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Last Updated: 10/31/2017
 

 Article of Interest - Learning Disability (LD)

Dr. Feldman, when teenagers become resistant and won’t listen to their parents, where can they turn for help?

SchwabLearning.org
For more articles on disabilities and special ed visit www.bridges4kids.org


Jan Baumel of Schwab Learning: You know, when we get older, self-esteem and motivation become major issues for these kids who have delayed reading skills. When teenagers become resistant to accommodations and specialized assistance — you know, “I don’t want to go to Special Ed. I don’t want to ask for that accommodation.” Is there any way to turn them around and get them to be willing to give reading a second chance? And if so, I mean, the problem becomes very often they don’t want to listen to Mom and Dad. So who can they turn to for help?

Answered By: Kevin Feldman, Ph.D.

This is question 5 of an 8-part series on helping older struggling readers. The following is a transcript of a conversation which took place on July 17, 2002.

Kevin: Oftentimes Mom and Dad—it’s like our IQs drop by about 100 points between about sixth grade and tenth grade, I think.

Jan: The parents’ IQs, right?

Kevin: Oh yeah, right, not the kids.

Jan: Exactly.

Kevin: Yeah, there are some things we can do. I think one thing is to—again just echoing my earlier comment about partnering with folks at the school or finding local tutoring or clinics or other kinds of support where it’s not the parent. The parent oftentimes can’t really be the best tutor. We’re so emotionally involved with our kids. We can be real supportive and encouraging, but oftentimes we really need to make sure that the tutoring is sort of an independent, third party that doesn’t have that emotional overlay that we parents have with our kids.

I think something else is to connect our youngsters with others that are a little bit further down the line. One of the most powerful things that I’ve seen is, for example, some high schools that I’ve worked with where they’re working with struggling readers. They’ll have, say, juniors and seniors, who have already been in the reading class and either have exited or they’re at higher levels. They’ll come in, and they’ll actually buddy up with the incoming freshmen or sophomores.

And oftentimes, it’s hearing the same message, but from a messenger who’s closer in age, looks more like me, who says, “You know, I was right where you were when I was 15. And I gave this thing a go and now I’m not an all-star reader, but you know what? I’m reading way better than I ever have, and I can actually do most of this work on my own. And I’m planning on going to college” or whatever it is. In other words, hearing it from another kid.

So this issue of a slightly older mentor who’s been through similar circumstances. And we have a number of programs around the country where we’re doing that systematically because we recognize that who the messenger is, that oftentimes the message is the same, but it affects a young person and adolescent differently when they hear it from a slightly older adolescent, rather than hearing it from Mom or Dad.

So part of it is hooking you up with quality programs that actually work. Part of it is engaging them with other kids who’ve been there and can sort of provide that role model and that support. And I think the last piece is to recognize that we as parents really can’t do it all. That oftentimes we’re not the best tutors, but what our job is is to really encourage and support our kids, then connect them with an independent third party, a college kid in the neighborhood, even an aunt or uncle, a next-door neighbor, somebody else who can do this more effectively than we can.

Jan: You know, it’s the connector role that parents play when kids get older.

Kevin: Indeed.

Jan: That’s great. That’s very helpful. I think too many times parents put too much pressure on themselves to have to do it all, and it’s okay to ask for help.

Kevin: Yeah, well and then we inadvertently wind up in this adversarial relationship with our kids coming from a place of love and support and concern. But the kids perceive it as intrusion and “They’re trying to make me do this that I don’t want to do.” It becomes a major source of conflict and frustration.

Jan: And there’s plenty of conflict around in just daily activity.

Kevin: Oh, yeah. “Clean the room.” “I want more allowance.” You know, “I want to use the car this weekend.”

Jan: Exactly. “Put your dishes in the dishwasher.”

Now if parents want to have their teenagers tutored in reading and written language, you mentioned, the neighbors, the older kid. But in terms of tutoring and say they had some money to afford it, who would they seek out? What kind of titles and background and training do they look for? Are there programs or specific programs? We hear about the such and such down at the corner that have programs available. What is designed to help kids, and where should they look?

Kevin: Well, I would recommend that parents that are interested in this area, there’s a book that I'd highly recommend that’s called Straight Talk about Reading, and it's by a parent of an adolescent that struggled with reading by the name of Susan Hall and one of our country’s most respected reading experts, Louisa Moats. So it’s Hall and Moats, and the book is Straight Talk about Reading where there’s lots of resources and national organizations and sort of a real specific way of thinking about this.

In general, what the answer is, is look for an established track record. In other words, I’d be less enamored with various letters after the name — M.A., Ph.D., Ed.D., M.D. — as I am about are there other people in the community that I could call who have had their sons and daughters engaged in this process, in this tutoring at this clinic that really got results. So a proven track record would really be sort of level number one. Now some of these individuals are also aligned with national organizations that have high credibility, organizations like the Council on Exceptional Children, or CEC, for example, or the International Dyslexia Association, the former Orton-Gillingham Society.

But most importantly, living in a relatively small town myself, I really recommend both a proven track record and endorsements from local professionals. Not just some person’s name on a Web site that is from who knows where, but somebody who is a local school psychologist or a local special education teacher or a local principal. Somebody you could go talk to and they could say, “Oh, yes, this clinic here — we’ve been sending kids there for the last five years, and, boy, the feedback from parents has been great.” That kind of keeping it local and people that you could talk to face-to-face, both professionals, like I said, school folks, psychology folks and just informally other parents. That’s really what I would look for and then for sort of a national scope and sort of a clearinghouse and a way of thinking about it, I would highly recommend this Straight Talk About Reading by Hall and Moats.
 

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