Category : School Tips

School Tips

3 Tips On How to Start the School Year Off On the Right Foot

School is right around the corner, and if you're like most parents, you probably can't wait until everyone is back at their desks, and gainfully occupied somewhere other than the living room. First day of school

But before you embrace a little freedom, it's worth it to start thinking of a few simple things you can do to help your kids start things off on the right foot.

Starting school again is a big transition: a new teacher, new classroom, and new expectations.

And like all transitions, your child will make the leap from carefree hobo to earnest student a bit easier if you take the time to prepare the way:

Get Back Into the Flow of Things

You don't have to start the first day of school with tired, cranky kids rushing around to get their things together at the last minute. Avoid the arguments and the wear and tear by reading this post on how to get your child ready for school painlessly.

Organize Beforehand

Is your child always digging around trying to find their homework notebook, or a special assignment? This post on helping your child organize their school stuff has plenty of practical advice on helping your child organize their notebooks, use a homework planner, and more.

What NOT to Tell Your Child's Teacher On the First Day of School

Your child takes a a creative soul at heart...

It's not uncommon for parents to feel a need to share information they feel is critical to their child's success in school. Read this article to find out exactly what you absolutely shouldn't share with your child's teacher on the first day of school... or else.

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How to Talk to Teachers:


It's been about a week since we started the new plan for N. In my previous post on problems in school, I wrote that N. was having trouble settling down during her first class period in first grade. While I bandied around a couple of solutions (which you can read about in Part 2 of Problems in School), in the end I decided to have her do a worksheet until class started.

Since enough time has passed to let N. get used to the new system, I decided it was time to call the teacher,  and check out how things were going.

I don't know if it's because it feels like going to the principal's office, or because we as parents are so invested in our children's success, but calling the teacher is SCARY for a lot of parents. Over the years I've called numerous teachers and school staff, both for my children and as part of my work.

Those calls usually ranged from triage ("Jesse just ran away from the school and he refuses to come out of his hiding place... can you come?") to damage control ("Kelly keeps ripping up the other kids' art work. Their parents are started to get really annoyed") to behavioral issues ("Stasha refuses to do any classwork").

Through the years I've developed a method that generally works to gain the teacher's trust, and establish a working relationship:

Stay calm.

Try to put your fears aside. I know how easy it is to assume the worst - that the teacher hates your child, expects him to grow up to be the local garbage man, or thinks he's the devil's spawn. In reality, the vast majority of teachers don't think this way.

Most teachers are just as concerned about talking to you as you are to them. I know, because they've told me.

Mainly they worry about whether parents will be reasonable, or whether they'll start shouting and blaming the bearer of bad news. So if you can remain calm, cool, and collected, you will have already started off on the right foot.

Do whatever it takes to get yourself there, whether it's deep breathing, positive statements to yourself, or  a support team waiting on standby.

Start off with something positive about the teacher.

You do this with your kids, right? It should seem obvious, but no one likes to hear bad news right off the bat. Try and say something positive about the teacher, particularly with regards to your child.

You could talk about how carefully the lesson is planned, or how you notice the teacher keeps an eye on her and you're happy that takes the time to do so. But one caveat: whatever you say, make sure it's sincere. Otherwise it ends up feeling like the "You're great BUT..." which is probably even more annoying than just starting out negatively.

Watch your language.

No, I'm not talking about expletives. I'm talking about being careful to stay away from the word "you." Nothing will get up a teacher's back then feeling like they're on the People's Court. Be careful to use phrases like " I noticed that.." or " I've been wondering why.."

Keeping your statements in third person will help you do this more easily. For instance, instead of saying "Don't you think you give too much homework? Kaylee can't seem to finish all of it," state " I've noticed that the kids get about 2 hours of homework a day."

Talk about how you feel.

Talking about how you feel briefly will help you stay out of accusatory mode, as well as help the teacher understand why you object. For example, in the above example, you would say "I've noticed that the kids get about 2 hours of homework a day and I'm feeling kind of overwhelmed about trying to help her get it all done."


I know, it seems obvious, but in the heat of the moment, and our rush to get the conversation over and done with, it's easy to blurt out everything you have to say before listening to the teacher's point of view.

Instead, after the above statement, pause, and wait for the teacher to answer. Don't rush in to fill in the blank space; she or he might just be taking the time to construct their thoughts.

Let them finish everything they have to say. Don't interrupt; wait until they ask you what you think. Only then, should you respond.

Think win-win.

When you talk to your teacher, it's not a matter of whether you or your child's teacher get their way. The only person who needs to come out the winner is your child. So be open to what the teacher has to say, and try and consider their side of things.

Teachers are often underpaid, tired out, unappreciated, and frustrated about not being able to solve a problem on their own. They want just as much as you for the problem to go away; they don't enjoy it either. They may be great teachers, or they may not be.

They may have reacted to a situation inappropriately, and will regret it as long as you don't call them on the carpet. Or they may not be repentant at all. Either way, you need to get what you want - a happy, successful child- so you need to be prepared to do whatever it takes to get what you need.

Once, I had a teacher tell me my child was " a bad child, and a bad influence on the other kids." I was shocked. I couldn't believe he actually said that to me, and stupidly I asked him if he really said that.

Of course he repeated it, and was adamant about his position even when I pointed out that until this year, my son was the most popular in his class. I'd never had a complaint from a parent or a teacher - in fact they used to stop me in the street and ask in awe if I was Y's mother.

With this teacher I soon realized there was nothing I could do to change his mind. He was threatened by my son's forceful personality, and even though my son was not a behavior problem, felt that he had to break him in order to mold his personality to what he felt was best.

It was a difficult year, to put it mildly, and the principal was unwilling to allow him to switch classes. But we made it through the year, in part because I bit my tongue and tried to sympathize with what the teacher was saying, behind his forked tongue.

I put myself in therapist mode; this is basically what I said: " I see. So you're worried he might encourage the class to get out of hand (it's never happened before you idiot)? And you're thinking that this is a bad habit for the future (you can't break my son - haven't you noticed yet? why not try and work with him??)

I then explained that we as his parents are also concerned about his future, and that we know with the right guidance he will grow up to be a leader. I added that in the future he needs to contact us if there is a problem, but he is absolutely not allowed to physically discipline my child in any way (another long story - it's more common than you think, and legal in a lot of places).

Stay in touch.

After that first big conversation it's easy to feel so relieved that you decide you don't need to speak to the teacher for a long, long time.


Before you finish up the conversation, make sure you make a time that you'll touch bases, and follow up with that phone call. It will get easier as you go along, as long as you keep in mind the principles above.

What awful experiences have you had with your child's teacher? Why not share it in the comments below? I'm sure others would love to commiserate with you!




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School Tips

3 Tips on How to Help Your Child Beat the Back to School Blues

3 Tips on How to Help Your Child Beat the Back to School BluesHas your child got the back to school blues?

It’s happened to every parent. Your preschooler or kindergartner waited with baited breath the entire summer until school started. They spent hours debating the merits of various book bags, and whether or not a pencil case could do the same job as a pencil box.

That first day of school went beautifully, and then- reality hit. Suddenly the child who couldn’t wait for school to start is not only blasé, but downright uninterested in school. Asked what happened, they might answer, “That was yesterday. Not today.”

What happened? Was it something you or (gasp!) the teacher did wrong?

Probably not. There are a couple of reasons why kids often react this way to school – even if this isn’t their first year.

There are several reasons why children react negatively to school in the beginning of the year.

One reason is simply that the excitement of something new has worn off. It’s not so much different than getting gifts during holiday season: it’s hard for real life to stand up to your child’s often unrealistic expectations.

Another reason why your child’s enthusiasm wanes is because now the work part of school has hit. For some children with learning disabilities or other issues, hope springs eternal.

Although the evidence might seem to point otherwise, they’re hoping for a better year (can you blame them?), and it can be pretty disappointing when school is just as hard as it always was.

The third reason is practical: your child still needs to adjust physically and emotionally to being in school. If you’ve prepared your child for the new school year, then this is hopefully less of an issue.

Still, change is naturally harder for kids with special needs. They may be faced with situations that call on coping skills they just don’t have. Sometimes, even though it may not seem a major deal to grown-ups, even the most minor issues can leave a child worried and stressed.

Use these 3 tips to help your child feel good about school again.

Here are 3 tips you can follow to help your child make the adjustment:

1) Talk with your child about how he feels.

Some children will have a hard time doing this outright. Instead, you can read a book or make up your own story about a character in your child’s situation who was having a hard time in school.

Don’t worry about making the story resemble your child’s situation exactly; it’s unnecessary and would only make your child suspicious. Instead, change things around a little bit. When you tell the story, you can add in comments like, “Wow, I would be really embarrassed if that happened to me! Would that embarrass you?”

2) Use play to help your child problem-solve.

Very young children, children with weak language development, or children with special needs in general, are often unable to verbally problem-solve. They have a hard time finding a solution to what’s going on just by talking about it.

On the other hand, play offers an excellent opportunity to help your child learn to think logically and work on critical problem-solving skills. Floor time is an excellent tool for doing this, but if you’re not familiar with floor time (keep an eye out because I’ll be introducing some videos soon on how to do floor time properly), keep the following principle in mind: interact with your child as if you yourself were a same-aged playmate.

That means instead of commenting about your child’s play, you get involved. You gently challenge your child, just as a playmate would. By looking out for strong feelings during your child’s play, you can help them acknowledge those powerful feelings, leading the way for later problem solving.

3) Expect a certain amount of attention seeking or babyish behavior.

When a child is under stress, they often respond by acting out or behaving immaturely. That can often be annoying and frustrating for parents, who expect their “big” boy or girl to behave more maturely now that they’re in school.

Give your child attention before he acts out.

While you should not tolerate misbehavior, you can greatly minimize it by giving your child attention before he acts out. Cuddle him, play a special game together, or share a treat. For babyish behavior, it’s generally okay to baby your child a bit. They’ll get over it quick enough if you begin to praise them or a sibling when they display “big girl” behavior.

For example, you could call out “I need a big girl to help me make lunch. Is there a big girl around today?” Most children find it impossible to resist, but if your child is one of those that does resist, simply look for opportunities when they behave maturely, and give them specific praise, “Thanks for helping me with that Ethan. I saw how you figured out how to help me right away. It must be because you’re getting so big; last year you couldn’t have done that.”

Spend extra time together to help your child recharge her coping batteries.

Most importantly, don’t forget to make time to spend together doing something your child enjoys. It not only builds wonderful memories, but will give your child the emotional energy she needs to help her face the myriad difficulties that make up life – even for the pint-sized crowd.




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The 3 Key Elements of Great Reading Comprehension

 Reading Comprehension Games

For some children, understanding what you read just sort of “happens.”

There they were busily learning how to read words, and then sentences, and then - BOOM.

Somehow those sentences morphed into paragraphs, chapters, and full-length novels that made a lot of sense.

Unfortunately, what those children somehow magically possess needs to be specifically taught to kids with language delays.

The good news is that you can teach children how to improve their reading comprehension skills, as long as you keep in mind the 3 key elements of great reading comprehension:

1. Start from the Whole to the Parts


Children who have language delays are usually visual learners. That means that they learn better when they have the Big Picture first, and details last. In order to help them get a handle on what they’re reading, they need to have an overview of what they’re reading about.

In a school history text, for example, they should first start out by reading the chapter title. Then they should read through the headings and sub-headings, until they get to the end of the chapter.

2. Connect the New to the Old


In order for your child to understand what they read, they need to activate their brain. The more active their brain is when processing the new material, the better they’ll understand the text, and the more they’ll learn.

Encourage your child to talk about or write down, free-style, what they already know about the subject. After that, they can spend a minute or two thinking about questions they might have about the subject.

This might initially be hard for some students, especially ones that are used to being passive thinkers. You can help them by suggesting they reword each chapter heading or subheading into a question.

If, for example, a chapter is titled, “The Brain – the Ultimate Supercomputer,” they can turn this into: “Is the brain a supercomputer? Why is it a supercomputer?”

Then help them think about the characteristics of a computer, which should lead them to the following questions: “Does our brain have a keyboard or mouse? A hard drive?” It doesn’t matter if some of the questions are nonsensical. The point is to free associate, and help your child get those brain juices flowing.

3. Stop and Visualize


It’s not uncommon for kids with reading problems to read through an entire passage without understanding anything. Instead of stopping to check why a particular word or passage doesn’t make sense (and determine its meaning), they continue to plow along, arriving at the end of the text with very little to show for their efforts.

Instead, teach your child how to use their strong visual skills to build reading comprehension. At the end of each sentence or paragraph, they can draw a picture of what the section meant.

It doesn’t really matter how well they draw. The idea is to help them get in the habit of checking for understanding, while at the same time allowing them to use their strong visual system to help them process what they read.

You see? All those years of doodling in notebooks finally paid off.

Found this post useful?


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School Tips: 7 Effective Study Habits for Children with Learning Disabilities

It’s an epic battle on the home front. You, your child, and tonight’s homework.

You know your parental duty: make sure your kid does his homework so he can progress in life. Even though you spent at least a third of your life with the ol' chain and ball, you can’t really see any other way the work can get done. And besides, what will the teacher say?

Your child, on the other hand, not only sees homework as worthless (almost), but has had years of experience trying his hand out at work that’s too hard, too long, or doesn’t make sense.

Impasse – of the worst sort.

Unfortunately, studies show that there is no correlation between homework and academic achievement. On top of that, there aren’t even any studies that can prove doing homework builds a sense of responsibility either.

However, if you have to do homework – and most children do-then there are several methods you can teach your child to help them minimize the time they spend studying while maximizing the amount of material learned:

1) Make sure your child knows what need to be learned.

Perhaps it seems obvious, but often children –especially those with learning disabilities- don’t know exactly what material is important, and what isn’t. That means they can spend a huge chunk of their time on memorizing facts that are relatively unimportant.

Once your child knows what he needs to memorize, make sure he knows what type of material he needs to memorize: are they ideas, facts, or how to do things?

2) What will your child use to study?

Often the material that your child needs to study is scattered among different sources: a textbook, a study manual, a homework guide, and class notes may all have material your child needs to review. Have your child make a list of where the material is to be found, and check it off as they study from that source. That way, they won’t accidently forget to study a crucial bit of material.

3) Help your child decide how they will condense the material.

Often children with LD have no clue exactly how to study. They may glance at a textbook, or flip through a notebook with no real understanding of what they’re studying. Your child can choose one (or more) methods of condensing the material they’ve studied.

Making diagrams, underlining or highlighting, creating a written or taped summary, making a list of key concepts or questions, and drawing a picture of important concepts, are all methods children can use to remember what they’ve learned.

4) Have your child estimate the amount of time they will use to memorize the material.

One of the biggest things that frustrate kids when studying is imagining the amount of time they’ll have to spend studying all that stuff. Often, their estimate of how long it will take is usually wildly off. Encourage your child not only to estimate the amount of time they expect to spend memorizing the material, but the best time for them to study the material.

Also, have them specify exactly how they will memorize (versus condensing) the material. This can be anything from your standard repeating the material over and over (least effective), to making pictures, to creating a story about it using software.

5) Make sure your child self-tests.

Research shows that self-testing is one of the most effective ways to study. Your child can write his own questions, make a quiz online, or simply ask herself questions based on the material she created in Step three.

The key is to make sure she’s not just going over the material, but actually having to search for the right answer in her brain. Not only will she store the information better, but she’ll have a better idea what material she doesn’t know yet.

6) Have your child schedule on a calendar when they will do each step above.

Ideally your child should spread everything out over a few days, since cramming is probably the worst thing a child with LD -usually facing memory issues, concentration issues, and gaps in understanding- could possibly do.

However, if you and your child find yourselves facing the Big One the night before, spending 10 minutes or so making a studying plan will help keep your child focused on what needs to be done. As a bonus, when your child moans “how much more of this do I have to do?” you can just point them to the study plan.

You can get a study plan for your child here.

7) Celebrate reaching the finish line.

Every good effort deserves a reward, and studying certainly qualifies for that. Why wait for the results of the test to give your child a pat on the back for a job well done? After all, once your child has completed the whole study plan, they’ve certainly done their best to study the material – how they do on the test after that is irrelevant.

So bring on the chocolate!

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School Tips: 5 Tips to Ending Homework Wars

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Trying to encourage, cajole, and eventually threaten your child into doing their homework can be a trying experience. It can be frustrating that something that seems as basic as homework has to be contested night after night. However, there are some practices you can put in place in your house that will help finally obtain a peace treaty with the beleaguered other party- your child.

1. Make sure you have a consistent time and place where your child is expected to do his homework. This might seem obvious, but it's amazing how many parents know they should do this-but don't. Doing so sets the expectation that homework is important enough to require a designated space.

Make sure it is a place relatively free from distraction. Keep in mind, however, that some extroverts need to be around people in order to get work done.

Other children insist they need to hear music in order to concentrate. If in doubt, you can always give your child a trial period, where you allow her to work under certain conditions as long as the quantity and quality of her homework make the grade. Be very clear at the start how long that trial period will last, and be specific what sort of grades you expect to see.

2. Keep a separate set of supplies near the homework area. This is another obvious one, but some parents for some reason resist on principle. Believe me, it will save you a lot of time if you make sure your child has that extra set of materials. Not only is it more convenient, but it also decreases the chance of things getting lost or forgotten at home due to being pulled out of their accustomed places.

3. Help your child anticipate how much time she thinks each assignment will take. Often children will resist homework because they imagine it will take hours and hours. Briefly scan the assignment with your child, asking her to guess how much time she thinks it will take. When she completes each assignment, have her write down the time it actually took to complete, next to her estimate. Usually it is much less than the child imagined.

If it took more time than your child estimated, help them to analyze  the situation in order to get a handle on why it took longer. Were there concepts that she didn't understand? Did she follow the directions  exactly? Did she get distracted? All of factors can be taken into account in the future.

4. Set a timer. If your child finds it hard to sit for long stretches, set a timer to go off after a set period of time, such a 15-20 minutes. Then give your child a break. The key to this working is not to let the child leave the homework area, because then you'll be spending the next half-hour trying to round them up again.

If your child would like to choose this option (and stress that it is a choice), then they can have the break in their homework area. It' s also preferable to make it a cardio break: encourage your child to do a  bit of intense exercise, enough to get them breathing a little bit faster. This can be a great help in getting rid of the tension that sometimes builds up when we have to do something we don't like to do.

5. Make sure your child is actually capable of doing the homework. Sometimes a child will resist homework in a particular class because the homework is really not a review; the material is new, and the teacher expects the parent to teach the child concepts barely covered in class.

If this seems like it might be the case with your child, speak with the other parents in the class in order to confirm your suspicion. If you  are correct, you can try bringing it up to the teacher in a non- confrontational manner. It could be she is being pressured to cover a lot of ground. If this is the case, however, this is due to administrative policy, and you may need to get together with other parents in order to tackle the issue.

The other possibility is that your child might have unrevealed learning differences. Don't assume that just because your child has done well in the pastmeans that he can't be having difficulty now . As your child passes through school, the skills required deepen or change. New vocabulary, an ability to synthesize new information, increased memory demands-all can be the downfall of a previously successful child.

If in sitting down with your child you see that your child really cannot   understand or finds it difficult to remember the material, then an evaluation might be the key to helping your child.

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5 Tips to Help Your Child Start School Off On the Right Foot

The first day of school is just around the corner. After an entire summer of first day of schoollazy days and endless nights, how can you help your LD child - who hates change- get back into the swing of things?

Here is a list of practical step you can take to make sure the first day of school goes off smoothly:

1. Get your child back on a normal schedule about a week before school starts. It's natural to let things slide a bit during vacation-heck, that's part of the fun. But if you want your child to be functional during the first few days back, then you'll need to make sure that they go to sleep on time, and wake up on time.

In order to do this as painlessly as possible, try pushing back your child's bedtime to about 15 minutes earlier, every evening for one week. By the second day you can also start pushing back morning wake-ups by about the same amount of time. Your child will be more rested and you will feel less stressed, (hopefully) not having to wake up exhausted kids.

2. Buy everything they need BEFORE school starts. Okay, this one seems obvious, but how many of you have pushed off getting an item from the school supply list, either because didn't have time to buy it, thought it wasn't so important, or had no clue what the teacher really wanted?

Not only is this stressful to children, but unfortunately some teachers get really annoyed at your child because they are not prepared. Do yourself and your child, do whatever it takes, but get everything your child needs, and put it away until school starts. Your child and his teacher will thank you for it.

3. Talk to your child about what the new year will be like. Every child has concerns and fears about what the new year will bring. Sometimes children might not speak directly about how they are feeling, but you might notice your child becomes more hyper, moody, or quiet as the first school day approaches.

Try and find a peaceful venue alone with your child, and try and bring up the subject.Your child may or may not admit to having worries. That's okay; you can still make this a "bonding moment" by sharing some of your best or worst first day of school experiences.

4. Talk to your child about what your expectations are for the year. You probably remember getting this talk from your parents - uggh! But there are ways to present this that are positive, hopeful, and not preachy.

Why not focus first on specific goals that you know your child wants to work on? For example, if this is the year your daughter gets to try out for the soccer team, you can show your support and interest in this new step. At the same time, you can bring up your expectation that she maintain good grades, and continue to help out at home.

5. Send something small but special with them for the first day. In this case, smaller is better. A short note on a napkin in his lunchbox, a cute drawing on a stick-um on the first page of one of her notebooks; these are easy to do, and a prime example of actions speaking louder than words.

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Should You Let Your Child Repeat a Grade?

It’s almost the end of the school year, and you’re faced with a dilemma. should you retain a child

Your child didn’t do so great this year - in fact, his grades put him towards the lower end of the class. And that was with after-school tutors and in class help.

But somehow you and he made it through the end of the year. In fact, when you look back at the year you can see that your child even made a bit of progress.

(Okay, not enough – but you can see the difference).

You’re happy the year is finally over and you’re hoping that next year will be better somehow. Maybe he’ll have a growth spurt, and finally “get it” like the neighbor’s kid did. Or maybe the teacher will be less demanding.

So things are actually looking pretty good…until you get that call from the teacher. The one asking you if would think about letting said progeny repeat the year again.

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3 Lies Schools Like to Tell About Learning to Read

There’s a war going on in a lot of schools, and it ain’t pretty. Helping your child readBy war I mean the tired argument about the best way to teach kids, especially LD kids, to read.

And while it may be nice to believe that schools have your child’s best interests at heart, experience has shown again and again that schools are institutions that cater to the group, and not necessarily to the individual child.

Maybe you’re lucky, and your child is in one of the few schools that is insistent on making sure every single one of their children learns to read, no matter what it takes. Unfortunately, however, there are too many schools out there who are unwilling to do what needs to be done in order to make sure your LD child learns to read.

If you hear staff at your child’s school spout one of the following lies, take note, and teach your child to read yourself (I’ll share with you in a later post the best way to do that). Here’s the list:

Lie #1: They’re not ready yet.

This is school-ease for: we don’t know how to teach your child to read.

If your child is over the age of 5, they need to be taught to read. Waiting longer than that means it will just take that much longer for your child to catch up with the rest of the class. While the school waits for your child to be ready, they’ll just fall further and further behind, until it becomes almost impossible for your child to catch up.

Research has shown that kids who don’t learn to read well by third grade are four times more likely to drop out of school than their peers.

You don’t have time to wait for your child to learn to read well.

Lie #2: We’re using an explicit, systematic phonics program – it’s the best way to teach your child to read.

Actually, while research agrees that teaching children phonics is an important component of teaching reading, there is no research that shows which kind of program is best, despite what publishers of popular phonics programs may claim.

Nor is there conclusive research that proves what the best sequence is to teach phonics, nor how often it needs to be taught in order to make sure kids learn now to decode efficiently.

The truth is that different kids learn differently. Of my 8 children, one taught himself to read at the age of 3, another seemed to pick it up intuitively with very little teaching, and one knew only 6 letters while the rest of his class read fluently.

How well a particular learning disabled child learns to read will depend greatly on their learning profile. If they have trouble remembering what they hear, for example, then using phonics exclusively will be devastating for them.

On the other hand, if they have trouble remembering what they see, then sight words will have you both crying at the end of the day.

Lie #3: Kids can acquire good reading skills by reading meaningful literature.

This is only partially true. While children can acquire some reading skills by reading quality literature, they can’t learn to read just by reading. While whole language methods sound great, they are not enough to teach any child to read, much less a child with learning disabilities.

People have been arguing about the best way to teach children to read for more than 50 years. For the moment it’s phonics – until some variation of whole language rears its head again, after test scores from years of phonics-dosed children shows more dismal reading scores.

Statistics show that the best method of teaching children to read involves a mix of everything: good literature, phonics, and whole language.

What difference does it make what schools say?

The fact is that no one method is best for teaching children  - especially LD children to read. We do know, however, that the best methods use multisensory, systematic instruction to teach children to read. But one child may do best with Orton-Gillingham, while another might only catch onto reading when taught the Montessori way.

Instead, some schools insist on using methods that don't work, simply because that's the way the wind was blowing that year. That's unacceptable, especially since we know how critical good reading is for school (and life) success.

Yes, maybe some people have managed without being able to read well, but that's not a best-case scenario. It may not be exciting, but the facts speak for themselves: no single intervention will work for all children.

If you want your child to learn to read – and ultimately it is your responsibility – you might just have to search and try out different methods until you find one that works for your child.


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Why This Little Known Factor Affects Whether or Not Your Child Learns

how to help your child succeed in schoolHave you been wading through endless workbooks and online sites trying to teach your child to read, write, or master math, only to find that none of that stuff works for your child?

There’s more to reading, writing, and math than meets the eye.

Actually, the reason your child isn’t succeeding in school can be summed up in two words: academic subskills.

No, that’s not some sort of code phrase that only the “in” group are privy to. Academic subskills are the skills your child needs in order to accomplish a broader academic task, like reading, writing, or math.

Reading, for example, has subskills like word decoding and comprehension. Writing is even more complex, since you have subskills like letter formation, spelling, and organizing ideas. Math is the hardest of all, since each year new skills are added that are based on the ones from the year before.

If your child is your average neurotypical kid, then it’s generally enough to focus on teaching them the academic subskills they need in order to read, write, and do math.

Typical remediation programs for LD don’t work.

Kids with LD, however, are unlikely to pick up many of these academic subskills, even with superior teaching. Most remediation for kids with LD focuses on teaching academic subskills in all kinds of creative ways. Multi-sensory teaching and repetition are good examples of this.

But those methods typically take a really long time to see any sort of progress. And for each day that your child spends learning the old material, the rest of the class is busy learning new stuff, figuratively leaving your child in the dust.

Your child needs to strengthen the brain processes that control how well she learns.

There are 3 layers that affect how your child does in school.

Academic skills

Academic subskills

Neurodevelopmental functions

The last layer, neurodevelopmental functions, is the most important.

It simply means the brain processes that your child needs in order to achieve success at school and at home. When you are trying to create a program to help your child learn to read more fluently, understand what he reads, learn his multiplication tables, or spell properly, you need to ask yourself: could it be that my child isn’t succeeding because the brain processes that control that particular skill are out of whack?

If your child can’t read fluently, of course you’ll need to work on building his sight word vocabulary, helping him be more aware of word patterns, or teaching him to use context to check meaning. But those things come after the underlying brain processes are strengthened.

Why strengthening the brain first makes a lot of sense.

Just imagine that you suffered a bad leg break, and got stuck with a cast for a couple of months. The first thing you need to learn how to do when you get out of that cast is to learn to walk, no question about it.

But if at every therapy session your OT sat down with you and spent 90% of the time discussing the best athletic shoes and adjusting the padding on your crutches, you’d go looking for another OT faster than you can say “The Running Man.”

It’s obvious that the first goal of therapy is to strengthen those leg muscles so that you can walk again without crutches before you turn ninety. Well, the brain isn’t so much different. It can be strengthened, and you’ll find that doing so will make the crucial difference between whether your child succeeds or fails

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