01 09 10

Monday, March 24, 2014

Helping Your Anxious Child

When kids show signs of anxiety, it impacts the entire family. Parents often talk about their concerns for the child and want advice about how to help. Here are a few tips I frequently give parents in distress:

1. Is it Fear or Anxiety? Help your child to distinguish the difference between fear and anxiety. Fear is defined as the feeling that occurs when there is a legitimate threat to one’s safety, such as being in the street when a car is coming. Anxiety, on the other hand, is the feeling that occurs when the body reacts to a stressful situation that is not truly dangerous, such as being in the dark. Our bodies are programmed to react to fearful situations with a burst of adrenaline so we’ll have the energy to outrun a predator. Unfortunately, we often have similar reactions to our modern day fears, like giving a presentation, where we no longer need this type of energy! Start by helping your child determine if they are reacting to a true threat.

2. Slow the Body Down: Once the situation is identified as anxiety, the next step is to slow the body back down. Help your child practice taking deep breaths from the abdomen, in through the nose and out through the mouth. If your child does this quickly, aim for a count of 3 in and 5 out as you count aloud to cue the breathing. 

3. Talk through the problem: Try to have your child identify the specific worry. Once it is identified, it is much easier to talk through and determine how to proceed. For example, one child I worked with in my practice worried that he would trip and fall in school. After the worry was shared, I asked, “What is the worst thing that could happen?” The boy explained that if he fell, he might hurt himself and others might laugh at him. He then thought about if this were to happen and realized that although that might hurt or feel embarrassing, he could tolerate these scenarios. I then ask children, “What’s the best thing that could happen?” Kids with anxiety almost never think of this! In this case, the boy smiled and said that he could go through his day without tripping. I always follow this line of questioning with, “What’s the most likely thing that will happen?” This boy thought about the question, then admitted that he rarely falls and it was not a likely possibility. It’s important to help kids not only explore the fear, but also measure the likelihood of it occurring. An anxious mind will fixate on the negative and see no other possibilities, even when the situation is not likely to cause the anticipated problems.

These are just a few of many ways that can help your child overcome anxiety. If the worry persists or keeps the child from participating in activities, consider asking for outside help.

Emily Herber is a child and family therapist at the Center for Psychological Services.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Students with learning disabilities may be eligible for specific private scholarships to help finance their college educations.  Below are samples and descriptions of some of the more popular scholarship opportunities for LD students:
Marion Huber Learning Through Listening Award:
Sponsored by Learning Ally is the Marion Huber Learning Through Listening Award.  High school students with diagnosed learning disabilities who are members of Learning Ally may be awarded gift money ranging from $2,000 to $6,000 for demonstrating excellence in their academics, leadership and service. (https://www.learningally.org/about-learning-ally/awards/)
RiSE Scholarship Foundation, Inc.:
Students who have shown perseverance in dealing with their learning disabilities may be eligible for scholarships awarded through RiSE Scholarship Foundation, Inc.  Candidates must have a high school GPA of at least 2.5 to apply. (http://risescholarshipfoundation.org/)
Shire ADHD Scholarship Program:
If a student's diagnosis is ADHD, the Shire ADHD Scholarship Program should be considered.  In addition to the $2,000 scholarship awarded, recipients receive a year of ADHD coaching provided by Edge Foundation.  (http://www.shireadhdscholarship.com/)
P. Buckley Moss Endowed Scholarship:
Aspiring artists with an LD diagnosis may be eligible for the P. Buckley Moss Endowed Scholarship.   Candidates should be able to demonstrate their artistic talents and plan to pursue a career in art. (http://www.mosssociety.org/page.php?id=69)         
Anne Ford and Allegra Ford Thomas Scholarships:
Finally, a $10,000 award, provided by the Anne Ford and Allegra Ford Thomas Scholarships is available for LD students who serve as role models and are committed to improving opportunities for all those with LD diagnoses. (http://www.ncld.org/about-us/learning-disability-scholarships-awards/anne-ford-allegra-ford-scholarships)

These are just a few of the more popular scholarships for students with learning disabilities.  Students are encouraged to also explore scholarship clearinghouses such as www.fastweb.com for additional scholarships.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Listening Differently to Help More

This week I spoke with a mom of three kids who all have learning disabilities. What a busy household! To top it all off, she has learning issues herself.  Listening to “everyone’s everything” can feel a bit overwhelming to her at times. No doubt it feels that way to you sometimes too. 

Listening differently to learn more

Learning issues can make an average challenge into a super challenge in the blink of an eye. How we listen to a challenge is the first step in handling the challenge in a positive way. Listening creatively and with clarity set us up to help in the best way possible.

Think about the last time you listened to a challenge your child, your spouse or a friend shared with you. What is the first thing that happened as you were listening? The most common answer is, “ I began to think of how I could help the person solve their problem”. This is a noble answer. However, what it really does is take your “ears” and mind away from the job of listening. This noble answer maybe not the best answer. 

Even a good listener can amp up the quality of listening by learning how to use Level 1, 2 & 3 listening. Use the skills below to hear more of what is happening whenever you find yourself listening. Each of the 3 Levels of Listening will provide different information. Try all three for a few minutes as a part of each conversation you engage. What different information do you learn as a result listening in different ways?

Listening at Level 1, 2 and 3

Level 1 listening puts attention squarely on us listening to our own thoughts judgments, feelings and conclusions about the conversation at hand. Is that what your conversation partner really wanted? Maybe not! Maybe they wanted help thinking through THEIR questions! What were their questions and their interpretation of what is happening? You don't really know if you are lost in your own interpretation. There is much to learn with greeting a story with questions instead of “telling” what you think. Level 1 listening only shares your thoughts about what you think is happening.

Level 2 listening, in contrast, has the attention of the listener with a sharp focus on the other person. Every word, emotion and shifting energy of the speaker has an impact on the listener. A great example of Level 2 listening is two lovers talking on a park bench. They appear as though the rest of the world has melted away. There is a lot of learning by the listener happening in this scenario.

Level 3 listening has the listener aware of everything that is happening in the space where the conversation is being held: the conversation at hand, sounds and actions around the conversation and how the listener and speaker are thinking and feeling. In other words, Level 3 incorporates parts of all three levels. There is a softer focus than the intensity of Level 2 and a partial attention to self as in the Level 1 conversation. Level 3 focus allows for non-verbal cues to be center stage and intuition to play a vital role. 

Improve your communication capacity by becoming familiar and actively engaging in level 1, 2 & 3 listening.  It will not take long to see the impact on how children, spouse and friends make choices, move themselves toward what they want and what they value all because of being heard differently. Listening deeply and creatively will better prepare you to truly make a difference. 

Parents, do you have questions raising your child with learning issues? We can help you raise confident, capable kids despite learning issues. Reach out for answers to your most perplexing questions today!

Becky Scott 

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Real Meaning of Dyslexia

There is a brave man in the British county of Durham in the north of England. His name is Professor Elliot and he has suggested the term dyslexia is not as useful as some may think:
This kind of statement always produces a howl of protest when someone says this, from dyslexics and dyslexia specialists!
Perhaps he is being unnecessarily inflationary, but I think there is actually an important question lying in what he is saying: “what does the word dyslexia really mean?”
What is undeniable is that the answer varies. It all depends on who you are talking to, which is bad news for any word! The whole point of our vocabulary is that a word provides a shortcut for lengthy definitions.
Personally, I believe dyslexia is a very useful term if it refers to any situation where someone is reading and writing less well than expected for their intelligence and education. It then becomes a helpful umbrella term that should prompt exploration of the underlying literacy patterns that can cause this situation.
Some people now refer to it as a “thing”, like a medical condition, that can be diagnosed. I have been teaching children to read for 12 years and have never come across this “thing” dyslexia. We just see bright children with lots of potential who, for a variety of neurological reasons, are not reading and spelling well.
It is these root neurological reason, the 8 Causes of Reading Difficulty, that interest us. Once we know what the problem is, fixing it becomes much easier. You will not find any items called "dyslexia" listed there, but the patterns we describe for each cause will resonate with some of the “signs of dyslexia” that you will find on long lists elsewhere on the Internet.
The danger of thinking of dyslexia as a medical condition is that people become defeatist and lose hope of reading and writing normally. That is a tragedy every time. In our experience, almost everyone can learn to read and write with the right help.
HagerPhoto_20120804_001_Final web (1)David Morgan is CEO of Oxford Learning Solutions and founder of the Easyread System, an innovative online program for struggling readers and spellers. He has devoted his life to resolving literacy difficulties for English speakers around the world. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Solving Homework Struggles

Students with learning disabilities do not typically come by the development of study skills naturally. Good instruction and guidance in understanding how they learn and tools that enable them to digest, internally organize, and then recall information on demand can be critical to their success.  Of course good study hygiene includes factors such as a non-distracting place to study, energy and focus (as opposed to being sleepy or hungry), and access to all pertinent materials. 
Beyond that here are list of strategies that benefit a wide range of students. Of course, any given individual needs to pick and choose the approach that works for them.  Pick away!

Strategies that Enhance Retention of Material:
*  Use elaborative interrogation by generating a reasonable explanation for why a fact or concept is true.
*  Use self-explanation: One way to engage this tool is to explain how new information is related to already known information.  Another is to explain the steps taken during a problem solving task. Doing so aloud enhances the use of this strategies for many students, particularly those whose verbal skills are stronger than their visual skills.
* Highlight or underline:  The key is to mark only those portions of the material that are essential to learning, such as critical words, phrases, or facts.
*  Use the FACT strategy: Focus attention, Ask questions, Connect ideas, Try to picture important ideas. 
*  Paraphrase: put what you hear and read in your own words.
*  Visualize: create a picture in your head of what you hear and read.
*  Create acronyms. 
*  Draw illustrations or use Clip Art to make mnemonics. 
*  Review at the end of each page.
*  Take notes as you reads or listens to teacher instruction.
*  Use the Keyword method: pair a new word with a word that sounds like it and is easily pictured (e.g., barrister/bear); visualize the two interacting (e.g., a bear arguing her case in court).
*  Imagery: form mental images of materials while reading or listening.
*  Summarize: write or verbal explain to another person a summary of the material you are learning.
*  Break memorization into short time periods.  Use short, spaced practice over several days.
*  Recite information aloud from note cards or notes. 
*  Test yourself by shutting your eyes and asking and answering questions.
*  Have another person test you.

Ideas to Enhance Retention of Reading Material:
·      Read material in textbooks twice, the first time to get the idea and the second to concentrate on specific facts.  Rereading a third time after time away from the text will further reinforce knowledge.
·        If you own your books, highlight material and write notes in the margin as you read.            Pictures are also great. 
·         Review the chapter summaries, end-of-chapter questions, and headings in bold throughout the chapter before reading the text.  This will familiarize you with the themes of the chapter and make it easier to read and remember.  If there is a quiz at the end of the chapter, take it!
·         Have conversations with your mom, dad, or tutor about the material before and after you read something.  This will help you understand it better, particularly those abstract parts that aren’t so obvious.

One Last Tip:  
Your brain keeps processing information while you sleep. This is why we say “sleep on it.”  So, rehearse or review important information such as material for tomorrow’s test or quiz as the last thing you do just before going to sleep at night.  You’ll remember more when you wake up!

Be Well,