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Dysgraphia and Working Memory

Carolyn Means - Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Dr. Cheryl Chase from Cleveland, OH, presented an excellent program on dysgraphia – “an impairment of written expression” – at the Houston Branch of the International Dyslexia Association Conference on March 4. Research is showing that the connection between the amount of working memory one has available and the familiarity of graphic material impacts writing. Typically, a person with illegible handwriting has fine-motor difficulty, an inability to re-visualize letters, and an inability to remember the motor patterns of letter forms. It is common to find dysgraphia present with dyslexia. Working Memory is becoming a major topic of conversation in education. Some psychologists believe that the amount of working memory a student can hold in his/her brain’s “counter space” is a more important factor than IQ when determining the student’s potential to be successful.

“The Cusp of Confidence”

Carolyn Means - Tuesday, March 07, 2017

I love it when I hear a new phrase that captures just what I want to say. Jerome Schultz, Ph.D., Harvard Medical School, spoke to the HBIDA Conference on March 4 about not Dyslexia, as one would imagine, but Stress. Most of us know about “toxic stress”, that long-term, destructive stress that can damage our immune system, and “tolerable stress” which is short-term and we get over it or adapt to it. Good stress is the kind we feel in a situation where the challenge “hits the sweet spot”, or the “cusp of confidence”. I think of a “right” school as one that puts students on the “cusp of confidence” – a rigor and pace that asks for a reach without causing anxiety. We want to put our students at a point where they balance stress with competence, confidence and control.

ADHD and the Developing Brain

Carolyn Means - Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Author and ADHD expert Chris Dendy spoke at the ADDA-SR Conference hosted by Briarwood School February 25th, about research that shows the slower development of the brain in children and young adults with ADHD. On the whole, there is a lag of 2.5 to 3 years, or 30%, in the executive functioning region of the brain of a student with ADHD and a student without. This explains a lot about why a ten-year- old might act like a 7-year-old or a sixteen-year-old may act like a thirteen-year-old. Impulsivity, lack of emotional inhibition, and poor organization are among EF Skills that make the ADHD kiddo look less mature than his peers. Research was done by Barkley and Shaw.

Summer Professional Growth

Carolyn Means - Wednesday, August 12, 2015

In July, the ADDA-SR sponsored Utilizing New Technology to Avoid Medication Failure and Side Effects, a half-day seminar presented by Ron Swatzyna and Jay Tarnow of The Tarnow Center. This event was based on a recently published six-year study of the most common brain and body anomalies that create ADHD symptoms and explain how this information can assist in medication selection and treatment. Targeted therapy is a new phase of effective treatment for those who have failed on prior medications.

IECA’s bi-monthly webinars are excellent sources for member consultants to learn more about their profession. The August webinar was Red Flags During the Intake Process: Identifying Students with Hidden Learning or Attention Disorders. Detecting academic barriers to future success is my responsibility as a consultant when I am helping a family with a list of schools for application. If I sense we need to know more about a student’s learning process, I discuss with parents the advantages of a confidential assessment. Often, the first clue to further investigation is when a student with top grades does not have comparable standardized test scores.

Independent School Management Consultant Walker Buckalew

Carolyn Means - Thursday, April 23, 2015

Independent School Management Consultant Walker Buckalew addressed a capacity crowd at St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church and School on the topic of growth and management of Christian schools.

Professional Growth

Carolyn Means - Monday, March 23, 2015

Professional Growth ranks high is an on-going passion and absolute need for a consultant.There are so many topics with which I need to be current. Just this week, my journal from the International Dyslexia Association arrived. All the articles are dedicated to the relationship of ADD/ADHD and dyslexia. I can’t wait to read up on this current research.

In February, I attended the annual conference of the Houston Branch of IDA. The topic of the conference was Executive Functioning – and Working Memory in particular. EF Skills are all related to success with learning and, reading, in particular. Fascinating!

I also attended an excellent half-day workshop on handwriting presented by Lynn Armstrong and provided by The Neuhaus Education Center. Yes, some schools still teach handwriting and children still need to be able to read it even if they always print or use a keyboard. One of the first ways I detect learning problems may be in handwriting – or printing. Pencil grip, planning space on a page, letter formation, etc. A lot shows up on a page of letters.

My Houston IEC group hosted a program on the benefits of a Gap Year, ably presented by Chris Webb, Director of Admission at Bridgton Academy.

One more event I attended was the annual luncheon in support of The Joy School. The speaker was noted author and child psychologist Michael Thompson, Ph. D. If you liked Raising Cain, you will like Thompson’s new book, The Pressured Child.


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Nothing is more important than your child's education. SCHOOL SOLUTIONS in Houston, Texas, offers educational consulting services to help parents make the right choice for their child’s school. As an Educational Consultant and founder of SCHOOL SOLUTIONS in 2004, I have helped over 1000 students find the right fit at over 90 different Houston private and public schools, from preschools to high schools, including special needs schools.

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