultimately they are opinions, guesses as to what’s going on.

Even with decent testing, there’s still guesswork involved with “the diagnosis,” which leads to another of my numerous disorders.

I haven’t seen it in the research literature, so I may be the first person to discover it – I am calling it “Hemming and Hawing Disorder” or “HHD.”

“HHD” manifests in my corner of the universe around questions of ADHD, Dyslexia, Anxiety and Asperger’s, among others, for example.

Recognizing that  there is no definitive test for any of these commonly raised concerns, I often find myself “hemming and hawing” after I’ve done a hefty dose of pushing back.

HBD is correlated highly with “Squeamish Disorder” (SD), which I freely own.

Not being a neurologist (who must have steelier nerve than I have with much more science behind them), I am uncomfortable saying that I child has a neurological disorder.

What I am not squeamish about, however, are stating facts that emerge in an assessment: .

For example:

“The fact is your child rushes through tasks.”

“Your child has a significant reading, spelling and writing problem and is well below the norm on these skills.

“Your child has superior visual intelligence, but is much weaker with verbal skills which are likely to impact things like reading comprehension or understanding lectures.”

“Following directions is very difficult for your child which came out in many of the portions of the testing.”

“Clear deficits with reading rate, accuracy and fluency were seen on all of the tests.

Takeaway Point

I clearly need help with all of my numerous disorders, such as PBD, HHD and SD, among others, however, stating the facts clearly keeps these disorders at bay.

For statements like these, I don’t show any HBD or SD.

***Please note:  All blogs represent the opinion and perspective of Dr. Richard Selznick.  Comments and questions are welcomed, but are blocked by the hosting site.  Please email questions or comments:  

Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  2022,

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

To receive future blog posts, register your email:

Why Ask ‘Why?'” (Part II)


Frequently, I hear from parents that they just want to know “why” something  is taking place (e.g., a behavior or a learning problem) .  As I hear their question, I understand they are seeking a “diagnosis,” such as ADHD or dyslexia.

For many parents when they get the diagnosis, they find comfort in it, believing that they have gotten to the root of the problem.

As we discussed last week, (“Why Ask ‘Why'”) the concern of of “why” is that the answer is highly speculative.

Related to this, I would like to offer a couple of quotes from Dr. William Carey, the late, renowned pediatric researcher from CHOP.

“‘I think the current diagnosis of ADHD is a mess and has been wildly overdone.  It blames a variety of symptoms entirely on the child’s brain, and ignores the child’s environment and the interaction with it.’”

The assumptions that the ADHD symptoms arise from cerebral malfunction has not been supported even after extensive investigations.  The current diagnostic system ignores the probable contributory role of the environment, presuming  the problem is supposedly all in the child.” 

“The questionnaires most commonly used to diagnose ADHD are highly subjective and impressionistic”

“The label of ADHD, which is widely thought of as being beneficial, has little practical specificity and may become harmful.”

Parents may feel a degree of comfort relative to getting a “why,” but I can’t shake Dr. Carey from ringing in my ears.

Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  2022,

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




“Why Ask ”Why?” (Part I)

Brett, age 8, has difficulty behaving in his third grade class.  Frequently calling out, pushing on line and at times being rude to the teacher and other kids, his parents have been called in for the “meeting” to discuss Brett and his behavior.

They are told by the school, “We’re not doctors so we don’t know why he’s doing these things, but we think you should see a neurologist.”

The last statement is code language.

Here’s the translation – “We think Brett has ADHD and needs to be on medication.”

The parents come to consult with me about Brett, even though I am not the kind of doctor the school has in mind.

Brett’s mom says, “We just don’t know why he does these things.  If we only knew why, then it could be fixed.  Maybe it’s his anxiety or his sensory issues.”

I can’t help myself pushing back.  (It’s my own disorder – “Pushback Disorder,” I believe it’s called.)

“The problem with the “Why” question is it’s all speculation,” I say.  “Even the best neurologists are using subjective rating scales and history to determine things like ADHD.  So it becomes a “weight of the evidence” diagnosis.   Usually there are a number of variables interacting at the same time, not all of which are in the child’s head.”

“So how do we fix it?”  (A question I get all the time, but still wriggle around trying to answer it.)

“Well, they’re not car engines.  Nothing’s broken.  So there’s no fixing it. Rather than speculate, try and stay with the facts that are observed.  What happened first, second, third?  How did the adults respond?  What were the consequences?  Before starting on medication, which might be helpful for Brett, let’s get a sense of the basic facts of the behavior ”

Takeaway Point

Back in the day there was a popular TV Show, “Dragnet,” where the main detective would say, “Just the facts, Ma’m.”

Stay with the facts.  “Just the facts, Ma’m.”

Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  2022,

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




“My Kid Can’t Pay Attention – Must Be ADHD” (Not So Fast)

Every week I hear an array of concerns regarding distractibility and inattentiveness.

Beyond the immediate assumption that the child has ADHD/ADD (in other words a neurological disorder), I do my best to broaden the narrative and review other factors to consider that may contribute to why a child is not consistently paying attention.

There are multiple reasons why a child could be struggling to pay attention, which is not always ADHD.

Some others to consider that are commonly in the “soup pot” include:

  • Perhaps the child is obsessed (addicted?) to playing video games, leaving little in the “mental tank” for sustained mental effort.
  • Perhaps the child is also playing video games far too late in the evening and not getting enough sleep.
  • Perhaps the school work is too hard.
  • Maybe there’s been a lot of tension and fighting in the family that is unsettling to the child, contributing to a sense of distractibility.
  • Perhaps the teacher is not that motivating and the work has become overly boring
  • Perhaps the child is being flooded by too many worksheets (or its on-line equivalent), leaving the child feeling disconnected and unmotivated.
  • Perhaps the child has significant reading problems, making it difficult to pay attention and to comprehend.
  • Perhaps there is a lot of distraction in the environment (whether it be an actual classroom or at home), and the atmosphere does not lend itself to paying attention.
  • .Maybe the child is struggling with anxiety and the excessive worrying looks like inattention.
  • Perhaps the child is feeling like she may have social issues as she goes on TikTok and Instagram and sees her friends and she’s not included.
  • Maybe the child has been made fun of or ridiculed, but no one really knows of it other than the child.

Takeaway Point

There are many more such as these, but these are some of the ones that readily come to mind when considering why a child may not be paying attention.

Sure,  the child may ADHD/ADD, but make sure you go through a checklist to see what else may be contributing to the inattention.

Copyright, 2022
Questions or topics email Dr. Selznick email:

“‘When I Was Born There Something Wrong With My Brain, So I Took This Pill…”’

Jacob is an endearing,  extremely verbal 7-year-old.

Whenever asked a question, Jacob talks with great enthusiasm taking you on  a verbal roller coaster ride.

In psychology jargon, Jacob also has a problem with “self-regulation.” (Don’t you love all the terms out there?)

I ask Jacob, “So Jacob, how are you doing at camp…how’s your behavior going?  Are you following the rules?”

With bursting enthusiasm, Jacob says, “Great!!!  You see, when I was born there was something wrong with my brain, so I take this pill and now it’s better.”  (Jacob has recently been put on medication for ADHD.)

To no avail, I try and counter his view. “Jacob, your brain is fine,” I say.  “The pill may help you to focus a little better, but there’s nothing wrong with your brain.”

“Right,” Jacob exclaims, “but, when I was born…”  as he continues with his neurological explanations.

It may be my issue, but for a long time my mission has been to normalize things for children and families.

I do my best to move them away from “disorder” or “disability” language  to skill-thinking, framing paying attention as a skill that can be improved like any other skill.

Takeaway Point

Try and watch for kids like Jacob who show their cards when they say something is “wrong with their brain.” While you don’t have to go over the top with tell them “you’re amazing,” (another overused word), calmly explain to them that their brain is fine and the pill is a tool to help with the “skill of focusing.”

Copyright, 2022

Questions or comments email Dr. Selznick:

Feeling the Twinge

Sometimes I can feel the twinge coming on.  It usually occurs when I hear the misinformation parents are given from schools or have heard through the grapevine.

Here’s a small sampling of what parents are frequently told regarding dyslexia:

  • “Well, we really don’t know what dyslexia is?” (Ugh, yes we do.)
  • “Only medical doctors can diagnose dyslexia.” (Really? So a neurologist will give a broad array of measures that assesses word identification, reading accuracy and oral reading fluency along with spelling and writing, all of which are necessary to diagnose dyslexia.  I don’t know too many medical doctors doing these tests.)
  • “The only thing in reading that matters is comprehension.” (So, if the child reads “medichan” for “mechanic,” that’s ok as long as they can answer some questions and somehow gets the gist of the story?)
  • “It’s probably all attention – maybe you should see a doctor since we can’t diagnose.” (The unspoken, but clearly delivered message is, “Your child should be on medication and that will take care of it.”  Not sure how that will help the child just mentioned who couldn’t read “mechanic?”)
  • “How can it be dyslexia? He’s not reversing when he reads.?” ( Reversals – Mythology #1)

To cut through a lot of the misinformation and mythologies I would recommend that you visit a few website to help keep you on the “straight and narrow.”

These include:

Then, there is my all-time favorite,, where there are over 500 blog posts, interviews and other such stuff.  (OK, a little self-promotion isn’t going to hurt anyone!)

Takeaway Point

There’s a lot of buzz on the street when it comes to children and their issues.  Be careful with what you are being told as much of it does not hold up with the research and the reality.

Copyright, 2021
Questions or topics email Dr. Selznick.  Not in the South Jersey area? For a free 15 Minute Consultation, contact Dr. Selznick: email –


Latest Posts