I spend a good deal of my professional life assessing children in an attempt to identify their profile of strengths and weaknesses.   Once a child is assessed, I do my best to explain the data to the parents in straight-forward, non-jargon terms.

The part of the process I like the least is the question that inevitably arises: “Well, how do we fix it?”

The reason I don’t like this question is that I rarely know the answer.  I never think of kids needing to be fixed – they’re not car engines.

Rather than “fixing,” it’s better to focus on improving skills.  Skill talk leads to productive understanding, which then leads to taking appropriate action steps;

Here’s some skill talk  from parents after having the child evaluated:

“Oh, I see it’s a decoding or reading fluency issue…we can work on those skills.”

Or,

“So, my child is under too much pressure and we need to yell less and help him break down the difficult worksheets?  We can do that.”

Or,

“So, he doesn’t have the skill of organizing his backpack…that’s something we can do with him.”

Statements of understanding imply a next-step action that can lead to improvements.  Skill talk is different than disability talk.

Children and parents can understand things better when they are put in terms of skills, rather than fixing something (like the brain).

Fixing implies the child is broken. This is not the message that kids need to hear.

Better questions to ask than, “How do we fix it,” might be, “So, what do we do next?” “What skills are we targeting?”

Takeaway Point

Even though we currently use the terms disabled or disordered  fairly freely perhaps the messages that children take from hearing those terms is that something is wrong with them or that they need “fixing”  This is not the message I want to give kids.  Focusing on specific skills helps the child and the parents get their minds around what to do next.”

Adapted from “School Struggles,” (Dr. Richard Selznick, 2012 Sentient Publications)

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