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Dr. Richard Selznick: Specialist of the Month

Categories: Featured, Uncategorized

Richard SelznickEvery month, Learning Ally features one of our amazing specialists who are part of our Specialist Network. This month, we caught up with Dr. Richard Selznick, the Director of the Cooper Learning Center,  a Division of the Department of Pediatrics/ Cooper University Healthcare. Dr. Selznick is a licensed psychologist, nationally certified school psychologist, and the author of three books: The Shut-Down Learner: Helping Your Academically Discouraged Child, School Struggles: A Guide To Your Shut-Down Learner’s Success, and Dyslexia Screening: Essential Concepts for Schools & Parents. In addition, he's been a featured speaker at our Spotlight on Dyslexia online conference. Dr. Selznick, it's wonderful to catch up with you! Let's start with the heart of it all - how do you help parents in your job on a day to day basis?  I consult with parents to help them sort out their concerns and guide them as to what I think is their next most appropriate step. Parents come in with a lot of anxiety and often a great deal of mythology and misinformation. I strive to cut through these and speak to them in plain terms that they can understand. I also conduct assessments for dyslexia and related learning disabilities and engage in periodic counseling (with parents and children). Along with public workshops and presentations, I am also the host of an internet-based radio show, “School Struggles,” where I discuss a range of topics including dyslexia/reading disabilities, learning disabilities, ADHD and challenging behavior in children. The radio show is part of The Coffee Klatch, Special Needs Radio Network. How long have you been doing this? I started as a resource teacher on Staten Island in the late 1970’s. I became a psychologist and school psychologist in the mid 1980’s. I have been the head of The Cooper Learning Center since 1995. (Yikes, these dates are starting to scare me!) Haha! Experience is a good thing though. Tell us, why did you originally decide to go into this field? There are so many reasons – the top ones: (1) The influence of my father, Mr. Melvin Selznick, who was a beloved educator/principal on Staten Island. To this day in my estimation he is still the best principal I have ever seen in action. He was so great with kids and parents. I do what I can to bring his influence to the families and kids I work with. (2) When I was a resource teacher I met my first severely dyslexic child, a boy named Frankie. He was in a regular class, yet couldn’t read even the most basic of words. I taught him with a decoding program (contrary to what my professors were telling me at the time) called The Glass Analysis for Decoding. Frankie loved it and made progress. That experience impacted me and was my beginning with reading disabilities/dyslexia. Many kids following this experience also inspired me. (3) I was really bad with organic chemistry and physics!!!! What is the most rewarding aspect of your career? Even though I have literally consulted with thousands of families and kids in my career, I still get jazzed when it all comes together. After I have done an evaluation and the child feels better about himself/herself and the light bulb goes off in the parent’s head as to how to understand their child better, I really love that interaction. When it works well, assessment can be very impactful on a family and child in a positive way. What advice can you offer a parent who is concerned about his/her child's reading ability? Turn down the heat. There is too much tension around homework. Our kids are always operating on a steep 45 degree incline compared to the other kids with all of the work they are given to manage and the barrage of worksheets they can’t handle. My other top advice (especially to the moms who are usually the drivers of the engine), is to trust your judgment. If you think something is going on, it usually is – in my professional experience that’s a rule of thumb that has held up 99% of the time. How do you use Learning Ally's services in your practice? I make referrals to Learning Ally very frequently. I help parents understand the difference between direct instruction (remediation) and ways that a child can get around their issues. I love that kids get excited that they can read “chapter books” immediately using Learning Ally. That can be very empowering to them. I try to make it fun for kids and set up a challenge for them to read five books of their choice and then send a rating back to me of the books they have read. I encourage the parents to celebrate the reading accomplished in a fun way after the child has read the five books. Anything else you would like to add? To learn more of our services at Cooper Learning and to learn about our Facets of Dyslexia Conference check out CooperLearningCenter.org. I would also encourage parents to get my weekly blog post by entering their email at ShutDownLearner.com. I have over 200 posts on that site where I rant and rave about topics I think parents would like.