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Monday, May 14, 2018

How Language Difficulties Impact Math Development




By: Alissa Talamo, Ph. D.
Clinical Neuropsychologist

Did you know research shows that 43-65% of students diagnosed with Dyslexia also struggle with math at a level that meets criteria for a Specific Learning Disability in Math? This is in comparison to the general population, where 5-7 % of the population meet criteria for a Specific Math Disability (Dyscalculia – difficulties with number sense, number facts, or calculations). 

I recently attended a lecture given by Dr. Joanna A. Christodoulou, assistant professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Massachusetts General Hospital and leader of the Brain, Education, and Mind (BEAM) Team in the Center for Health and Rehabilitation Research at MGH. The topic of discussion? How language difficulties can negatively impact math development.

How do language difficulties impact math development?

When asked to learn math, a student with language problems may:
· Have difficulty with the vocabulary of math
· Be confused by language word problems
· Not know when irrelevant information is included or when information is given out of sequence
· Have difficulty understanding directions
· Have difficulty explaining and communicating about math including asking and answering  questions 
· Have difficulty reading texts to direct their own learning
· Have difficulty remembering assigned values or definitions in specific problems

It is helpful to have an understanding of typical math development in children. With this information, a parent can monitor their child’s development relative to grade level expectations.

Math difficulties often looks different at different ages. It becomes more apparent as children get older but symptoms can be observed as early as preschool. Here are some things to look for:

Preschool
· Has trouble learning to count
· Skips over numbers long after kids the same age can remember numbers in the right order
· Struggles to recognize patterns, such as smallest to largest or tallest to shortest
· Has trouble recognizing number symbols (knowing that “7” means seven)
· Unable to demonstrate the meaning of counting. For example, when asked to give you 6 crayons, the child provides a handful, rather than counting out the crayons 

In grades One to Three, a child should:
· Begin to perform simple addition and subtraction computations efficiently
· Master basic math facts (such as 2+3=5)
· Recognize and respond accurately to mathematical signs
· Begin to grasp multiplication (grade 3)
· Understand the concept of measurement and be able to apply this understanding
· Improve their concept of time and money

Clearly, as a child continues through school, demands to understanding abstract math concepts increases. For example, in middle school, a child will be expected to understand concepts such as place value and changing fractions to percentiles, and when in high school, a child will be expected to understand increasingly complex formulas as well as be able to find different approaches to solve the same math problem.

What should I do if I suspect my child has challenges with math?
If you suspect your child is struggling to gain math skills, have your child receive an independent comprehensive evaluation so that you understand your child’s areas of cognitive and learning strengths and weaknesses. This evaluation should also include specific, tailored recommendations to address your child’s learning difficulties.

What if I am not sure whether my child needs a neuropsychological evaluation?
When determining whether an initial neuropsychological evaluation or updated neuropsychological evaluation is needed, parents often choose to start with a consultation. A neuropsychological consultation begins with a review of the child's academic records (e.g., report card, progress reports, prior evaluation reports), followed by a parent meeting, during which concerns and questions are discussed about the child's profile and potential needs. Based on that consultation, the neuropsychologist can offer diagnostic hypotheses and suggestions for next steps, which might include a comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation, work with a transition specialist, or initiation of therapy or tutoring. While a more comprehensive understanding of the child would be gleaned through a full assessment, a consultation is a good place to start when parents need additional help with decision making about first steps.

To book a consultation with Dr. Talamo or one of our many other expert neuropsychologists, complete NESCA's online intake form. Indicate "Consultation" and your preferred clinician in the referral line.

Sources used for this blog:
- Dr. Joanna A. Christodoulou
- www.understood.org 


About the Author 

With NESCA since its inception in 2007,  Dr. Talamo had previously practiced for many years as a child and adolescent clinical psychologist before completing postdoctoral re-training in pediatric neuropsychology at the Children’s Evaluation Center.  

After receiving her undergraduate degree from Columbia University, Dr. Talamo earned her doctorate in clinical health psychology from Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University.

Dr. Talamo specializes in working with children and adolescents with language-based learning disabilities including dyslexia, attentional disorders and emotional issues. She is also interested in working with highly gifted children.

Monday, May 7, 2018

When it Comes to the College Transition, Sweat (some of) the Small Stuff


By: Jason McCormick, Psy. D.
Pediatric Neuropsychologist

As a neuropsychologist who specializes in working with adolescents and young adults, I have had many years of experience assessing students who are gearing up for the college transition. Having also the vantage point of working regularly with college students, I see up close what kinds of skills help students make a smooth landing and, conversely, what types of skill deficits throw a monkey wrench in this transition.

In assessing readiness for a four-year college, it is of course important to consider a student’s cognitive profile, academic functioning, executive functioning, and information processing skills. However, in addition to those important areas of functioning, it is also critical to consider a student’s degree of independence with life skills.

With multiple priorities in a student’s high school career, the development of independence with life skills is one area that often gets shuttled to the side. Among those skills are the abilities to self-regulate sleep schedules, set alarms to wake up without parental assistance, do laundry, and take prescribed medication consistently and with full independence (including monitoring when medicines are running low and taking care of prescription refills).

A common refrain when I bring up these issues to parents in testing feedback sessions is that those are skills that their student will be able to figure out when they get to college. Whether or not that is the case, the important question here is not just if a student has the cognitive and executive function capacities to figure out these tasks, but have they done those tasks enough that they are habits, thus allowing the student to follow through on them with automaticity.

Even under the best of circumstances, the college transition brings with it a number of stressors, including navigating roommate issues, branching out socially, managing academic demands, and making effective use of the large swaths of unscheduled time without the built-in oversight and structure of living at home.

Understanding that this is a major life transition, the more needed skills a student can master before that transition, the easier that transition will be. In this regard, I like to think about this topic in terms of conservation of energy. If, for instance, a student not only has the ability to do their own laundry, but the ability to take care of that chore on autopilot, they will be more likely to follow through on that (socially-important) task when they are stressed, fatigued, or under the weather.

Thus, while in many cases I endorse the adage, “Don’t sweat the small stuff,” in this regard sweating the small stuff makes the bigger stuff more manageable.

About the Author 

A graduate of Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology (MSPP), Dr. McCormick completed a two-year, postdoctoral neuropsychological training program at Children’s Evaluation Center following a one-year internship. He has been working in the service of children and adolescents for over ten years.

Dr. McCormick, a senior clinician at NESCA, sees children, adolescents and young adults with a variety of presenting issues, including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD), dyslexia and non-verbal learning disability. He has expertise in Asperger’s Disorder, a mild form of autism, and has volunteered at the Asperger’s Association of New England (AANE).

Monday, April 30, 2018

Summer Academic Clubs and Classes at Architects for Learning



Introducing Summer Academic Clubs and Classes offered by


Students enrolled in Academic Clubs and Classes work together in small groups to develop executive function, problem-solving, and literacy skills while having a whole lot of fun.

Academic Clubs provide intensive instruction within a multi-sensory curriculum that weaves a theme though all learning activities.

All kids love to belong to clubs, especially those that celebrate their creativity!




2018 ACADEMIC CLUBS AND CLASSES
In NEEDHAM:
For students entering
grades 3, 4, 5
grades 4, 5, 6
grades 9, 10, 11, 12
College applicants

In BEVERLY: 
For students entering
grades 3, 4, 5
grades 6, 7, 8
grades 9, 10, 11, 12
College applicants


Contact Architects For Learning to find out more!

781-235-8412
The vision that all students know how to tackle what comes their way in school and in life to the best of their abilities.

Architects For Learning also offers:

School Year Program:

Students enrolled in the School Year Program receive a range of services based on their unique learning needs – individual and small group instruction to bolster skills; study hall and remote sessions to support independence with homework/project management; parent, teacher, and interprofessional consultation to ensure team collaboration; and parent education.

Individualized programming through the school year provides students with what they need for success in school, college, and beyond.


Summer Individual Program:

Students enrolled in the Summer Individual Program engage in an intensive learning experience with a specialist picked just for them.

By attending every day for just two weeks, they can pick up each day right where they left off the day before, build momentum, and make great progress within a short time.

Intensive and tailored instruction is perfect for students who need to hone specific skills or tackle difficult tasks with 1:1 support over the summer.


More about Architects For Learning...

For the past 31 years, Architects For Learning has been settled in the Needham area, passionately supporting K-12 and college students with developing the language, literacy, and executive function skills they need to thrive as learners.

Architects For Learning recently expanded its reach to the North Shore and opened a second office in Beverly.

If your child struggles with academic writing, reading, working memory, language, or organization abilities, Architects For Learning’s proven methods can make all the difference.






For any questions about NESCA's community partners and referrals, please contact

Ashlee Cooper
Marketing and Outreach Coordinator
acooper@nesca-newton.com