All posts by ritaeichenstein

Is it a Learning Disorder or Disordered Learning? 


It’s that time of year when kids are starting to buckle down to some consistent learning and the homework load is increasing. It’s also about time for those first teacher conferences. Are you starting to have some concerns about your child’s progress? Do you wonder if your child might have a learning disorder? 

Struggling in school doesn’t always necessarily mean there’s a learning disorder. Here, are a few ways to tell the difference: 

It’s probably not an LD if your child . . .

Used to do fine in school. Divorce, death in the family or a pet, family problems, dealing with bullies, or getting used to a new school can all cause setbacks or cause a good student to suddenly fall behind.

Benefits from short-term help. Extra attention from the teacher or weekly meetings with a tutor can get many kids over the hump.

Is able to follow through on complex instructions. Even if kids forget a step now and then, they mostly know what to do when parents or teachers tell or show them.

It could be a learning disorder if your child . . .

Has had trouble with classwork from day one. A kid with an LD struggles with the acquisition of basic academic skills, from reading decoding to spelling to figuring out math problems.

Can’t keep up with tutoring. Some  kids need frequent sessions with specially trained educational therapists and effective methods to stay on track.

Can’t get through a set of instructions. Kids who process information differently may find it difficult to remember all the steps they need to follow directions.

When Your Child Needs Help

All public schools must evaluate kids for free. But you often have to to ask for testing. Among issues that may propel you into getting private independent testing include long delays for public school testing and cursory or superficial testing which end up denying your child services. 

These tips can get you started on the right path:

Gather information, such as your child’s work samples. 

Make copies of your child’s report cards and tests, along with teacher comments and your observations.

Make a written request to school for testing or get a referral from your pediatrician for a private assessment 

Kids diagnosed with an LD are entitled to an individualized education plan (IEP) that spells out special services (say, speech therapy) provided by the school free of charge.

If your child doesn’t get an IEP, ask for a 504 plan, which gives kids with learning issues special accommodations, like extra time to finish tests.
If your child goes to a private school, it’s good to get accommodations formalized for future testing accommodations. 

Don’t give up on your quest to figure out how your little puzzle works best! Knowledge will help empower both you and your child to get the most out of his or her education! 

“Not What I Expected”Wins Again!

In an unexpected turn of events, I randomly checked my Twitter account last week. Having a very busy clinical psychology practice doesn’t allow me much time to keep up with social media. But somehow on an unexplained whim,  I checked my  Twitter feed and discovered this: 

Not What I Expected has won the silver medal in the “Living Now Book Awards” a division of Independent Publishers! To be more correct, it was tied for silver with Dr Laura Markham for her book “Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings” for which I have no problem giving a big shout out to her wonderful book as well! 

Parents now have more and more resources to inspire them to be the best parents they can be! 

As I’ve said before, if it takes a village to raise a child, it takes an army to raise an atypical child. If you’re reading this, I am so honored to be part of your “army”. 

Best wishes until next time, Dr Rita 

Have You Found Your Mind Yet? 

Hi Parents! 

Is that you in the picture? No, I didn’t think so. Summer with atypical kids is not exactly  bucolic, in fact summer with atypical kids can be quite challenging!

So, It’s finally back to school time! Is this going to be your time to reclaim your… Self? And find your mind that you said you were losing back around mid-summer? 
As parents, it’s a natural instinct to put your personal needs on the back burner during the child rearing years. Certainly with atypical children, their needs become urgently front and center while parents needs get seriously back-burnered. It can lead to some stressed out parents, for sure! What parent hasn’t looked in the mirror at least once and said “I feel like I’m losing my mind!” 
Now that summer is in the rear view mirror, parents have a few extra hours daily to reclaim their own lives. Or do they? 
Not necessarily! It takes a conscious effort to S.T.O.P. 

  • Stop. Really stop. 
  • Take a breath. A deep one. Go for it. 
  • Observe. What is going on around you? Inside of you? 
  • Proceed mindfully

And in doing so, please take mindful stock of what gets neglected inside yourself as a harried parent. Is it that physical exam you’ve been putting off? How about your long neglected tennis game? Massage? Or…… What about your resolution to work on de-stressing? 

My recommendation is to begin with examining your current stress level and consciously taking steps to work on it. For some, it can be an introduction to yoga. Or mindful meditation. 
Here’s why, from one of my favorite yoga sites, which highlights the research based benefits of having a yoga practice. 

(And tip: if you’re not the “bendy” type, or have physical limitations, don’t leap into doing any yoga poses without medical guidance, you might be happier with the sitting practice of meditation. More to come about the benefits of meditation as a de-stress practice. 

https://yogainternational.com/article/view/how-yoga-trains-us-to-deal-with-stress?utm_campaign=Weekly+Newsletter&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=33707414&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-9vVdKI_hplJXsDojAl3ENJ6ZfjLMf6_VbwZbMaNA1RevYTTH8kYsZ1X5jufcg2E0Kw3_HTLRxCNNOk4MSgfRppjwNIwQ&_hsmi=33707414

Not What I Expected: A Review

ADDitude magazine is a terrific magazine for parents, children and adults with ADHD.  They wrote a review of my book: Not What I Expected: Help and Hope for Parents of Atypical Children (Perigee, 2015). 


Not What I Expected: A Book Review

Not What I Expected is available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble

Vacationing With Children on the Autism Spectrum

It is my pleasure to have Sean Morris, a dad and writer, to guest blog this week.  

Vacationing With Children On The Autism Spectrum

Summer break is the time for travel and taking vacations with your loved ones, but preparing to leave home with children can be overwhelming at times, and if you have a child on the autism spectrum, you may be facing a different set of challenges than with your other children. From packing the right items to making sure your accommodations are safe, there’s a lot to think about.

 

It can be hard to know where to start, but the best way is to sit down and make a list, beginning with your child’s specific needs. Will she need a quiet place to wind down in an otherwise crowded spot like an amusement park? Will there be issues with using public bathrooms? Write down everything you can think of and ask your partner for help so you don’t miss a thing, then start listing what you’ll need to pack and who you’ll need to contact.

 

If you’ll be staying in a hotel or with family members, call ahead and make sure your family can sleep on the ground floor or in a room without a balcony (if your child wanders). If there will be a pool or hot tub present, make sure the facility is equipped with a locked door or gate that your child can’t access.

 

Once you know where you’ll be staying, check online for maps and detailed photographs so you–and your child–will know what to expect. Talk to them about the trip and show them photos well before you leave so they can get acquainted with where they’ll be sleeping. It’s also helpful when planning family outings, so you’ll know what restaurants and activities are nearby.

 

If possible, bring your child’s pillows and blankets from home to re-create their own bed. Adequate rest is important for children of all ages, so whatever you can do to make the trip more comfortable for your loved one is worth it, even if it means packing yet another bag. Ask hotel staff if the rooms will have door locks that are out of your child’s reach; it’s a good idea to pack a bell or other noisy item that you can hang on the door handle to alert you if your child decides to check out the hotel on their own.

 

If your family will be flying, it’s a good idea to have an ID made for your child to keep in his or her backpack, and take a picture of them in their traveling clothes before you leave; that way, if you get separated in the crowded airport, you’ll have a recent photo that shows exactly what they look like. Contact your child’s doctor about obtaining a letter from them that states exactly what your child’s condition is in case you need to show airport security.

 

Do some research on local restaurants and eateries that will be on your driving route and make sure you’ll be able to find something that caters to your child’s needs, especially if they require a special diet–such as gluten-free–or if they have allergies.

 

If you’ll be staying with friends or family, be sure to contact them well before your trip and let them know what your child will need during the stay. It’s important to be clear about your needs before you arrive so that the homeowners can make their house as safe as possible, including making sure all doors and windows are lockable and that there will be no issues with any pets.

 

Family trips can be a wonderful time to bond and have fun, and with a little bit of planning and preparation, you can ensure that your child is safe, healthy, and happy during your vacation.

 

Sean Morris is a former social worker turned stay-at-home dad. He knows what it’s like to juggle family and career. He did it for years until deciding to become a stay-at-home dad after the birth of his son. Though he loved his career in social work, he has found this additional time with his kids to be the most rewarding experience of his life. He began writing for LearnFit.org to share his experiences and to help guide anyone struggling to find the best path for their life, career, and/or family.