Assessment

Disorder or Immaturity? A Confession

Sometimes this blog serves as a bit of a confessional, providing  a forum to voice some concerns regarding the issues that emerge while working with struggling children and their parents.

So, with that in mind here’s a confession. Sometimes I honestly don’t know when a child’s struggling is related primarily to immaturity (i.e., they are not ready and need more time) or whether their struggling is a legitimate disorder/disability.

This dilemma is particularly predominates when the child is between four and seven years of age, that is,  from pre-K to second grade.

(As I write this I hear the chorus calling out behind me.)

“Well, Mr. Big Shot.  You’re the doctor.  That’s why we are coming in to see you – to tell us what it is.  What do you mean you are not sure if it’s immaturity or a disorder? Stop rubbing your head! What’s the matter with you???”

I try talking back to the chorus.

I tell  them things like, “It’s never clear cut.  There is usually a ‘pie chart or a soup pot of variables.’”

At that point the chorus gets louder.  They are almost screaming, “‘A soup pot of variables!!!!!’ What does that mean??? Does she have it or not?  Does she have a learning disorder????  Does she have dyslexia???  And what about ADHD?  She pays attention to nothing!!!!  Isn’t that ADHD?”

Relentlessly badgered by the chorus, I think of Chloe, age 7, a child I recently evaluated who doesn’t read very well or stay on task without a lot of reminders.

Chloe’s teacher vaguely spoke to the mom about her not paying attention very well in school, with the implied suggestion that she might have ADHD, always with the caveat that “We are not doctors.  We don’t diagnose.”

After running Chloe’ through a bunch of tests, I  had one overall impression.

Chloe struck me as immature.

“Immature????,”  the chorus cries out.  “Are you kidding me?”

Yes, I push back against the chorus.  I tell them that Chloe’ seemed more like a five-year old-rather than seven in her manner and way of interacting – that her preoccupations came across as a bit babyish.

The problem there is no test to quantify “babyish,” such as a “Maturity-Immaturity Scale.”

It’s the same with the disorders, like dyslexia or ADHD.  Even though there are more objective tests involved in the assessment, there is no X-Ray or blood test to say,  “Has it  or Doesn’t have it.”

It’s still a weighing of variable to tilt the scales one way or the other.

Takeaway Point

I am sticking with the view that the Chloe’s needs time and perhaps some tutoring to help her mature and improve her skills.

“Back down, chorus. I’m going back to rubbing my head.”


(***  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  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 parents and professionals with straight-forward, down-to-earth, no-nonsense advice to help cut through all of the confusion that exists in the field.) )

Copyright, 2020 www.shutdownlearner.com
Questions or topics email Dr. Selznick.  Not in the South Jersey area? For a free 15 Minute Consultation, contact Dr. Selznick: email – rselznick615@gmail.com

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 https://shutdownlearner.com.

“Tell It To Me Straight, Doc…”

With about 500 blog posts under our belt, we look for inspiration where we can find it.

Those of you who follow this blog, know that we strive to talk in “down-to-earth, plain language,” which is the overriding, mission of the website (www.shutdownlearner.com), the books and the blogs.

Parents, rightfully, come to me frustrated, worried and concerned.  They are looking for an answer, usually a “diagnosis.”

Even though many in the field seem comfortable with offering  a  definitive diagnoses, I am hopelessly muddling in the gray zone. Or as I explain to parents, as I push back on the label, “Well, you know it’s a ‘pie-chart’ of variables.”

Or to really make things really clear, I refer to what’s going on with their child, as a “soup-pot of variables.”

In other words in this “soup pot” (or pie chart) you can have a, helping of dyslexia, mixed in with a dash of impulsiveness,  a sprinkling of oppositional behavior and occasional meltdowns, coupled with a tendency to be socially annoying.  Oh, wait. We forgot to mention the pervasive spelling and writing issues with inattentiveness.

So, you tell me, what should we call it?

Thinking about the “pie chart,” brought to mind a kid I saw recently who stopped me in my tracks.

Nine year old, Liam, had been brought in to see me to assess his school struggles.

Midway through the testing, Liam stopped what he was doing and looked up at me. “Tell it to me straight, Doc,” he said.  “Do I have ADD?”

I have to admit, I almost spit out my coffee when Liam asked that question.  He’s nine years old!!!

How have we gotten to a point where a nine year old is asking whether he has a neurological disorder?

To answer Liam I did my usual tap dance, trying not to answer the question directly, mumbling something like, “Liam, listen, there’s nothing wrong with you.”

While shuffling papers, I continued, “We’re just trying to find out why school’s been so hard for you, so we can give you pointers on what can be done about it.”

Liam remained unmoved.

“Yeah, but do I have ADD?”

At that point, I probably squirmed my way into another part of the office, looking for something else for him to be doing to distract him from the question.

How could I talk to Liam about the “pie chart of variables,” no less the “soup pot,” so I chose the path of least resistance.

I avoided answering him.

Reflecting on the interaction, I don’t think I’d want the session on Psychology TV!

“Answer the child directly,” the viewers would comment.  “Tell him in straightforward terms whether he has the disorder or not,” the chorus would chant.  “Stop squirming and beating around the bush. We thought you were a doctor!  What’s your problem?”

My problem is I can’t see things in “black or white,” “this or that” terms.

99% of the time there is a pie chart (soup pot) to understand.  The different pieces are rarely of equal size or proportion, but they are there.

Takeaway Point

Hey, Liam, if you are reading this, there’s nothing wrong with your brain.

We just need to work on a couple of things.

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 www.shutdownlearner.com
Questions or topics email Dr. Selznick.  Not in the South Jersey area? For a free 15 Minute Consultation, contact Dr. Selznick: email – rselznick615@gmail.com

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 https://shutdownlearner.com.

 

“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.”

“Bingo!!!!!!”

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 www.shutdownlearner.com
Questions or topics email Dr. Selznick.  Not in the South Jersey area? For a free 15 Minute Consultation, contact Dr. Selznick: email – rselznick615@gmail.com

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 https://shutdownlearner.com.

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 www.shutdownlearner.com
Questions or topics email Dr. Selznick.  Not in the South Jersey area? For a free 15 Minute Consultation, contact Dr. Selznick: email – rselznick615@gmail.com

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 https://shutdownlearner.com.

 


(***  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…

“Amen.”

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 www.shutdownlearner.com
Questions or topics email Dr. Selznick.  Not in the South Jersey area? For a free 15 Minute Consultation, contact Dr. Selznick: email – rselznick615@gmail.com

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 https://shutdownlearner.com.

 


(***  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 www.shutdownlearner.com
Questions or topics email Dr. Selznick.  Not in the South Jersey area? For a free 15 Minute Consultation, contact Dr. Selznick: email – rselznick615@gmail.com

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 https://shutdownlearner.com.

 


(***  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 (https://www.pestcontrolexperts.com/local/oregon/medford/) 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 www.shutdownlearner.com
Questions or topics email Dr. Selznick. Not in the South Jersey area? For a free 15 Minute Consultation, contact Dr. Selznick: email – rselznick615@gmail.com.

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 https://shutdownlearner.com.

 

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 https://shutdownlearner.com.

 

 

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