Thursday, December 29, 2011

Help Your Children Experience Greater Academic Success in the New Year

It’s a New Year and a new semester, so what can you do as a parent to help your children experience greater academic success in 2012? Following are three important principles which you can apply in your home, thus in your children’s lives.

#1 Students perform best academically when they know WHY they are working hard and why they should study daily. They must have goals set in order to know the purpose of their efforts. Living with INTENT is important to success in all areas of one’s life. Without intent, there is little direction, and with little direction, there is no target at which to aim. If one intends to only pass a class, this is likely what he/she will do. However, if one intends to make an “A”, there is a higher likelihood this will happen. Teaching our children to live with PURPOSE is just as important as working with ambition. Being ambitious involves working towards one’s self-fulfilling pursuits; whereas, living with purpose involves working with a broader scope and for something larger than one’s self.

Therefore, discuss with your children the importance of goal setting and living with intent. Help them discover what their strengths are and where their interests lie. Enable them to understand there is a world beyond themselves and their actions and decisions impact themselves AND others.

#2 Set a positive example of discipline and consistency for your children as it pertains to their school work and other areas of their lives. Remember, they mirror your attitudes and actions! If you find yourself being frustrated with their lack of academic priority, you must examine the messages you may be sending them about their education. For example, if you openly criticize a teacher whether warranted or unwarranted, it provides an excuse for them to not work up to their potential. They will likely blame the same teacher you are criticizing for their lack of success, rather than accept personal responsibility. If you tell them they must earn the privilege to participate in sports by working to their potential, and then they don’t, and you allow them to participate anyway, you have sent a message that sports is more important than their education. The discipline your children develop and demonstrate in their academics will “spill” over into other areas of their lives. The most disciplined students are usually reliable, responsible, and respectful in the classroom and even in their communities and involvement with others outside the realm of their academics.

#3 Set parameters; i.e., rules, for your academic expectations and clear consequences for their lack of being responsible, and then adhere to these parameters. Children need discipline and boundaries. Having these provides a sense of security for children, while developing their own ability to rationalize and problem solve. Expect that they will step out of the boundaries you have set at times as this is a normal part of development; however, they need you to stop them if they step outside of what is considered the safety zone. Teenagers have actually shared with me that they were grateful their parents did not allow them to make bad decisions and demonstrate poor judgment because, if left to follow their own inclinations, they would have and then suffered the consequences! Remember, the frontal lobe of a person’s brain, which is responsible for decision making, judgment, and problem solving, does not usually fully develop until one reaches his or her mid to late 20s!

I hope 2012 is a most successful year for your children as they live with greater intent, set academic goals and priorities, follow your example in action and attitude, and adhere to the parameters set in your home regarding educational priorities and expectations! Happy New Year!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

When to seek a Psychologist to Conduct a Psycho-Educational Battery Evaluation for Your Student

What is a psycho-educational evaluation, and when is it appropriate or warranted to have one administered to a student? Students in public and private schools are routinely assessed to determine their levels of ability in reading, writing, and math, so most parents do not find it necessary to have a full psycho-educational battery assessment performed. However, if teacher feedback and/or these routine standardized tests indicated the student is at risk academically and/or emotionally, it is prudent for parents/guardians to explore the options and possibility of testing performed outside the parameters of their student’s school.

What is the primary benefit of receiving services from an outside psychologist? An outside psychologist will provide a diagnosis addressing the presenting issue/challenges; whereas, the child’s school typically will not provide a diagnosis due to the risk of being held liable for such diagnosis. Additionally, there are many children that fall between the cracks and are not eligible for testing within the school setting. For example, if your child performs in the average area on standardized tests (CRCT/ITBS), but earns a C or a D in a subject, they will likely not qualify for additional testing/services because they are not considered to be a critical need. As a result, many children who may have a learning disorder or area of weakness, but who somehow manage to get by in school, struggle continually without answers and assistance. This can cause unnecessary stress for the child and the family, and many times goes undetected for years. It is crucial to identify and then address learning challenges early in a student’s school career to insure that he or she develops a sense of self-worth and autonomy and a desire to learn.

Common questions parents and students ask are, “Is my student normal? Am I normal? Am I to blame for my student’s problems? Can the clinician help us as parents? Can he or she help my student? What is wrong? Is there a diagnosis and if so, what is it? Does my student need additional medical or psychological testing? What are the clinician’s recommendations? How can my family assist in the implementation of these recommendations? Does my student need treatment? Do I need treatment? What is the process?

What is the process? The psychologist will conduct two full clinical interviews. One interview will be conducted with the student, and the second interview will be conducted with the parents/guardian. The same questions are asked during both interviews. It is important for the psychologist to assess the student’s personal experiences and opinions as well as the parent/guardian’s personal experiences and opinions surrounding the presenting issues. During this clinical interview, a full history will be taken addressing areas such as the family and student’s medical and mental health histories, the student’s academic history, and social skills. Additional questions addressing interpersonal family dynamics, the student’s personal strengths and weaknesses, and the student’s ability to regulate emotions as well as their ability to apply coping skills to every day academic and personal stressors will be addressed as well.

Once the clinical interviews are completed, psycho-educational testing is scheduled. A psycho-educational battery is a comprehensive assessment that measures a student’s cognitive and achievement abilities. The achievement tests will measure where the student performs academically in areas such as reading, writing, and math. For example, the student may physically be in the 8th grade, but they may perform at the 5th grade 6th month level in reading, the 6th grade level in writing, and the 4th grade level in math. When a child is not performing on grade-level, they will struggle to maintain the same academic pace as their peers. Many times, emotional and behavioral issues may occur as a result. The cognitive assessments will measure a variety of cognitive functions such as the student’s intelligence level, problem solving, conceptualization, planning and organization, attention span, memory, learning style, language abilities and perceptual and motor abilities. Additional areas that are assessed include his or her learning style, emotional regulation and behavioral functions. The entire psycho-educational battery is conducted by a specially trained psychometrist and/or psychologist who are qualified to administer such tests. A psycho-educational assessment is definitely time intensive, as it involves many hours of testing and several sessions (typically a total of 4).

What happens at the final session? The psychologist will provide an extensive report and spend time going over every aspect of that report with the parents/guardian. Findings will be presented, including a diagnosis, and a discussion regarding the treatment plan and recommendations individually designed for the student and the family. In order to gain a clear picture of the many aspects of the presenting issue, the case formulation within the report describes the child's problems and explains them in terms that the parents and student can understand. All aspects of the child’s history (i.e. developmental, medical, mental, academic, interpersonal relationships, social skills, emotional regulation, personal strengths and weaknesses), in conjunction with the testing results, are combined within in the formulation. Then, the psychologist will work together with the family to help the student achieve their potential.

Are other professionals needed as well? Sometimes, it is necessary to administer further assessments or particular types of evaluations in order to delve deeper to find the best possible approaches to address the academic and learning issues present. As a result, parents may receive a recommendation from the psychologist for further testing; such as a neuropsychological battery in order to assess potential brain damage caused by a head injury (for example a concussion caused from a sports injury) and/or an organic brain injury (originating from birth), a speech and language evaluation, and/or a referral to a psychiatrist (a physician who can prescribe medication, as psychologists in Georgia do not currently prescribe medications) or a family physician to screen for a potential medical condition that may be causing the student’s learning difficulty. Only with the parent/guardians' permission will other significant people; such as the pediatrician, school teachers and counselor, and family members, be contacted to provide additional information about the student. However, student’s benefit greatly when all professionals work together in the best interest of the student and the family.

Now What? Sometimes tutorial assistance and extra encouragement is all it takes to help a child reach his or her potential. A professional tutoring company with a proven track record of success will let you know as soon as they suspect that additional support is needed. As a parent/guardian, you are your child’s best advocate. Knowledge is power. It is important for parents to be informed so they can then make sound decisions based on facts, rather than suspicion feelings.

I hope this article provides you with the knowledge and insight you need to help your child succeed. If you would like to discuss your child’s academics, ability to experience maximum success in school, and/or whether a psycho-educational battery is warranted, you may contact Carol at

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Love of Learning

Have you ever watched a baby or young child learn by exploring the world around? The eagerness in the child’s face demonstrates a yearning to learn as much and as fast as possible! Learning opens up a new world by enabling us to understand how things connect, act, and react to each other! It is important that as children grow up and there are more demands on them for earning high scores and good grades, that their zest for learning not be replaced by a dread of learning.

So, how do we instill a love of learning in our children and students? In contemplating an answer to this question, I ask myself what would have caused me to want to learn as a child, and during my professional career as an educator, what have I observed to cause students to want to learn. Following are a few thoughts…

In order to instill a love for learning in a child, if parents and teachers are enthused about what they are teaching, it is likely that the child will be excited, too, since children often mirror the attitudes and actions of those with whom they associate. It is also important to learn alongside your child by taking the time to become familiar with the same topics he or she is learning about in school. Select a book your child is reading in English class, read it at the same pace as your child, and talk in depth together about the class assignments. The same can be done with a chapter from a history, science, or economics book.

Model or demonstrate a love of your own learning, as it is difficult for some teenagers to see why they should put time and energy into learning something new, especially if they do not see their parents taking the time to learn new things, too. Read books and talk about them with your child. Talk about current events, history, politics, or social justice at the dinner table and in the car.

At the core of learning, there also needs to be a reason or purpose for the student to want to learn the information being presented. In other words, the usefulness of what is to be learned is important. If learning by rote memorization, a child can become bored and unexcited about the content. Additionally, learning a topic must make sense and be logical. A student needs to know from where this new information to be learned originated. He or she needs to understand how the information can be applied to other concepts and situations. It is vital to answer the questions of who, what, where, when, and how, but, the question WHY must be addressed, as well!

A few examples follow: When teaching a new vocabulary word, teach the student from where the word derived, the various parts of the word; i.e., prefix, suffix, root; and how the word can be applied in writing and in conversation. In literature, what life, religious, and/or cultural experiences caused an author to write about what he or she did, and how did this piece of literature affect culture and society of that time and during future years? In math, not only what is surface area, but where can examples be seen, and when calculating total surface area, what does that number represent? In science, what causes cells to multiply and divide, and once they do, what are they transformed into?

In today’s educational environment of standardized tests and test preparation, one of the greatest challenges teachers and parents face is being able to be creative in their lesson plans. Often they feel that they are so busy teaching students to take upcoming tests that they have lost the ability to be creative and teach “outside of the box”. Therefore, the task of motivating our children to want to and love learning, demands that parents take some of this responsibility and learn how to instill the love of learning in their children.

Children love learning when they know why it is important to learn the information, feel engaged in the topic being presented and competent in their ability to apply the knowledge, not when they are only lectured to. By being involved in your children’s learning, you will provide both you and them the opportunity to build their knowledge base, create effective life-long habits, and even more importantly, build a stronger connection with the world and with you through their love of learning.