Challenging Our Assumptions

No matter how many kids I’ve seen over the years, I am continually struck by the assumptions made about children and how wrong they may be.

Typical assumptions that are heard all the time include:

“He’s just not trying hard enough.”

“You just don’t care.   You need to care more.”

“If you just paid attention more, you’d know what you were supposed to do.”

“Your writing shows how much you don’t care.”

The fact is these are all assumptions, mostly attributing academic struggling to emotional variables such as low motivation.

A recent story about an 11 year old that I see frequently illustrates how we need to check our assumptions.

The boy, Ryan, was showing very low motivation for engaging with his township football team, even though he had always been a pretty good football player.  Not the most articulate of kids, he would just shrug when parents would challenge his lack of enthusiasm.

Grumbling something like,  “I don’t know. I just don’t like football.  I don’t want to play,” Ryan said.

“We know why,” his parents responded.  “You just want to get on your screens and play Fortnite.  Nothing else matters.”

Admittedly, I bought into this hypothesis/assumption.  So many of the kids I see seem to care about little else than their video playing or social media sites like “TikTok.”

So, as the appointed intermediary I tried in my own way to lean in on Ryan, to see if I could get him to “buy in” a little and show some motivation, at the same time counseling his parents on how they could set their limits and expectations with him.

(Keep in mind, it wasn’t that the playing of football was crucial in my mind relative to Ryan, but it was a physical activity and it got him out of the house with other kids and in the past he had been very enthusiastic about playing.)

When I was alone with Ryan, I asked Ryan what was going on with football, about to start my leaning and then he said, “I just don’t want to play.  I don’t like it.”

Of course it was fair enough not to like it, but I pushed a little more to understand how he had gone from loving it the year before to wanting to quit. Ryan spoke in a low mumble, “They (his teammates) make fun of me a lot.  They call me names and I’m never included with them.”

My mouth dropped in an “aha” moment.

Feeling embarrassed and ridiculed, the wind was out of his sails.  It was just hard for him to effectively articulate these feelings, as it is for most of the boys I have known.  Being clear about feelings was never a strong suit of theirs.

Continuing in my role as intermediary, I explained to the parents what I thought was going on with Ryan.

As I spoke to them, they, too, were having their  own “aha” moment.

Whether Ryan was going to stay with football or not was a discussion they were going to have later, but for the moment, everyone in the room was checking the assumptions that we brought in.

Takeaway Point

Things are often not what they seem.

Before making the assumption, pull back a little.  Maybe there is something else going on.

Copyright, 2020
Questions or topics email Dr. Selznick.  Not in the South Jersey area? For a free 15 Minute Consultation, contact Dr. Selznick: email –

To purchase a signed copy of  “What To Do About Dyslexia: 25 Essential Concepts” & Dr. Selznick’s other books and to receive blog updates go to


“A Big Bowl of …”

A frustrated mom named Jan, who  I spoke to some time ago really reduced things to its basic terms.  Discussing her 12 year old sixth grader, Jackson, she went through a list of issues:

  • resistant to homework
  • hates reading
  • frequent meltdowns
  • constant YouTubing
  • disrespectful to his parents
  • sees school as pointless
  • seemingly no motivation
  • no sustained effort
  • low tolerance for any difficulty or frustration

Two different physicians “diagnosed” Jackson as “ADHD,” and signed off on a prescription with the “check-back-with-me in four months” approach.

As Jan reported, the medication seemed to help some for maybe two or three weeks where Jackson appeared mildly more focused and compliant.

However, Jan offered a more accurate description in her reductionist view.  As she noted, “It’s just a big bowl of sh-t!”

Yep, that’s about the size of it.

We seem to want to ascribe specific categories or labels to this big bowl, but this is challenging as there is no x-ray, no one measure that says a child has this one thing vs. another.

Yet, I hear it all the time.

“She has a ‘sensory disorder.’”

“My child has ADHD.”

“Yes, it’s dyslexia.”

On and on it can go with the “disorders” that always attempt at putting pure neurobiological explanations to some of the struggling that is taking place.

Today, I spoke with a cute and endearing 8 year old, girl, Maria, who has had difficulty being accepted by her peer group in school.  Instead of talking about ADHD or “sensory issues” with the mom and the girl, ” I tied to help the Maria understand the skill of getting along with others.

We talked about  how she can “go over the top” and not read the signals.

When I asked her to play back what I was saying to her to get a feel for whether she was hearing me, she said, “I try too hard to be cool and it can get annoying and on people’s nerves.”


Staying focused on the “skill of…” thinking is a whole lot more productive than overemphasizing a theoretical neurobiological disorder.

So, back to Jan and the “big bowl of sh-t,” breaking things down in “skill terms” would probably be a lot more productive than “disorder thinking.”

Copyright, 2020
Questions or topics email Dr. Selznick.  Not in the South Jersey area? For a free 15 Minute Consultation, contact Dr. Selznick: email –

To purchase a signed copy of  “What To Do About Dyslexia: 25 Essential Concepts” & Dr. Selznick’s other books and to receive blog updates go to

Value of Assessment & the Right Questions to Ask

Whenever I do an assessment I know that in many ways I am swimming against the tide in the way that I approach things.

Parents are focused on “the diagnosis,” largely supported by the medical model.   Such a model embodies a, “Yes, he has it,” or “No, he does not have it,” perspective.

I wish my corner of the universe were that straight-forward.  I am hopelessly mired in identifying the the “soup-pot” of variables interacting, in terms of the skill domains or areas of functioning that are in need of either direct remediation or some type of accommodation.

Often I find there is a blurring in thinking about these issues with the parents with whom I interact..  That is, I will hear parents talk about getting accommodations, when what they really mean is they are seeking direct services.

For example, a mom said to me the other day, “I want him to get extra help – he needs a 504 and in-class support.”

I know I’ve been beating this drum for some time (I have over 450 blog posts on my site; some will repeat), so let me keep beating.

Direct remediation is just that.  Whether in academics, sports, music, life coaching or any endeavor where a skill is involved, a teacher, therapist or coach  teaches a skill directly, followed up with a great deal of follow-up practice.

The language of direct instruction sounds like the following:

“Here’s how you play these chords on the guitar.”

“Let me show you what the backswing looks like.”

“Let’s look at how these words are broken down.”

“Here’s a way of quieting your mind, when you get anxious.”

504 Plans offer things like “in-class support” and extra- time (even though most kids want less time).

For struggling kids, they usually need a combination of direct instruction/practice and support.

If I had my way, the ratio would be about 80% direct instruction and 20% support and accommodation.  Unfortunately, in my experience with the struggling children, it’s probably a completely reversed ratio with about 90% focused on things like in-class support and extra time.

Assessment ideally should be guiding you on “next-step thinking.”  The assessment should identify major areas of need and what should be done next.

Important questions to ask include:

What are the areas of greatest need?  How mild, moderate and severe are the areas of need?    How much direct instruction is needed?  What is realistic to expect from the school in terms of direct instruction?  What type of accommodation would be helpful in addition to any direct instruction?  If no direct instruction is offered, what should we do?

Notice, the questions are focused on the practicality of the skill needs and the consideration (ratio) of direct instruction to support and accommodation.

Takeaway Point

Assessment drives “next-step thinking.”  Ask the right questions!

Back in the Zone (of No Zone)

Today I chatted with parents about their 10 year old fifth grade child,  Lianna.   Since kindergarten they have watched her struggle.

They saw other children in Lianna’s peer group progressing, while she seemed stuck, barely moving forward.

Even though they would raise their concerns with teachers,  they heard statements like, “She’s so sweet – she’s so friendly,” or  “Well, she’s young for her grade,” or “She can always use spell check,” and other such statements.

As the grades went by the parents continued to share their concerns,  a frequently heard comment was, “We’re not doctors…we can’t diagnose, but…,” with the not so subtle suggestion that Lianna needed to be on medication

To say Lianna’s parents were frustrated is a major understatement,

At the start of fifth grade, Lianna was then tested by the school.  Based on the district’s use of a  “significant discrepancy,” she was not found to be eligible for an IEP.

This significant discrepancy was based on there being a 1.5 standard deviation unit discrepancy or greater between the child’s overall IQ score and their overall score in academic achievement, typically in reading.

The fact that Lianna maintained above average scores on nonverbal thinking tasks mattered little.   She was not eligible.  “Perhaps you should consult with a neurologist,” was what the parents were told.

Seeking another opinion, the parents shared the findings with me.

Glancing at the numbers it was clear that Lianna’s parents were correct in their view that she was a struggling child in spite of not being classified for special education.

Her overall standard score in reading of 88 put her at the  21st  percentile compared to other children her age.  However, her FSIQ of 92 (30th percentile) only resulted in a 4 point difference between her identified intelligence and her academic achievement.

I explained, “Look, you have seen your child struggling since kindergarten and the gap has only widened.  She’s in the 21st %ile in reading and the 10th %ile of spelling.  That is clear struggling.  However, based on the school’s model, there is no significant discrepancy.  She’s in what I refer to as the ‘zone of no zone.’”

I call this being in the  “zone of no zone,” because in spite of the objective data showing her struggling, no life preserver will be offered to Lianna.  In the model used by the school her IQ wasn’t high enough (in spite of above average functioning in key areas of intelligence) to justify giving her services or support.

This leaves Lianna’s parents the only choice to seek outside help in the form of specialized tutoring at their own expense, probably on a twice-weekly basis for at least two years to try and close the gap.

Takeaway Point

I’ve said it many times before – struggling is struggling no matter what name or label we give it.  Struggling children need help whether they are “eligible for services” or not.

Copyright, 2020
Questions or topics email Dr. Selznick.  Not in the South Jersey area? For a free 15 Minute Consultation, contact Dr. Selznick: email –

To purchase a signed copy of  “What To Do About Dyslexia: 25 Essential Concepts” & Dr. Selznick’s other books and to receive blog updates go to


(***  Please note: Dr. Richard Selznick is a psychologist, clinician and author of four books.  His blog posts represent his opinions and perspectives based on his years of interacting with struggling children, parents and schools. )


More on “The Diagnosis”

In this business of consulting with parents about their children’s struggles over the years, I have many standard lines that I find myself using over and over.

One of them is that what I do is, “not like real medicine.”

My point is not to be self-deprecating, but to try and ground parents in the realities of an assessment and what they can realistically expect when it comes to the findings.

For example, to my knowledge there is no objective test, no X-ray for any learning disability such as dyslexia or ADHD/ADD that offers the patient or the parent a  definitive statement, such as “Yes, your child has it,” or “No, your child does not.”

This lack of being absolute is often frustrating and dissatisfying when the results are explained to parents.

Let’s take Marissa, a 16 year old 10th grader I evaluated recently.

Marissa’s parents are questioning whether she has dyslexia.

Upon evaluating Marissa, along with the many strengths she clearly has, such as her functioning with spatial thinking and mathematic reasoning, she was a pretty inefficient reader, with somewhat weak spelling and writing.

Looking to her scores, the weaker ones fell in the range that I refer to as the  “zone of no zone,”  that is the lower portion of the “average range” on the bell-shaped curve.

From the school’s vantage point they would view her reading, spelling and writing scores as adequate.  There certainly would be no IEP generated.

Even requesting a 504 Plan for Marissa would be challenging, as the standard for obtaining a 504 is that the individual has a diagnosed medical condition or a disability that requires accommodation.

Everyone has weaknesses.  A weakness is not a disability or a medical condition.

When is a weakness just that, a weakness, and when is it a handicap or a learning disability?

There is no absolute marker to answer that question.  Sometimes, I wish there were, as it would make my life a lot easier.

Based on bell-shaped curve properties, only 15% or so  fall in the more moderate to significantly below average range.  For those children in this range, one can more conclusively make statements of a definitive diagnosis, but the rest, such as Marissa,  remain in that gray zone.

To compound the problem of the definitive diagnosis,  there are  those children who are weak, but have never received targeted instruction to remediate their weaknesses.

Since many schools now use “in-class support,” rather than offer specialized remediation,  we often have no idea, as to whether the issue is a learning disability such as dyslexia or an issue of the child not having received the right instruction

Take the comment  from an outraged mom of an 11 year old fifth grader, illustrating this point:

“She was never a good reader,”  the mom said.  “They classified her, but all she has ever gotten is in-class support.  What is that?  Mostly it’s help with directions?  All these years no one has ever taught her directly how to read, spell or write. So, how do I know if it’s a real disability or an instructional disability of never having been taught properly?”

As I listened to the mom, I had one quiet thought that remained unspoken…


Takeaway Point

There is no X-ray, no objective test.  Identify the weaknesses and follow up with  good targeted instruction as priority number one.

Copyright, 2020
Questions or topics email Dr. Selznick.  Not in the South Jersey area? For a free 15 Minute Consultation, contact Dr. Selznick: email –

To purchase a signed copy of  “What To Do About Dyslexia: 25 Essential Concepts” & Dr. Selznick’s other books and to receive blog updates go to


(***  Please note: Dr. Richard Selznick is a psychologist, clinician and author of four books.  His blog posts represent his opinions and perspectives based on his years of interacting with struggling children, parents and schools.)


The Lens Through Which We See or the Doorstep We Land

To help parents better understand the issues with their kids, I have so  have so many expressions that I use that are in heavy rotation.

Among my favorite are the following two:

“It depends on whose doorstep you land on.”

“It all comes down to the lens through which you see things.

When it comes to the “doorstep with which you land,”  and the “lens through which you see things, understand that there are numerous “players” who may be involved with some aspect of  your child’s  struggling.

Some of these include

  • neurologists
  • pediatricians
  • child psychiatrists
  • psychologists
  • audiologists
  • optometrists
  • ophthalmologists
  • occupational therapists
  • speech/language therapists
  • holistic medical practitioners
  • organic food practitioners
  • educational specialists
  • tutoring centers
  • special education advocates
  • lawyers

(If I left you off this list and you are one of the “players” in this field,  I humbly apologize.)

The point in listing all of these is that even when practitioners are acting primarily in the child’s interests and not influenced by financial gain, it is hard not see the issues primarily through the perspective  of their particular profession or orientation.

In other words, the old axiom applies, “You go to a carpenter, you get a nail.”

Take, Liam  a somewhat drifty 8 year old who doesn’t read very well.  Liam’s parents are quite diligent and believe in leaving no stone unturned.  They have taken him to various professionals in the community.

As his mom noted, “We have been recommended a variety of therapies from diet to sensory interventions, cognitive-behavior-therapy and social skills groups.  There have been ‘train- the-brain’ programs, on-line reading programs, along with stimulant medication and at least 10 different apps, all of which are pay accessed.  I feel we have almost every body part in play.  I just want him to read better.”

When I hear stories such as this, I do my best to not be rolling my eyes or showing my consternation, neither of which are easy for me to do.

There is one basic solution to all of this.

First, start sensibly.

Decide what is it that you want to accomplish.  For example, if you want your child to learn how to play tennis better, would it make much sense if I told you to have him swim 10 laps a day for the next six months?

Of course not.

Therefore, stay as close to the skill that you are targeting and don’t go too far afield.

Second, try and find out if the recommendation being offered has reasonable research-backed support (with an emphasis on the word “reasonable”).

The world that I am in is not the most rigorous, scientifically speaking.  Sure there is decent research that has existed for decades on reading, learning disabilities,  ADHD, etc., but much of what takes place on a day-to-day basis is a combination of some research support for a given method, mixed in with a dose of “I believe…”

That is, when challenged as to why a particular method or approach is being used with the child, the answer is often something like, “Well, I’ve been doing this for a while and I believe it works for kids.”

Bottom line.

Make sure what is being recommended to you passes the “smell test.”

It has to make sense to you and should have decent research behind it.

Copyright, 2020
Questions or topics email Dr. Selznick.  Not in the South Jersey area? For a free 15 Minute Consultation, contact Dr. Selznick: email –

To purchase a signed copy of  “What To Do About Dyslexia: 25 Essential Concepts” & Dr. Selznick’s other books and to receive blog updates go to


(***  Please note: Dr. Richard Selznick is a psychologist, clinician and author of four books.  His blog posts represent his opinions and perspectives based on his years of interacting with struggling children, parents and schools.  He reminds readers that he is neither a scientist, nor a researcher.  The  advice in the blogs and in practice is governed by one overriding principle – “If this were my child, what would I do?”   The goal of the blogs and the website is to provide you with straight-forward, down-to-earth, no-nonsense advice and perspective to help cut through all of the confusion that exists in the field.)


Trying to Get Rid of the Clutter

One of the things about this time of year is my annual ritual of trying to beat back the clutter and piles surrounding me. Admittedly over the years I have been plagued with SHD, aka “Sentimental Hoarding Disorder.” For example, if a magazine had anything about the Rolling Stones, Joe Namath or Secretariat on the cover, it could not be thrown out – ever. I still have them in boxes in my basement or attic.

The same is true with the multitudinous articles, journals or clippings on reading problems, learning disabilities and the range of child struggling. Yep, I have journals from the 1950s and 1960s (No, I was not practicing then!) in boxes or on my shelf.

At least I try to go through my clutter every once in a while. Even if I don’t throw out anything I at least I neaten things up a little and make sure my piles are at least intact. There are a lot of people out there who don’t and sure enough, they get something like weevils or roaches making babies in their clutter. The last thing I want to do is call in Pest Control Experts ( to spray down all my journals and clippings because I wasn’t careful enough with them.

Thus every year I go through my piles and do what I can to beat the clutter. It’s not much but it’s honest work.

As I started to go through the piles and look through some of the saved articles it struck me as almost stunning. What people said decades ago regarding kid issues and struggling children still applies and is still quite relevant.

For example, I came upon one of my favorite articles from 2002 (New York Times) How Learning to Read a Book is Like Learning to Play the Piano.” Here’s a choice quote in the article, from Phyllis Bertin, who was the director of reading for the Windward School’s Teacher Training Institute in New York:

“Ms. Bertin likens the school to a conservatory where aspiring musicians practice scales and play exercises to prepare themselves for the masterworks they one day hope to play. Ms Bertin says the nation’s sense of having a reading crisis will only deepen until school systems and colleges of education adopt a structured approach that reaches the 4 in 10 children who have trouble learning to read.”

Going back even more from the 1964 proceedings of the 21st Annual Reading Institute at Temple University on the “Sociological and Psychological Factor in Reading,” these are the words from the renowned psychologist, Dr. Jules Abrams.

As Dr. Abrams noted, “Reading is a very complicated process influenced by a number of psychological variables. There is no single cause for reading disability, just as there is no one method for teaching all children to read.”

So true.

Wait, let’s go back even further to 1956.

Dr. Marjorie Seddon Johnson, one of the nation’s leading practitioners in the field of reading, stated this at Annual Reading Institute of Temple University.

“Because emotional difficulties are so frequently a part of the picture in cases of reading disability, teachers must be alert to the indications of these difficulties. There are countless modes of behavior which may point toward poor personal adjustment….The school is responsible for spotting the children whose emotional status is hindering their achievement. It is further responsible for starting in motion the wheels which will roll toward solution of the (emotional) problems.”

In a 1982 Learning Disabilities Quarterly Journal article that I had the honor to co-author with my mentor, Dr. Stanley Rosner, while I was still a student, it was said:

“Clinicians often focus almost exclusively on describing what is wrong with a youngster. The unspoken message is that the purpose of evaluation is to delineate all of the deficits, faults and problems. Having worked with youngsters in both remedial and developmental school settings, we believe that an evaluation that simply points out the deficits really does not have much value in terms of planning. While we need to understand the areas in which the child is lacking, we also need to identify those skills the child has mastered.”

Takeaway Point

It’s not easy getting rid of the clutter.


Skill Thinking vs. Disorder Thinking

When I assess a child my focus often centers on where skills (and the skills can range from cognitive/academic to emotional/social) are breaking down for the child, which then guides goals and “next-step thinking.” The skills can range from those in the cognitive, academic or emotional/social domains.

Parents will place great deal of emphasis on the label, as in, for example, “Does my child have ADHD? Dyslexia? A Social Anxiety Disorder?”

Admittedly, I am less focused on labels (e.g., ADHD, LD, Dyslexia, Anxiety) and more oriented to where the skill deficits fall.


From the parents I will hear things like the following:

  • “The teacher says he has some trouble focusing – I wonder if it’s ADHD.”
  • “He doesn’t like to read – I think he may be dyslexic.”
  • “I can’t read his penmanship; I think it is dysgraphia.”
  • “Math is hard for her. Do you think she has dyscalculia?”
  • “She gets nervous when she takes tests. Maybe she has an anxiety disorder?”

I don’t know how it happens, but every ten years or so we have a syndrome that somehow seems to become front and center in people’s consciousness or awareness. In the 1990s going into the early to middle 2000’s ADHD/ADD seemed to be on everyone’s mind.

Right now we are squarely in the decade of dyslexia.

All of the issues of concern occur on a “spectrum,” from very mild and just slightly below average to more severe and significantly below average.

So, if an eight year old boy is a little unfocused, does that make him ADHD? Or if a seven year old is a bit of a weak reader, does that mean she’s dyslexic?

Unlike something like the results of an x-ray or a blood test, with these issues (and virtually all psychological variables) there is no “yes, he’s got it,” or “no, he does not have it” proposition. (Trust me, there are many times I wish there were, as it would make my professional life that much easier.)

Since these concerns are all “spectrumy” (a made-up word), that means there is no x-ray or one test for any of them. Assessment becomes a weighing of variables where the evidence tilts in one direction or another.

Mind you, I am not suggesting these disorders or disabilities do not exist, but I am cautioning about quickly jumping to what I call “disorder or disability thinking.”

I understand that the label provides some level of comfort in terms of an explanation for the skill breakdown. The larger point is that before we jump to those labels, let’s target the skill breakdowns with good, sensible interventions and see how it unfolds. There are many who tend to self-diagnose themselves and find solutions that sometimes might not be a necessity at all. For instance, if you notice, CBD products are to be used only in a limited quantity and under the right supervision for very few problems such as anxiety and stress-related issues. However, if everyone keeps using them saying they are depressed in the wrong quantity, it can leave lasting damages to the body and they might also be in a position requiring them to be answerable to the law. Each country has its own regulations and rules when it comes to the usage of CBD. As an example, you can check out CBD oil UK law here, if interested. Coming back to the main context, when it comes to any health-related problems, we need to be sensible in the approach that we take.

Then, after a reasonable period of time for allowing the intervention to work, if the child is stuck or not making great progress, you can more confidently view there being a “disorder” or a “disability.”

Copyright, 2020
Questions or topics email Dr. Selznick. Not in the South Jersey area? For a free 15 Minute Consultation, contact Dr. Selznick: email –

To purchase a signed copy of “What To Do About Dyslexia: 25 Essential Concepts” & Dr. Selznick’s other books and to receive blog updates go to


To purchase a signed copy of “What To Do About Dyslexia: 25 Essential Concepts” & Dr. Selznick’s other books and to receive blog updates go to



That Place on the Bell-Shaped Curve

I regularly get referral questions from parents anxious to know whether their child has a learning disability or or is “dyslexic.”

Often the story goes that the child has shown signs of struggling since the early grades and even though the special education team has not felt it warranted to evaluate the child, the struggling has persisted.  Or, in some cases the child has been evaluated, but has found not to be “eligible” for receiving any services.

Recently, I have had a run of kids that are in the early to middle elementary grades.  Upon evaluating them, it becomes quickly evident that they don’t read, spell or write all that well, but their scores fall in that zone of the bell-shaped curve where little will be done for them – the dreaded lower portion of the “average range,” (or what I refer to as the “zone of no zone”).

When you land in this region of the curve, that places you roughly between the 15th  to the 25th percentile.  In other words if you are running a race thenn about 80% of the others running in the race are beating you – not very comforting.

Yet, when you are a child whose reading skills are around the 20th % ile quite often you will not be given services or special remediation.  Upon hearing that their 15th – 25th %ile child is “ineligible” for special services, most parents are dumbfounded.  “What do you mean he’s ineligible for extra help,” they exclaim, “He can’t read at all?”

Holding to a standard that maintains there must be a statistically significant discrepancy between the child’s overall IQ and his/her score in reading, this standard leaves many kids (excuse my French), “S out of luck.”

Let’s say you’re typical of so many of the struggling kids that I’ve seen.  Typically, they are shown to be reasonably high in one major domain of cognitive functioning (say, spatial reasoning), but much weaker in verbal thinking and active working memory.

Put all of that together and the IQ score (the FSIQ) may shake out between a standard score of 85 – 92 or so, which places you in about the 15th – 20th % ile of intelligence.  Yet, this child has demonstrated solidly average or above average functioning in a major domain of intelligence.  In other words he/she is not what would have been considered in the old days a “slow child.”

Here’s what the Learning Disabilities Association ( has to say on the topic:

Generally speaking, people with learning disabilities are of average or above average intelligence. There often appears to be a gap between the individual’s potential and actual achievement. This is why learning disabilities are referred to as “hidden disabilities”: the person looks perfectly “normal” and seems to be a very bright and intelligent person, yet may be unable to demonstrate the skill level expected from someone of a similar age.

The basic fact is that there are legions of children, approximately 30% of any given school population who are struggling, who lack fundamental literacy skills,, who maintain “hidden disabilities” yet they are not given any legitimate support or intervention.

Like the parents, I am dumbfounded.

It’s beyond my understanding how children who can’t read,  spell or write are left to fend for themselves.


Copyright, 2019
Questions or topics email Dr. Selznick.  Not in the South Jersey area? For a free 15 Minute Consultation, contact Dr. Selznick: email –

To purchase a signed copy of  “What To Do About Dyslexia: 25 Essential Concepts” & Dr. Selznick’s other books and to receive blog updates go to

“Where There’s Smoke…”

I recently evaluated an 8 year old third grade girl who had significant reading, spelling and writing issues.

Previously evaluated by the special education team and a local hospital, the mom was informed that her child was “average.”

Closer inspection of the child’s assessment data found scores around the 15th to the 20th percentiles on tasks such as word identification, oral reading fluency, spelling and written expression – not quite “average” in my book.  (When was the last time that you felt good about  85 people out of 100 beating you in a race, which is what the 15th %ile represents?)

Yet, the child was considered “average” and the case was closed.  No services warranted.  Thank you very much.

As I would have predicted from the previous assessments, there were “red flag” concerns that I identified.  When I shared these concerns, the mom said something like, “I knew it in kindergarten, but I was dismissed.  Everyone said, ‘she’s so cute, she’s so sweet,’ but I knew there was something up with her, but I kept hearing that I was overacting or exaggerating.”

So, now in third grade it is clear that the child is overwhelmed by the level of demands placed on her, yet  no one is stepping forward to offer this child a life vest or to teach her how to swim.

The take away point is that I have found practically 99% of the time that “where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”   That is, the mom knew that there was something going on when the child was in kindergarten.

There was plenty of smoke.  Something should have been done then.

My dad was a horse player who schooled me from a young age on odds.   Thinking of odds,  I can tell you this.  If a mom thinks that something is going on with her child, I would bet there is and win that bet virtually every time (and do a lot better than my dad ever did betting the horses).

It’s extremely rare that a mom raises concerns and the results don’t support her concerns.

So, moms (forget the dads), when you think something is going on, odds are there is.  The odds that it is just a mom being unduly anxious are extremely low.

Unfortunately, in school for a child to get a life preserver or some other such thing to help him/her to swim in the deep end of the pool, there has to be a significant and severe discrepancy shown between the child’s theoretical level of intelligence (i.e., IQ) and an the achievement score.

In the case of the child mentioned above, the fact that 85% of the other kids her age were beating her in a race was not enough.  That was fine – she was viewed as “average.”

I  just didn’t agree with this view.  I thought she needed a lot of help.

So did the mom who has known since kindergarten that her daugher needed help.

It’s a shame that no one listened to her.

Copyright, 2019
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