Friday, July 31, 2009

Dealing with Shut Down Learners

Help for Reading Impaired Kids

If your child has a reading disability, like dyslexia, if he feels defeated, hates school, and comes home sullen and miserable and angry, Dr. Richard Selznick, author of The Shut-Down Learner: Helping Your Academically Discouraged Child can be of tremendous help.

Dr. Selznick’s book can help you better understand why your child is miserable or angry. You can better understand dyslexia and its emotional effects. More importantly, he offers simple, sound, and practical advice on how to help him.

Here are a few samples:
  1. Identify the “cracks in the foundation” as early as possible. Find a professional who knows the “red flags” to identify for early learning problems. So much heart-ache can be avoided if you address the skills weaknesses early.

  2. If the cracks are widening, seek outside help if possible. Don’t be passive and wait for the schools to intervene. They may, but it’s often a long process. Many of the children I see are not bad enough to warrant the school’s intervention. It’s a negative snowballing effect. Use word of mouth in your community to find people who can intervene

  3. Know the kind of reading problem you’re targeting. There are essentially two types. In the first type the child has trouble decoding the words and reading fluently. This type is the largest majority of the struggling kids. In the second type, the child can read fluently, but has great trouble understanding what he/she has read. Get clear on what you are targeting!!!! Don’t scattershot your remediation.

  4. Take the heat out of the interaction. For most of the struggling kids, the daily ritual of yelling about school is a constant. Households are tense. Lots of blame goes around. Pecking at your child, nagging and yelling are not working. Why continue?

  5. Find the child’s true strength and help kid embrace it. The shut down learners that I know do not feel very good about themselves and they do not see their strengths. Most of these kids are very solid in the visual spatial dimension of ability. This is often not valued in school. The kids need to learn to value this trait and see it as a potential.

  6. Find someone to connect and mentor your child in school. If your child is older, push the kid to have one adult in the building as child’s mentor. It should be someone that your kid can form a relationship with. Too often shut-down learners go through school not bonded to anyone. This is tragic.

  7. Keep your humor. Try not to let school problems become all consuming. Go out for an ice cream sundae with your kid even if he hasn’t done his homework! School problems can be so all consuming - don’t lose touch with your kid’s good qualities.

Fortunately, the value of The Shut-Down Learner doesn’t end with advice. Dr. Selznick shows you how to apply this advice. With great sensitivity, he writes about several of the shut-down learners he has known. He shares their conversations and insights and shows how they didn’t let their learning problems and the rigidity of schools destroy their lives.

In 160 well-written, easily understood pages, Richard Selznick has given parents of discouraged, defeated, and demoralized learners, a simple but powerful set of ideas for helping them help their children.

For more information on the Shut-Down Learner, go to

Who is Dr. Richard Selznick

Dr. Selznick is a psychologist, a nationally certified school psychologist, and a graduate school professor. He is Director of the Cooper Learning Center at Cooper University Hospital where he oversees a program that assesses and treats a broad range of learning and behavioral problems in children and provides training to parents and teachers. A native of Staten Island, New York, Dr. Selznick lives in Haddonfield, New Jersey.

Dr. Selznick is an experienced media guest and has appeared on numerous radio and television shows to discuss a variety of children’s issues including things like whether same-sex schools were advantageous and the current trend of “redshirting” kindergarten students. You can find more information at:

Liz Here:

Dr. Selznick was kind enough to send me a copy of his book. Although I have a special needs kiddo who probably can't be put into the "Shut Down Learner" box, she does tune everything out when a task is even the least bit challenging. Reading this book has given me lots of ideas on how to deal with these situations - which will be especially helpful since we will be transitioning from a public school to a homeschool setting in just a few weeks. I was so impressed with it that I've now passed it on to my daughters tutor.

Thank you, Dr. Selznick for your wonderful book that will help parents and educators everywhere re-think the labels that they have put upon children who learn in ways other than the "traditional" approach.

We have one (1) copy of The Shut-Down Learner: Helping Your Academically Discouraged Child to give away to one lucky reader!

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- Liz

Posted by Liz of Pink Lemonade


bridget3420 said...

Count me in:)

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