Dyslexia/Reading & Learning Disabilities

“So, What If I Have Dyslexia?” (#Dyslexia)

“So, what if I have dyslexia?”

The question threw me a bit, especially since it was coming from a nine-year-old boy.”

99% of the time when I ask a child, even a teenager, whether they have any questions following an introductory session, they shake their head saying “no.”

Before asking the question, I even play a game with them saying that I’m going to prove that I’m a mind reader, writing down the word “no “before they respond. It’s fun, especially when they buy into idea that I had read their mind before they answered.

Not this time, however. Effectively, this nine-year-old boy wanted to know, “What if I am dyslexic? What does that mean?”

I found myself shuffling a bit, flashing through my mind various implications of someone (a child) having dyslexia. I wanted to answer him as straightforwardly as I could,  as  I sensed this young man would have a ready BS detector if I didn’t give him a straight answer.

“Here’s what it means.  It’s going to help you understand yourself better.  School’s been pretty hard for you and you’re starting to think you’re not as smart as other kids, right?” (He nods.)

“Well, I’m going to prove to you that you’re pretty smart, even though reading and spelling have been hard for you.  Look, you think your dad’s pretty smart, right?”  (He nods again.)

“Well, dyslexia is like a pass down.  You’ve got a lot of your dad’s good traits. But some of them, like struggling with reading and spelling are also in the mix.”

“So, if the testing indicates dyslexia, we’ll talk about the things that you can do to make it a little easier and we’ll talk about the kind of instruction you should receive and how it’s going to be a lot of hard work to get better. How does that sound?”

“Sounds good, but I have one more question…”

(Oh, no!!!!  Did he not know the time and that I was feeling the stress of my next appointment?)

I joke back with him, “Listen, brother,” I say.  “I’d love to answer your questions, especially since almost no kids ask me any questions. But, for now I need you to have your mom write them down.  We can talk about them in the next session, since I have someone trying to get in for their appointment.”

Thankfully, he accepted that response and he let me off the hot seat!

Takeaway Point

What a great kid. I hope he was satisfied with my answers.


Feel free to make comment below. 

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To Contact Dr. Richard Selznick for advice, consultation or other information, email: shutdownlearner1@gmail.com

Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  2023, www.shutdownlearner.com.

 

“Dyslexia is Not a Score”

A number of years ago, I had the good fortune to take part on a panel during a symposium on dyslexia sponsored by the grassroots parenting group, Decoding Dyslexia: NJ.  Dr. Sally Shaywitz, the author of “Overcoming Dyslexia” was the keynote speaker.  While talking about assessing dyslexia, Dr. Shaywitz said something that really struck me, as it reminded of something I had been saying for years.

As she stated, “Dyslexia is not a score.”  That statement is right on the money.

In the assessment of dyslexia, scores are certainly involved.   Tests such as the Woodcock Reading Mastery Test, the Tests of Word Reading Efficiency and the Comprehensive Tests of Phonological Processing, among other standardized measures yield reliable and valid standard scores, grade equivalents and percentiles.  Such scores can be helpful markers in the diagnosis.

However, the scores often don’t tell the whole story.  Here’s one example:

Jacob, a fifth grader, is in the 60th %ile of verbal intelligence and his nonverbal score is in the 75th % percentile, meaning Jacob’s a pretty bright kid.  Jacob’s word identification standard score on the Woodcock placed him in the lower portion of the average range, with similar word attack and passage comprehensions scores.

Jacob’s scores would not have gotten the school too excited since the sores clustered in the average range.  Yet, here’s what I told the mom.

“There’s a lot of evidence in Jacob’s assessment that suggests that he is dyslexic.  Even though his scores are fundamentally average, he was observed to be very inefficient in the way that he read.  For example, while Jacob read words like “institute,” and “mechanic” correctly, he did so with a great deal of effort.  It was hard for Jacob to figure out the words.  For those who are not dyslexic, word reading is smooth and effortless.  Those words would be a piece of cake for non-dyslexic fifth graders.  They were not for Jacob.”

“Even more to the point was the way that Jacob read passages out loud.  Listening to Jacob read was almost painful.  Every time he came upon a large word that was not all that common (such as, hysterical, pedestrian, departure) he hesitated a number of seconds and either stumbled on the right word or substituted a nonsense word.  An example was substituting the word “ostrich” for “orchestra.”  The substitutions completely changed the meaning.

“Finally, the two other areas of concern involved the way that Jacob wrote, as well as his spelling.  While Jacob could memorize for a spelling test and get  good grades, his spelling and his open ended-writing were very weak.  The amount of effort that Jacob put into writing a small informal paragraph was considerable.  There also wasn’t one sentence that was complete.”

“Even though Jacob is unlikely to be classified in special education because of his scores, I think he has a learning disability that matches the definition of dyslexia as it is known clinically (see  International Dyslexia Association website:  www.dyslexiaida.org).  The scores simply do not tell the story.”

Takeaway Point:

You need to look under the hood to see what’s going on with the engine.

With dyslexia, you can’t just look at the scores and make a conclusion.

“Dyslexia is not a score.”


Feel free to make comment below. 

To receive future blog posts, register your email: https://shutdownlearner.com.

To Contact Dr. Richard Selznick for advice, consultation or other information, email: shutdownlearner1@gmail.com

Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  2023, www.shutdownlearner.com.

 

“Gradations from the Middle” (#Dyslexia #ADHD #Other Stuff)

Parents commonly come in with common questions such as,  “Does their child have ADHD?” or “Is my child dyslexic?”

Difficulty  with reading and attention occur on a continuum or a spectrum from below the mid-point of average (see bell-curve picture above), to more moderate and severe.

Just because a child is struggling to a degree with reading doesn’t necessarily mean the child is “dyslexic.”  There could be a myriad of reasons why the child is delayed in reading that are not necessarily dyslexia.

The lower portion of the average range (around the 25th – 30th %ile) is what I call, “the dreaded portion of the bell-shaped curve,” meaning it is neither here nor there or clear cut whether the difficulty represents a legitimate learning disability like dyslexia or an attention disorder with questions of ADHD.

Dyslexia or ADHD are not something like COVID where you can take a test that tells you “yes” or “no” (has it – doesn’t have it). There is no one test for either of them.  (Sometimes I wish that I had the one “Dyslexia Test”.  It would certainly make my life easier.)

Adequate diagnosing i somewhat like detective work requiring a weight of the evidence in order to more confidently state the presence of a disorder.

With dyslexia and ADHD the weight of the evidence includes things like a review of the child’s history  and family factors such as whether either or both  of the parents had similar struggles in their own development.

Evidence such as this helps to tip the balance one way or the other along with other quantitative (objective) and qualitative (subjective) assessment data.

Takeaway Point

Reflect on the bell-shaped curve.  Just because a child is somewhat left of the mid-point (i.e., 50th %ile) in a given area does not mean the child has a disability or a disorder.

(Next week we will discuss how dyslexia (reading disability) is more than a score.)


Feel free to make comment below. 

To receive future blog posts, register your email: https://shutdownlearner.com.

To Contact Dr. Richard Selznick for advice, consultation or other information, email: shutdownlearner1@gmail.com

Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  2023, www.shutdownlearner.com.

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

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

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

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

It happens every time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the interview:

Jamie Redford Interview: Rethinking Dyslexia

Feel free to make comment below. 

To receive future blog posts, register your email: https://shutdownlearner.com.

To Contact Dr. Richard Selznick for advice, consultation or other information, email: shutdownlearner1@gmail.com

Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  2023, www.shutdownlearner.com.

 

Interview with Betty B. Osman, Author: “No One to Play With: The Social Side of Learning Disabilities”

A number of years ago – time does fly by – I was the host of a podcast show that was a part of The Coffee Klatch Network, Special Needs Talk Radio.  In that role, I had the honor of interviewing some of the top names in the field.

I thought it would be fun to revisit the interviews and break out some of the ones that have held up in terms of the content discussed.  (The interviews are pretty short, typically about 30 minutes.)

This interview is with Betty Osman, author of “No One to Play With:  The Social Side of Learning Disabilities” i

Here’s the link:  Podcast Interview: Betty B. Osman

Hope you enjoy.  Would love your feedback if you would like more of these.


Feel free to make comment below. 

To receive future blog posts, register your email: https://shutdownlearner.com.

To Contact Dr. Richard Selznick for advice, consultation or other information, email: shutdownlearner1@gmail.com

Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  2023, www.shutdownlearner.com.

“Ongoing Themes: #Dyslexia #ADHD #LD Discrepancy #504 #Parenting”

Those of you following this blog for some time know there are some recurring themes in these posts (that mostly irritate me).

For others  newer to these posts, I will help to bring you up to speed with some of the predominant ones.

  1. The LD-Discrepancy Model: Easily the number one issue that gets under my skin is the LD-Discrepancy model used in many states (New Jersey being one) to classify children in special education as learning disabled.  I discussed it in my recent blog post  (https://shutdownlearner.com/ineffective-inefficient-irrational-immoral-and-indefensible/), but if If you need a primer on the LD-Discrepancy model, this is a great overview: (https://www.understood.org/en/articles/the-discrepancy-model-what-you-need-to-know). 
  2. Pathologizing Childhood: Not all child problems are neurobiological (i.e., “brain-based”) disabilities.   Some issues are just kids being kids. (Please see my blog on boy executive function deficits: https://shutdownlearner.com/?s=hypothetical ).  Also, sometimes the material being given to them is inappropriate to their level of reading ability.  That is not an “in the head” problem.  It’s a curriculum issue.
  3. “Diagnosing” ADHD Based on Small Data: Checking a few items (e.g., “Easily distractible….Inattentive, etc.”) on a rating scale like the Vanderbilt given in the pediatrician’s office is not enough.   There are a multitude of factors that could be producing the distractibility.  Many of these factors should be understood before putting a child on medication for ADHD.
  1. “We can’t diagnose dyslexia – you need to see a neurologist.” Parents are reflexively told this by the school when they raise concerns of dyslexia.   Seriously, how many neurologists or pediatricians that you know give a battery of reading, spelling and writing tests that are necessary to assess dyslexia?  At its core, dyslexia is a reading disability.  How can this be determined without a battery of reading measures?  Stop telling parents it is a medical condition.
  2. “This or That Thinking:” “I just want to get to the bottom of it,” parents will say.  “I just don’t know if it’s ADD or laziness.”   The problem as I see it is that there rarely is a bottom.  The truth is it’s almost never,  “this or that.”  With most kids it’s almost always, “this and that and that.”
  3. Overplaying 504 Plans: Listen up, gang. The reality of 504 Plans is that they do not do that much.  504s do not offer services, but basic accommodations (e.g., extended time).
  4. “Hey, Bud” Parenting: I hate to break the news to parents out there, but they are your children.  You don’t set limits with your buddies.  You set limits with children.
  5. Screen Addicts: I get it.  Times change.  I don’t get the newspaper delivered any more.  I have my phone with me most of the time and am in a froth when I can’t locate it.  With that said, kids care about little else than their screen time.   They are becoming addicted.   We’re not facing it.

 Takeaway Point:  I understand that some may think that I am just saying these things because I am at the “get off my lawn” stage of life.  Maybe it’s compounded by that fact, but I have been repeating these theme to parents for many years.

Perhaps getting it off my chest helps –  it’s still cheaper than real therapy!!!


Feel free to make comment below. 

To receive future blog posts, register your email: https://shutdownlearner.com.

To Contact Dr. Richard Selznick for advice, consultation or other information, email: shutdownlearner1@gmail.com

Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  2023, www.shutdownlearner.com.

 

“Math Disability? Not So Fast”

Not sure when the reverence for word problems emerged, but it seems that children are almost exclusively taught math through word problems.  I believe it’s linked to the theory that math should always be enhancing “higher order thinking.”

Let’s look at Chris, age 7, a second grader who is given a worksheet with 10 problems.  Here’s one that he received as part of a 10-problem test:

“Winnie counts the oranges she picks.  Winnie counted between 400 and 500 oranges.  The number of oranges is an odd number.  The number of oranges is the sum of two of the numbers below.  (Show your work.”)

137                  258                  114                  164                  281

After Chris muddles through the ten problems with no idea what he was doing, at the top of the page was a grade of  “40%  (F).”

Keeping in mind the fact that Chris is just seven and doesn’t know what a % sign means or even what an  “F” represents, there’s also another  point to consider just using this problem as an example.

Within this problem, Chris also had no idea what an “odd number” was or the meaning of the word “sum.”

Then there’s Kelsey, a confused 8-year-old who is given:

Cullen wants to make 55 pizzas.  He makes 19 in the morning and 35 in the afternoon.  Does he reach his goal?”

“Wait,” Kelsey thinks,  “What goal?  I thought they were talking about making pizzas.  Who scored a goal?”

Needless to say,  Kelsey had no idea how to answer the question.

Takeaway Point

Confusion often reigns with the usage of math word problems.  Before concluding that your child may have some type of mathematical disability, try and figure out where the breakdown is occurring.  It may not be where you think it is.

In the examples above, the breakdown started with confusion of vocabulary.


Feel free to make comment below. 

To receive future blog posts, register your email: https://shutdownlearner.com.

To Contact Dr. Richard Selznick for advice, consultation or other information, email: shutdownlearner1@gmail.com

Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  2023, www.shutdownlearner.com.

“Pictures Telling the Story”

Largely supported by the medical model, when parents have their child assessed they are often  focused on “the diagnosis.”    Such a model embodies a, “Yes, they have it,” or “No, they don’t have it,” (whatever “it” is) perspective.

In my corner of the universe, I wish things were that straight-forward.  I am hopelessly mired in identifying a pie-chart of interacting variables.

Less important than a “diagnosis,” a good assessment should  identify major “red flags” of concern and  guide you with  “next-step thinking.”

For example if the child has a reading problem, what type is it?  Is it primarily based in decoding/fluency or is it a comprehension based problem? What are the next steps?

If the child shows inattentiveness and distractibility, can that be clarified more specifically?

Just saying a child is “ADHD” doesn’t tell us much.  What situations pull for greater inattentiveness?

If the child’s behavior can be challenging, what seems to trigger the difficulty?

More than the diagnosis, what do the snapshots in the assessment tell us about the child?

I understand that I am sadly dating myself by citing a great song by Rod Stewart, but remember, “Every Picture Tells a Story?

What are the pictures that are telling the story?

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To receive future blog posts, register your email: https://shutdownlearner.com.

To Contact Dr. Richard Selznick for advice, consultation or other information, email: shutdownlearner1@gmail.com

Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  2023, www.shutdownlearner.com.

 

 

“Does Spelling Matter?”

Let’s say your 12-year-old sixth grader spells the following words:

  •  (brief)  bref
  • (should) shood
  • (grown) gron
  • (success) susess
  •  (educate) edcccate
  •  (result) resolt
  • (kitchen) kicten  

Then  the child writes the following story to a prompt:

          “Once a o pon a time there was a kid that was a million air and he whated to buy a house   he look at so many house and finally found a house. but it needed a lot of work So the kid hierd lots of pepul to help him but after thay were all done the house went back  to it whent back to the way  it was.”

Or, perhaps you have an 8-year-old third grader who writes:

            “I hrd a son. It was funne. My dad was beyenfunne was he dats Wen he was in the cr  Wan we wr gown to the prck.”

(Translated as best I could  after the child tried to tell it to me –  “I heard a song.  It was funny.  My dad was being funny when he danced.  When he was in the car when we were going to the park.”)

When the parents raised the issue of their concerns about their child’s spelling and writing,  in each case the response was, “Well, spelling really doesn’t matter – they can use spell check. Teaching spelling is tedious and boring to children.  We much prefer that they were creative.”

For those of you following this blog for a while, I am sure that you will predict that I respectfully disagree.

A study conducted  where classroom teacher practices were observed, revealed that less than 5% of the language arts instructional block time is devoted to spelling or direct instruction in writing (compared with open-ended, as in “Write about your holiday.”)

For approximately 60% of the school population, this is not particularly relevant, as their skills develop along a natural trajectory.  Spelling and writing develop through a type of osmosis

For the rest, simply saying,  “They can use spell check” is not a substitute for the challenging work needed.  Indeed, it’s arduous, often not fun, but leaving children in the state they are in, as in the samples above, is hard to justify.

In later blog posts we will offer home-based tips to work on these skills.


Feel free to make comment below. 

To receive future blog posts, register your email: https://shutdownlearner.com.

To Contact Dr. Richard Selznick for advice, consultation or other information, email: shutdownlearner1@gmail.com

Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  2023, www.shutdownlearner.com.

Family Matters #Dyslexia Talk – (Link to the Talk)

I recently had the honor of presenting an overview of dyslexia, shut-down learner and executive functioning to Family Matters:  Parent Training and Information Center. 

Based in Illinois, they have great workshops and material on their site and I would encourage you to browse around the site at your leisure.

Here’s a link to the talk:

(Click Here) DYSLEXIA, SHUT-DOWN LEARNERS & EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONING TALK

Please feel free to share it with anyone who may be interested in the topic:

Please email me with any questions or comments that you may have regarding the talk.

 

 

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