Is My Child Dyslexic?

Is My Child Dyslexic?

written by Dr. Liz Nissim-Matheis, posted on Psychology Today

It’s March, and you’ve noticed a few things about your child’s reading and writing skills. At your last parent-teacher conference, your child’s teacher recognizes that your child is struggling with reading and writing. What can be further confusing is that your child may have made progress but is still not reading or writing at grade level. Slowly, over the school year, you’ve noticed that your child avoids reading or huffs and puffs when it’s time to sit down and write a response, a short answer, or an essay.

So now what?

We can’t ignore the elephant in the room. The COVID-19 pandemic created a gap in instruction for 1.5 years. Our children did not receive the face-to-face instruction that they needed. Many of the academic struggles that our children were experiencing went unnoticed because how can a teacher recognize reading and writing struggles when assignments are being handed in electronically. There isn’t an observation of the entire child who may have been melting down behind the screen. A great deal of teacher observations and academic instruction were lost during that time.

As our children progressed to the next grade and then the next, parents and teachers began to notice skills that were not at grade level in reading or writing. Our children began to show more behavioral signs, and the natural explanation was that our child was “behavioral” without truly understanding or investigating the underlying roots of those behaviors.

Section 504 Study

Section 504 Study Opportunity

Vanderbilt University is conducting a study exploring student and families’ experiences with Section 504 in K-12 schools. They hope that the results of this study will help to inform the next version of Section 504 and result in implications for practice.

Students age 14+ and families who are interested in participating in this study, please contact:

Meghan Burke  – or 615-585-1420


Which Accommodations Are Available for My Child With ADHD?

Which Accommodations Are Available for My Child With ADHD?

written by Dr. Liz Matheis, posted on Psychology Today

Our children, teens, and young adults with ADHD often struggle to get through daily routines at home and in school even though these routines have been in place since the beginning of the school year. As parents, setting up the expectation, in our heads, that our kids are going to be able to get things done at school without accommodation can mean we are setting them (and us) up for failure and frustration.

Some may argue that we are not preparing our children for “the real world” when we accommodate our kids. However, I respectfully disagree. Our children with ADHD often need a little more time and space to gain the skills they will need for the next phase of their development. For example, we can teach our children in elementary school the skills they need as they prepare for middle school and so on. These skills we call executive functioning skills are prioritizing tasks and assignments, managing time, organizing materials and belongings, and the ability to self-regulate. All of these skills ultimately help our children, teens, and young adults with ADHD to get school and life tasks done and develop a sense of self-efficacy or a solid sense of self.

ADHD and School

ADHD and School

Jeanne Segal, Ph.D.Melinda Smith, M.A., posted on Help Guide

School can be a challenge for students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder—but here’s how you can help your child or teen succeed in the classroom.

Setting up your child for school success

The classroom environment can pose challenges for a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD). The very tasks these students find the most difficult—sitting still, listening quietly, concentrating—are the ones they are required to do all day long. Perhaps most frustrating of all is that most of these children want to be able to learn and behave like their unaffected peers. Neurological deficits, not unwillingness, keep kids with attention deficit disorder from learning in traditional ways.

As a parent, you can help your child cope with these deficits and overcome the challenges school creates. You can work with your child to implement practical strategies for learning both inside and out of the classroom and communicate with teachers about how your child learns best. With consistent support, the following strategies can help your child enjoy learning, meet educational challenges—and experience success at school and beyond.

Tips for working with teachers

Remember that your child’s teacher has a full plate: in addition to managing a group of children with distinct personalities and learning styles, they can also expect to have at least one student with ADHD. Teachers may try their best to help your child with attention deficit disorder learn effectively, but parental involvement can dramatically improve your child’s education. You have the power to optimize your child’s chances for success by supporting the steps taken in the classroom. If you can work with and support your child’s teacher, you can directly affect the experience of your child with ADHD at school.

There are a number of ways you can work with teachers to keep your child on track at school. Together you can help your child learn to find their feet in the classroom and work effectively through the challenges of the school day. As a parent, you are your child’s advocate. For your child to succeed in the classroom, it is vital that you communicate their needs to the adults at school. It is equally important for you to listen to what the teachers and other school officials have to say.

You can ensure that communication with your child’s school is constructive and productive. Try to keep in mind that your mutual purpose is finding out how to best help your child succeed in school. Whether you talk over the phone, email, or meet in person, make an effort to be calm, specific, and above all positive—a good attitude can go a long way when communicating with the school.

To Test or Not to Test Privately?

To Test or Not To Test Privately?

written by Dr. Liz Matheis, published on Psychology Today

You know your child is struggling academically, whether he’s not reading at the same level as the other kids in his grade or she’s struggling to write her thoughts on paper.

You’ve spoken to your child’s teacher, who is on board with you and confirms what you see and know. With that said, what’s the next step?

The natural next step is to reach out to the child study team (CST) of your school. From my experience during the last three years, there is often redirection back to the general education arena for an intervention and referral services plan (IRSP), which includes the accommodations to be implemented for 4-6 weeks.

Teachers are asked to offer more differentiated instruction and try more strategies before the child can be referred for a child study team evaluation.

Where does this leave our struggling child? Waiting. Waiting for intervention while more time in the school year passes by. During that time, the gap widens, and remediation opportunities are lost.

I speak from both personal and professional experience. This means that both you and your child are frustrated and flailing.

What’s another option? The private psycho-educational evaluation.

The Best Way to Explain Learning Disabilities to Your Child

The Best Way to Explain Learning Disabilities to Your Child

written by Rick Lavoie, M.A., M.Ed., posted on ADDitude Magazine

A parent once called my special education school to request an admissions visit for her and her son, who was struggling mightily in school. She asked a strange question in her initial phone call: “Does the school have any signs or posters displayed that identify the program as a school for kids with learning disabilities?”

I asked her why she wished to know this. She replied, “My son doesn’t know that he has a learning disability, and we don’t want him to know.” He knows, Mom. Believe me, he knows.

I have long been puzzled by a parent’s reluctance to discuss a child’s learning disability diagnosis with him. The knowledge that he has an identifiable, common, measurable, and treatable condition often comes as great comfort to the youngster. Without this information, the child is likely to believe the taunts of his classmates and feel that he indeed is a dummy. The truth will set him free!

If a child does not have a basic understanding of the nature of his learning challenges, it is unlikely that he will be able to sustain his motivation in the classroom. Because he is puzzled about the difficulty that he is experiencing at school, he is unlikely to be able to commit to his studies.

"The various psycho-educational testing Dr. Liz conducted on our son gave us critical clues about where his learning strengths and weaknesses lie so that his needs could be better addressed at home and school. Moreover, because of their warm, kindhearted personalities, both Dr. Liz and her associate, Stephanie, formed an immediate bond with my son. He eagerly looks forward to his weekly therapy sessions. We are so lucky Dr. Liz came into our family's lives when she did! For stressed-out families trying to help their children as best they can, she is a calming voice of reason!"
- Julie C.
"Dr. Matheis has a remarkable ability to understand the unique needs of her patients and address them constructively. She builds strong, meaningful relationships with patients and their families, encouraging trust and collaboration. When working with my son who struggles with autism-related anxiety, she created an environment in which he was able to calm down and open up to her in ways I had not seen before. She was able to reach him and helped him work through his crisis/problem. Most importantly, she empowered him to move forward."
- N.L.
"Dr. Matheis is amazing. She has tremendous resources and loads of energy. She is not willing to accept anything less than the most effective results for her clients. She made me feel as if my son was her top priority throughout the entire process. I would, without reservation, give her my highest recommendations.  Thank you, Dr. Matheis!"
- Anonymous
"Dr. Matheis has an amazing ability to read kids and connect with them. She has been an invaluable resource for our family over the past several years and has helped us with everything from educational consulting, to uncovering diagnoses as well as family therapy. Working with Dr. Matheis never feels clinical and most importantly, our children love and trust her. We can not thank you enough Dr. Liz!"
- Anonymous
"My teenage son had been seeing Dr. Matheis through his senior year of high school, as he was only diagnosed with ADHD at 16 years old.  Dr. Matheis came highly recommended from our pediatrician and she has done wonders for our son as well as our family, navigating new ways for him to deal with his diagnosis without the use of medication.  She taught him ways to organize himself and even when something did not work for him, she patiently continued teaching him new ways to keep himself on track.  She has also helped us as parents to understand how his mind works so that we did not continue to blame his lack of focus on him, rather on his unique way of thinking.  Thank you Dr. Matheis!!!!"
- LG
"Dr. Liz is the best! Our family was directed to her by our Pediatrician to assist with figuring out severe mood changes, severe anxiety, strange new fears and food aversion that had come onto one of our children literally overnight. After just a couple of visits, she suggested that the issues may actually be rooted in a physical issue and suggested we immediately take our child to be swabbed for strep, because Dr. Liz suspected PANDAS (a pediatric autoimmune disorder brought on by strep). The same Pediatrician that suggested Dr. Liz would not do the swab (they do not believe in PANDAS and we no longer go there) but I took my child to my doctor who did the swab and it was positive for strep. When our child went on antibiotics, within 24 hours all symptoms went away and our child was back :-) Dr. Liz then recommended a PANDAS specialist who helped us and our child is in complete remission and is happy and healthy. We are incredibly grateful to Dr. Liz for her knowledge of all things, even the most remote and unusual and for helping us so much! Thank you!"
- Anonymous
"The various psycho-educational testing Dr. Liz conducted on our son gave us critical clues about where his learning strengths and weaknesses lie so that his needs could be better addressed at home and school. Moreover, because of their warm, kindhearted personalities, both Dr. Liz and her associate, Stephanie, formed an immediate bond with my son. He eagerly looks forward to his weekly therapy sessions. We are so lucky Dr. Liz came into our family's lives when she did! For stressed-out families trying to help their children as best they can, she is a calming voice of reason!"
- Anonymous
"Thank you, Dr. Liz. Although we have told you countless times, it will never feel enough. You have listened when J could barely speak and continued to listen when he was sad, angry and confused. You've challenged him and directed us in our roles as parents. You've helped J face his fears while the list evolved and changed, and yet you've stayed committed to 'the course.' We pray that your children realize that time away from them is spent helping children learn and that vulnerability is a sign of strength and bravery."
- June I
"My son was admitted to an Ivy League school when only 2 years ago, you assessed him and saw his struggles, his Dyslexia. We are grateful that he no longer has to carry that deep feeling of inadequacy or shame that must have kept him so self conscious and from reaching his potential. He has the PERFECT program for him. He has A's in high math and economics. He became a Merit Scholar, a Boys State legislature, the HEAD captain of the football team and help a job ALL while studying and managing his classes and disability. I am PROUD of you, a young doctor, who knows and sees the vulnerability of children and helps them recognize "it's NO big deal" God bless."
- Anonymous

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