September 9, 2012

Alphabet Soup

So what does all that alphabet soup mean in a neuropsychologist report?  

I get that question a lot from parents, as they attempt to decipher the recent stapled diatribe on their child's brain processes. I forget how overwhelming it can be to see all that information about your child, and how badly a parent would want to cling to "fixing" it all. 

I tell them to talk to other parents, get online to get definitions of the acronyms, but don't spend too much time online, or you will find yourself sucked into the vortex of mommy blogs of special needs kids. Great reading, but too many pieces of advice about kids you have never met, so it feels thrice removed.

Essentially a report is a document that can help you get your child some help at school, confirm the intuitions you have had all along, and pave a road to reasonable goal-setting. A child with slow processing and RAN Scores (Rapid Automatic Naming) should not spend a time trying to get good at timed tests, for example. 

Also used for an IEE - Independent Educational Evaluation - when the school refuses to do testing on a student for special education.  Districts have to pay for these if indeed a learning disability is found. Most importantly [insert self-promotional statement here], a good teacher or learning specialist will be able to unravel the jargon of a report into an intervention plan. 

Receptive and Expressive Language are what I look closely for when demystifying a child's writing struggles. And, of course, attention and working memory. This is where the "L" of SLP comes in. A good Speech and Language Therapist can be an excellent resource for writing instruction, if they have attended numerous conferences on their own, harvesting nitty-gritty tricks outside of their formal training. Written expression is not in the coursework of the average program.  Good SLPs understand that writing instruction is multi-layered, have read research for fun, and touch deeply into kids who need more than a Socratic approach to writing, aka public school writer's workshop. 

Lots of journaling and ideation and breaking open creative pathways is a perfect journey for adults needing that boost, and feedback on their writing. But children need that, AND so much more. They need sentence drills, almost the equivalent of the fluency drills in well-known Multi-Sensory Curriculums.

Just yesterday I worked on having a student create sentences over and over that had certain parameters set by me, and he has come a long way in our summer work but has a long way to go. So many more things there are to "automatize" in writing mastery than in reading proficiency. 

Alphabet soup to me means getting kids excited about the fact that out of 26 letters we can create a million words.

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