Saturday, October 10, 2009

How Can My Kid SUCCEED in SCHOOL? (a Wiley review)

"She's just lazy!"

"He keeps making stupid mistakes in his math homework."

"She is impulsive and rushes through assignments and makes careless mistakes."

"I know he's smart, but he doesn't apply himself."

"She doesn't listen to the instructions."

"He's so disorganized!"

If you are the parent or teacher who has ever thought or said one of these sentences about a student, here is the book for you:

"How Can My Kid SUCCEED in SCHOOL? What Parents and Teachers Can Do to CONQUER LEARNING PROBLEMS" by Craig Pohlman, Ph.D. ($19.95 from Jossey-Bass Teacher, a division of Wiley) is an incredibly helpful resource for parents and teachers who have a struggling student.

Pohlman approaches student struggles from a neurodevelopmental perspective, and he teaches readers about development as he teaches us how to become observers and detectives as we help our struggling learners.

"Profiles, not labels and diagnostic categories, are what we all should be using to describe learners." Pohlman tells readers in the introduction of the book.

I agree with him.

Pohlman uses words that a laymom can understand, defining and describing terms from psychology and education in ways that are useful. Many of us as parents have had to sit through meetings and IEP's where we heard staff members describe in great detail our child's weaknesses and problems. Pohlman does us a huge favor: He teases apart the functions that contribute to student success (or lack of it) including attention, organization, memory for the reader in a way that illuminates a student's strengths, too.

I am seeing all of my children in new ways because of Pohlman. I even see *ME* in the pages.

He uses case studies and examples to illustrate terms and concepts, allowing me to see how one part of a student's memory or attention might be working well and another part of memory or attention may be faulty or developmentally delayed. And in the following chapter, he gives us ideas on how to help the child based upon the profile that we see through our observations and detective work. He does the same for teachers at school in two more chapters, cautioning us to avoid jumping to conclusions, and instead gather lots of information before trying to interpret it.

I love the fact that Pohlman does not consider struggling students "lazy" or "careless" or "manipulative" or "behavior problems"!

He describes challenges in a way that readers can recognize strengths and weaknesses and in following chapters, he describes ways we can go about helping the child with intervention and accommodations. He's big on modeling for a child, and he suggests creative games to grow weak functions.

I like this book! (!!!!!) I have underlined passages and written notes in the margins, and there are sections that I've revisited to digest the material again. It's a really practical guide to helping a student who is struggling, beginning with how to recognize what's what and following through with how to use strengths and accommodations to strengthen the weaknesses over time. I did not know how critical long-term memory is for math, and I certainly have a new focus for one of my children in that area.

In Chapter 4, Picking Strategies for the Classroom, the first of several starting pointers is so important to both parents and educators: "View these strategies as course corrections, not add-ons." It's a philosophy I've come to embrace, and yet I still need to be reminded of this point.

Since my child qualified for special education services more than eight years ago, I've never seen information that describes for me how to go about "smart shopping" for educational assessments. Pohlman gives us an entire chapter on choosing the right expert plus chapters on "Getting the Most Out of the Assessment Process" and "Using What You've Learned from the Assessment". Pohlman walks a parent through what to say to a clinician who is intent on labeling a child as opposed to providing a "thorough description of ... strengths and weaknesses". The entire table of contents is here.

Pohlman provides a profile worksheet and a handy reference section at the back of the book. If you're like me, you'll be flipping back and forth, referencing and cross referencing sections and writing in the margins. Maybe you'll read it with a highlighter in one hand.

Sometimes, books are not worth the money and shelf space at home, and I think I'm better off borrowing the book from the library for a short term read. This one's a KEEPER -- one for the shelves at home, one to refer to again and again.

PS: I received this book free of charge from WILEY so that I could review this book for you, here.

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