Dyslexia/Reading & Learning Disabilities

“World of Dyslexia – Part II”

Lowering Your “Frustration Quotient”

Before getting into this week’s blog, there are two corrections to make from the previous week’s post:

  1. It was pointed out to me that the correct website for the International Dyslexia Association is www.dyslexiaida.org, not the one originally posted.
  2. A sincere apology to Cheri Rae author of,  “DyslexiaLand: A Field Guide for Parents of Children With Dyslexia ” for the use of the term “DyslexiaLand.”  Unbeknownst to me, Cherie had written the book and created the term “DyslexiaLand.”   Please be sure and visit her website:  www.dyslexialand.com and also get  hold of her book.  I know I am looking forward to reading it.  I am happy to report that Cheri and I have become fast professional friends and look forward to getting to know each other better.

Well, the good news is that a couple of people are reading the blog!!!!

So, let’s roll up our sleeves for the 2022-2023 school year. We’re striving to keep your “FQ” (“Frustration Quotient”) below a five (on a scale of 1-10).

The New  School Year

Getting Your Head in the Game

In this world of dyslexia , it’s not easy to get your head in the game, as there are many rabbit holes that you can go down that can be overwhelming and confusing.

A few pointers:

  • What do I do with all this paper?  Rather than stuffing IEPs (if your child has one), previous reports and all of the other papers, in folders, get an old-school three-ringed binder and set up five sections:  School Correspondence, School Evaluations, Outside Evaluations, IEP/504 Plans (assuming there are ones established) and Miscellaneous. In each section put the papers in chronological order.
  • Decoding the Code:  When it comes to special education, each state’s code is different.  Understand your state’s definition of the categories for classification, especially for learning disabilities.  For example, New Jersey uses a statistical model of a discrepancy between IQ and achievement to determine a learning disability.  This can be frustrating to parents, as many children whose IQ is not high enough are denied services.  If you can’t decode the code, seek a professional consultant who can help interpret it for you.  (Feel free to email me.)
  • Clarify the Confusion:  I hear parents say, “My child gets ‘push-in’ or ‘pull-out’ instruction.  Seriously, what does that mean?  I am less concerned about where the child is getting what they get, but what it is they are actually receiving when they get pushed in or pulled out.  For example, a good question to ask is, “I know my child is getting push-in instruction, but what are they doing?  What methods are being used?”

  •  Don’t overuse the “D-Word”: Since it seems that almost no one really knows what dyslexia is and confusion runs rampant with this word, overusing it creates misunderstanding and resistance.  (“Wow, what’s that like to be reading upside-down and backward?  That must hurt your child’s head.”)  Safer to stay with the facts – “My child struggles with reading rate, accuracy and fluency.”

  • Get out of the Trunk: Too many parents have put themselves in the backseat of the car or worse, they’re in the trunk. GET YOURSELF IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT!  Let common sense prevail.  If your “mom gut” (sorry dads) is telling you your child is struggling seek help from a competent tutor as soon as possible.  There is no gain in waiting.  You don’t need the “D-Word” diagnosis to get help.

Even though there are many other points that can be made, these points should help you get started.  Watch for future posts to add to your growing list.

Copyright:  Shut-Down Learner

To Contact Dr. Richard Selznick for advice, consultation or other information, email rselznick615@gmail.com.



“The Marginally Ready Child”

Over the years, I’ve been a bit of a hoarder. Like most things, there are advantages and disadvantages to this habit.

One advantage (not that my wife agrees) is that I have held on to different journals that were in the dustbins of Temple University’s renowned Reading Clinic, which at one time was one of the leading clinics in the country.

Attempting to declutter I started going through some of these journals and found many articles written by some of the top theorists and researchers in the field from 40, 50 and 60 years ago.

Skimming through them it was stunning how many brilliant nuggets are still very relevant  to the present day.

One that caught my eye  was an article by the late, brilliant, learning dishabilles pioneer Dr. Jeanette Jansky,  called  “The Marginally Ready Child.”

In the opening of the piece, Dr. Jansky refers to kindergarten and first grade children who do not get anyone’s attention and are only “marginally ready.”

Then Dr. Jansky pivots to talk about what happens to this type of  child some years later.

In our diagnostic and remedial practice we also meet children for the first time during their middle school years, when they are eleven, twelve and thirteen years of age.  They come with the complaint that they are close to failing in a number of school subjects.  Although they had learned to read at the expected time, they did not read easily, they did not enjoy it and their very mediocre academic performance never rose to the expectation raised by their often superior level of intelligence.

As the article continues,  “…I believe the marginally ready child slips past us all too often; he ‘sort of’ learns to read, gradually slides down, and becomes a middle schooler.”

“…By the time these children are nine or ten their problems have become as severe as those of a youngster whose early deficits were more obvious.”

“Very important to success of early intervention efforts is working with parents.  They need to learn about normal developmental differences between children and how their school deals with them.” 

“Parent’s anxiety about departing from the classical educational timetable is keen and we must recognize and help them with it.  Doing so is a matter of firmly establishing and fully interpreting school policy, not of holding a single meeting.”

Takeaway Point

Love the concept of the “marginally ready” child and how this shows up very early on and persists through the grades.

Looks like I’m not dumping stuff out too soon.

Copyright, 2022 www.shutdownlearner.com

Questions or comments email Dr. Selznick:  rselznick615@gmail.com

“Like Giving Them Oxygen”

Last Sunday on the front page of the New York Times was a major piece on the proponent of “balanced literacy,” offering some type of retreat  for the philosophy behind “balanced literacy” that has been espoused for decades having failed legions of children (NYT Article).

I have always been bothered by these theories and am even more so now.  It seemed that this stated “retreat” was too little, too late

Just to clarify, before thinking I am becoming a “get off my lawn” crank, I felt exactly this way when I was much younger in this field.

To elaborate on this a bit, there are essentially two groups of children – those on the “Smooth Road” and those on a “Rough Road.”

The “Smooth Road” types are fairly immune to whatever is given to them, even when questionable methods are used.  From a very young age, their reading (spelling and writing) progresses down a smooth road in a “natural” process.

A different story altogether are the “Rough Road” types.  Such children do not respond well to these methods espousing terms  terms like, “top-down,” “balanced literacy,” “comprehension-above-all,” and the like. Probably 95 % of the schools and education departments in universities have been behind them for decades, as noted in the NYT article.

Even though these children of concern  have been struggling since kindergarten, few have been directly taught how to overcome their challenges.  That’s not how it’s done in these “top-down” models.

It’s analogous to handing a child a tennis racket and telling them to go play tennis, as if  it will happen magically.

When I attended NYU for my Masters Degree (a long time ago in a galaxy far away), this movement was then an emerging groundswell.

As I sat there listening to what seemed like nonsense to me as these methods and theories were presented as truth, I couldn’t help but think about a boy, 9-year-old Frankie, who I then had in my resource room class.  When I screened him with words like  “cat” “them” “for” and “house,” he  looked at me helplessly shrugging, unable to read any of the words.

When I asked the professors what to do with Frankie, lock-step they answered with concepts from  these very hot theories  – “You start with comprehension and present stories for him to internalize in his higher-order thinking and…(“blah, blah, blah”).

“Yes,” I said,  “But he can’t read words like, ‘dog’ and ‘house,’ so not sure where higher-order thinking comes in.”

It didn’t matter.  The “blah blah blah” went on  and I had still Frankie to deal with the next morning.

Very fortunately, I went to a workshop presented by the late Dr. Gerald Glass, who presented an exact opposite approach embodied in a method he had developed, the “Glass Analysis for Decoding.”  Glass spoke disdainfully of the emerging Whole Language, “Balanced Literacy” movement.

There was no higher thinking in Glass’ approach.  It was pure meat and potatoes, bottom-up word instruction. First teach children how to read words, then later, once this skill has been mastered, comprehension will follow.   Of course, the Whole Language professors and proponents of that model scoffed at Dr. Glass as old-school and out of touch with modern theories.

When I used Glass’ method with Frankie he loved it and made clear progress.  In a fairly rapid time, he was recognizing words and his whole mood and discouraged demeanor changed.  (So did mine.)

Since that time I have met thousands of Frankie.

When they are taught with sensible methods, it’s like giving them oxygen.

When they are not, they remain shut-down and discouraged.

Copyright, 2022 www.shutdownlearner.com

Questions or comments email Dr. Selznick:  rselznick615@gmail.com

“Upside Down & Stuck”

In many respects, writing is the window in to understanding what a child needs academically and emotionally.

Let’s take a look at George, a  9-year boy in the fourth grade.

George feels that other kids make fun of him because of the way he spells and writes.  George drew an interesting picture of a boy standing on his head, where he became stuck in that position.

Here’s the story George wrote about the picture:

thar was a boy his nam was tim he loves to do hand  stans he loves them so much that one day ha did one for soooo long he endendup stuck so stuck he was up sidedoun he  he did not like it at furst

it was hard to moov evryone laft at him but he remen bird he ha sowry wanted to try to eat with his feet he  tride it di not end up gud.

at school evryone laft at him then he gott brave he neded to stop he yeled as lawd as he cud he sed STOP at  wons evry was wilent them he sed your not being vary nise I donet like that you are making fun uf me how wud you fel if it was you evry one descst it thay sed you are rite the teseing stopped ha liked it and then faund owt haw to have fuN he was vary happy.  tha and

Here is the story translated as close as possible:

There was a boy.  His name was Tim.  He loves to do hand stands.  He loves them so much that one day he did one for so long that he ended up stuck, so stuck that he was upside down.  He did not like it at first. 

It was hard to move.  Everyone laughed at him but he remembered he was hungry and wanted to try to eat with his feet.  He tried.  It did not end up good. 

At school everyone laughed at him and then he got brave.  He needed them to stop.  He yelled as loud as he could he said Stop at Once!!!  You’re not being very nice.  I don’t like that you’re making fun of me. How would you feel if was you?  Everyone discussed this.  They said you are right.  The teasing stopped.  He liked it and then found out how to have fun.  He was very happy.  The end.

 Takeaway Point

George’s story conveys the sense of embarrassment that he feels on a regular basis.

Oh, by the way, George does not help, because it was determined his IQ just wasn’t high enough.

Yep, he’s upside down and stuck.


Copyright, 2022 www.shutdownlearner.com
Questions or comments email Dr. Selznick:  rselznick615@gmail.com.




“Further Down the Rabbit Hole:” #Dyslexia

Since this blog and its over 500 entries are not entirely about dyslexia/reading disabilities, I was determined for this week  not to continue going down the “dyslexia rabbit hole.”

But, as I was organizing books on my shelf  (yes, I still have hard bound physical books), a few caught my eye and there I was back down the hole again.

Many parents come to me and say the school is not doing the right thing by not giving their child the “Orton-Gillingham” methods or its spin-offs like Wilson (an Orton-based program).

I often ask them what they know about the Orton methods.  Typically, I get an understandable shrug and a sheepish, “not much.”

Here’s something to ponder about Orton-Gillingham – Sam Orton, M.D., a neurologist and psychiatrist was born in 1879!!!!!

Yep, 1879!

The current methods, while somewhat modernized under the category of “putting old wine in new bottles,” are almost unchanged since Dr. Orton collaborated with Anna Gillingham in the 1930’s.

That fact continues to boggle my mind.

From a couple of the musty books on my shelf are some quotes from Orton’s 1930’s text, “Reading, Writing & Speech Problems in Children.”

“The children with a specific reading disability are almost never reading for a pastime. Their whole tendency is to turn to athletics or mechanics or social activities as an outlet.”

“With cases of reading disability encountered somewhat later in their school progress, the feeling of inferiority is apt to be marked as a result of their repeated failures.”

“Intelligence does not always correlate with reading skill and in any group of nonreaders all ranges of intelligence are to be found as they would be in any casually selected group of people.”

These quotes could be from any modern day researcher.

More next week as I continue to go further down the hole.

Copyright, 2022 www.shutdownlearner.com
Questions or comments email Dr. Selznick:  rselznick615@gmail.com.




Part II: Understanding the ‘D-Word’: #Dyslexia

As  we discussed in the last week’s post (“Misunderstanding the “D-Word'” ), the problem with the use of the word “dyslexia,” which has become quite popular among parents and professionals, is that the word is almost universally misunderstood.

We encouraged you to ask the question at your Super Bowl gatherings to a few people (off to the side) as to what they knew about dyslexia, with the inevitable response involving reading “upside down and backward or reversing.”

To set the record straight, this definition from the NICHD (National Institute of Child and Human Development):

Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin.  It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities.  These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction.  Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduce reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.

Well, there you have it.  Sound like anyone you know?

Notice,  there  is no mention of upside down or backward reading in the definition.  There is also no mention of IQ scores (which in the state of New Jersey is an essential aspect of classifying a child with a learning disability).

To address the child showing these features, just like having difficulty with a sport skill, such as hitting a baseball,  you would find someone who could teach the basic skills.

The same is true with addressing the “D-Word.”

I would encourage you to let common sense prevail when it comes to these reading problems.

If you ask yourself, “Is your child struggling with reading” and the answer is “yes,” then regardless of the ultimate “diagnosis,” the child needs help, whether this is provided by the school or on the outside in the form of tutoring with appropriate methods supported in the research.

It really isn’t all that mysterious.

Copyright, 2022 www.shutdownlearner.com
Questions or comments email Dr. Selznick:  rselznick615@gmail.com.



Misunderstanding the “D-Word” (Yep, #Dyslexia)

Not sure how it happened, but it seems that there has been a wave of parents that think that their child has “dyslexia.”

They also often note that many people in their family, such as the parents and grandparents also have or had dyslexia (even though most were never formally assessed).

Having been in the business a while, I know that before about 15 years or so ago the word “dyslexia” was almost never mentioned (except by people like myself) .

The problem with the “D-Word” (as I jokingly refer to it) is that it is nearly universally misunderstood.

Try this experiment.  While gathering with friends and family at your Super Bowl get-togethers, ask about five people individually, “What do you understand dyslexia to be?”

(Since it’s not a particularly fun experiment at a Super Bowl gathering, do it quietly off to the side.)

In an almost group hypnotic response, you will likely get some variation of the following response, “Isn’t that when you read upside down and backward?”

It’s like asking someone,  “What’s jogging?  Can you define it for me,” and they say, “Isn’t that when you try and run as fast as you can – sort of like they do in the 100-yard dash.”


The misunderstanding would have the impact of rendering the word challenging to use.

That’s the problem we have with the “D-Word”

(More on this in the next post.)

Copyright, 2021 www.shutdownlearner.com
Questions or comments email Dr. Selznick:  rselznick615@gmail.com.

Part III: “Helping Your Struggling Reader & Dyslexic Child at Home”

Within the last two blog posts, we discussed the foundation needed to understand how to work at home with your struggling child.

While moving forward there is one overriding principle that is important to stress, that is –


Understand that what is being recommended here is not meant to replace a more in-depth reading remediation using methods supported in the research such as those that are Orton-Gillingham based.

These recommendations are the equivalent of shooting baskets or having a catch with your child – they could help to reinforce skills and they’re fun.

Using “Old School” Index Cards

While working with the child at home, the recommendation is that you use “old school” index cards for practicing words and sensitizing your child to different syllables within complex words.

As a first step, look at the reading assigned or the worksheets that have been given.  Ask the child to read these out loud to you.  Any words that the child stumbles on should be entered on an index card.

For example, let’s say the words dinosaur or porcupine are hard for your child to read.  On an index card using a bright marker, write the words down and underline the parts with the marker:

(e.g., di no saur) or porcupine (por cu pine)

Over time, you will develop a fairly large bank of words that can be played with in different ways.

The ultimate goal is to help your child to recognize the parts of the word, while being able to read the whole word automatically.  Make the activity fun by using things like stickers as reinforcements.

Spend about 10-15 minutes on this type of activity on a consistent basis, but don’t overdo it.  (You wouldn’t have a catch all morning.)

Practicing Fluency

Find reading material that you know is on your child’s independent reading level (that is, the level where the material is relatively easy). You can use material that is slightly above the easy level, but you don’t want to go too far beyond that point.

For about 10 minutes have your child read out loud. Make it fun and lively. After the reading put a big green check on a calendar if the child read with good attitude (i.e., no whining or complaining). After a week or so of green checks, go out for a small reward (like an ice cream sundae).

The point of this routine is that practicing is key. This is particularly important for children with dyslexia.

Takeaway Point

It will be warming up soon. Get outside and shoot some baskets and have a catch in the backyard.

Copyright, 2021 www.shutdownlearner.com
Questions or comments email Dr. Selznick:  rselznick615@gmail.com.

Part II: Helping Your Struggling Reader & Dyslexic Child at Home

In last week’s post we started the discussion of how to help struggling children at home, many of whom are dyslexic (Helping Child at Home: Part I )

The case of Ruth helps further set the stage.

Ruth, a Case Study

To illustrate the experience of a child on the rough road, let’s take Ruth, an eight-year-old third grader.  Ruth’s parents brought her to my office because they were concerned about her development in reading, spelling, and writing.

The evaluation that was conducted with Ruth revealed that she was not a smooth or efficient reader.  When the words became somewhat more complex in the second to the third grade, Ruth started to guess the words, often with nonsense word substitutions, based on their visual configurations.  For instance, she guessed “croty” for “country” or “penereer” for “pioneer.”

When Ruth read stories out loud her reading was choppy and strained.  There was no fluency and her reading sounded like she was driving down a dirt road with lots of potholes in the road.

Listening to her read was painful.

By the middle of third grade, Ruth became overtly frustrated.

However, when the school district reviewed Ruth’s evaluation, they did not feel that Ruth’s problems warranted classifying her with a learning disability.

Their reasoning was that many of her scores on the school standardized tests fell in the lower portion of the “average” range. Effectively, this decision negated the possibility that Ruth would receive any extra help in reading.

Although Ruth clearly struggled in reading, spelling, and writing, her problems were not deemed severe enough to classify her as a special education student.

A Few Tough Realities

Ruth’s story highlights some tough realities that I encounter almost daily in my professional practice, causing a huge impact on children and their families. These realities may be difficult to discuss, but they are important to understand, so you can mobilize and take effective action.

First, when a child struggles in reading a “full-court press” is needed to target the deficient skills.

The more severe the problem, the more intensive the focus needs to be.

Over the decades, a great deal of accumulated research indicates that at least 20% or more of the population that enter first grade predisposed to experience mild, moderate, or severe reading, spelling, and writing issues.  They can be identified with basic screening tools.

If they show any of the classic indicators, they need help.  Some of them may be classified as eligible for special education later, many will not.

Like Learning a Sport or a Musical Instrument

It has long been my basic view that the processes of learning to read, spell, and write are no different than learning to play a sport (e.g., tennis, golf, etc.) or a musical instrument.  Following the direct instruction, there needs to be a great deal of guided practice, so that the skills become a more automatic part of the person’s skill repertoire and are internalized

(More to follow in future posts.)

(Excerpt from “Helping Your Dyslexic Child & Struggling Reader at Home,” Richard Selznick, Ph.D. w/ Lorna Wooldridge, M.A.)

Copyright, 2021 www.shutdownlearner.com
Questions or comments email Dr. Selznick:  rselznick615@gmail.com.


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