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Sunday, August 31, 2014

How Can I Afford Academic Support Outside of School

Many families hope that medical insurance coverage will reimburse them for outside academic support for children with learning disabilities.  Study skills, remedial help and homework support is often necessary for this population of learners, and it can come at a steep cost.  Although these services should be provided by school districts, you will find most have limited resources and one to one assistance is virtually impossible.  Insurance companies accommodate psychological services, but because learning specialists, educational therapists, and tutors are usually trained in education, they don’t have the needed licensing credentials and codes for insurance companies to pay the bill. 

How Can I Afford the Costs of Outside Help?
Before disregarding this option, there is good news.  According to IRS publication 502, under the heading Special Education, with a doctor’s note, parents can use medical expense accounts to pay these bills.  In addition, you can “write off” these costs if the teacher is trained to work with learning disabilities.  In fact, you can even be granted compensation for your child to attend a school where the reason is overcoming a learning disability.  Finally, check with your employer to see if they offer other options.  Some large companies, such as IBM, offer financial compensation when an employee's family member need these types of services.   

How Do I Find the Right Service Provider?
First, pursue a comprehensive neuropsychological assessment that provides a diagnosis and a comprehensive report that presents the cognitive weaknesses associated with the learning disability.  Second, find a local, highly-trained tutor, learning specialist or educational therapist that can offer the best services.   Be sure to interview and meet potential providers, so that you can find the best fit for your child.  

Early intervention and support is key for students with learning disabilities.  In fact, young learners receive the right help and support, some deficit areas can be remediated.  In addition, children can also develop compensatory learning strategies as well as self advocacy skills that will help them to realize their highest potential.

Cheers, Erica

Dr.  Erica Warren, Learning Specialist and Educational Therapist

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Structuring Children for Success

In my last blog post, I talked about Filial Therapy and how it benefits families. In my next few posts, we’ll take a closer look at the components used in this approach and how parents can apply the skills even without formally participating in therapy.

The first component we’ll talk about is structuring. Structuring involves planning to set a person up for success before even beginning the activity or task. It is important because it can solve problems before they occur - consider this the prevention side of parenting. Here are things to consider when structuring:

1. In order to do this well, you’ll need to consider the age and developmental appropriateness of what you want to accomplish as it relates to your child. No matter how brilliant your structuring plans, the task will go poorly if you’re asking for something your child isn’t ready to do. For example, most 3 year olds are unable to hear multi-step directions and follow them on the first try, and if you ask a child this young to get dressed, brush their teeth, and wash their face, the expectation is unrealistic and you both will end up frustrated. In summary, step one: know what is appropriate for your child.

2. Once you’ve determined that your expectation is appropriate, think about a specific situation that you’d like to structure. For example, imagine a situation in which a child protests going to the dentist. Ask yourself what is it about that situation that is upsetting? The child might feel scared, angry, or maybe just bored in the waiting room. Step two: tease apart what is happening that causes the problem to best determine how structuring will help.

3. Now that you know the situation you’d like to structure and you have a guess about why it’s not going well, plan ahead for success. For instance, thinking about the dentist, let’s imagine that your child is scared of the dentist because he has not been there before. Structuring might involve going online to look at pictures of the office, explaining in kid-friendly language what will happen, and being realistic (but not alarming) with the language. For example, “We will go into a room and we’ll tell a receptionist our names, then wait in that room until our names are called. Next, we’ll meet the person who cleans your teeth. That person will probably brush and floss your teeth, which can sometimes feel funny or nice because they’ll be clean. The dentist might want to take pictures of your teeth as well, but we won’t know until we get there. At the end, you’ll get a bag of goodies, like a new toothbrush and maybe a sticker.” Not, “They brush your teeth and sometimes have a drill, which really hurts, so make sure you brush every day so you won’t have to do that.” Step three: prepare your child with appropriate language.

4. Structuring might also involve the use of specific items. Let’s imagine that the child is not afraid of the dentist, but instead acts wild in the waiting room. Structuring for this child might instead involve packing a favorite book, a new game to play, or a tablet with a cartoon and headphones to encourage quiet behavior. Step four: pack for success!

Have you recently used the structuring skill? Leave a comment to share how you’ve applied this to your life. 

Emily Herber McLean, LPC is a child and family therapist at The Center for Psychological Services. To learn more about her practice, visit www.centerpsych.com.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

It Takes a Village of Skills to Become a Reader!

Reading!  It sounds easy but it is anything but to a great many students.  In order to understand why your child struggles to read well or with facility, it is essential to have working knowledge of the primary elements that form the all-important foundation for reading.  A gap in any of these skills will produce problems in reading, evident not only in slow skill development but also the frustration, upset, and dislike of reading with which you, as the parent of a struggling reader, is probably all too familiar. 

Here is a sampling of the skills and abilities your child must use when she reads:
  1. Word Recognition:  This consists of two factors.  The first is sight vocabulary—these are the words a child recognizes on sight with automaticity and without effort. The other is decoding or the ability to use phonetic analysis skills (which we have talked about in earlier blogs) to sound out unfamiliar words.
  2. Fluency: Oral fluency includes the ability to use expression, adhere to punctuation, and read words with ease.
  3. Word Knowledge: the ability to recognize various meanings of words. Parents typically refer to this as vocabulary.
  4. Background (or factual) knowledge: so much of what we read is understood in the context of what we know about the world.  When a child is familiar with the subject of a book his understanding of it is far richer than it is when material is utterly novel.  For example, imagine your fourth grader reading about the legend of King Arthur without any understanding of a knight and his coat of armor, medieval times and the structure of a town and city being built around a fortified castle, all money having once been in coin form, adoption or foster parenting, wizardry or magic. Without such knowledge and vocabulary he would be lost, confused by the words on the page rather than able to picture them in his imagination.  For an adult, this would be akin to the experience a lay person would have in reading a medical journal, perhaps in Russian! 
  5. Language Structure: your child must not only know the meaning of the individual words, but must also be able to integrate them into the sentences she reads, understand the sentence structure, and make sense of the transitions from one sentence to the other.
  6. Language Processing, Critical Thinking, and Memory: He must grasp the core idea, remember facts and details, apply background knowledge to new information, make associations, draw conclusions, anticipate outcomes, form concepts, and think critically.
  7. Working Memory: the ability to hold information in one's mind for just a few seconds until it can be used; after its use, it is discarded or forgotten.
  8. Attention: it is essential to both reading fluency and comprehension that your child be able to sustain attention to material as he reads.
As you can see, Comprehension, the ultimate goal of reading, depends on proficiency with a variety of skills.  So in supporting your child’s reading development books are, of course, important. But so is conversation, exposure to broad vocabulary and background knowledge, and experiences of the world at large.
Now go read with your kid!

Be well,   Jennifer
Jennifer Jackson Holden, Psy.D. is managing director of the Paoli, Pennsylvania office of the Center for Psychological Services. www.centerpsych.com

Friday, August 1, 2014

Visualization Improves Academics: A Free Game

Did you know that visualization can improve learning capacity, enhance memory and ignite creativity?  In fact, research now shows that mental imagery can improve academics in the areas of reading, writing, math, history and science.

What is Visualization?

Visualization is the ability to create mental images within ones head.  This picture allows an individual to “see” ideas, past experiences, or even future projections.  Every individual lies on a continuum from having no visualization capacity, or a “blind minds eye,” to having an excellent capacity to imagine and experience vivid pictures and even conjure movie-like imagery in ones mind’s eye.  

Free Visualization Game:
Picture This and Draw.  Is a game is I created that develops the capacity to visualize, and also works on expressive language, verbal reasoning, fine motor dexterity, attention to details, spatial skills, and ones ability to follow directions.  This is a game I often  playing with my own students.  Click here to download a free copy of this game.

To learn more about the history of visualization and to acquire assessment materials and other engaging activities and games that teaches this needed skill, come learn about my publication MindfulVisualization for Education as well as my two Teaching Visualization PowerPoints.

Cheers, Erica

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com, & www.learningtolearn.biz