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.