Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Summer Tools to Prepare for School in the Fall

 As the age for vaccine eligibility falls and COVID rates decline, schools throughout the U.S. are moving away from remote instruction to in-person learning this fall. Here in New York City, all public schools will be fully in-person in September and there will be no remote learning options.

A year and more of online instruction has made it difficult for many students to make the kind of progress they would have made if they were attending school in-person every day. Some students were able to thrive during online instruction, but for those who struggled, we have some suggestions for tools that can be used during the summer to build skills in math and writing and get ready for the fall.


We often recommend two software programs to help children build math skills. 

Dreambox, for grades K-8  adapts to your child's skill level. Using your child's answers to different kinds of problems, DreamBox detects which skills a student has mastered and which need more work, then provides instruction and practice in the form of games. Parents can use the Dashboard feature to monitor their child's progress. Note that the lessons in Dreambox may not align exactly with what your child is doing in school, but can help prepare your child for math lessons when school begins in the fall.

IXL, for students from pre-K through high school helps students master individual math concepts and lets parents track student progress. Students learn at their own pace and can prepare for the math skills they will need once back in school.


The best way for students to improve their writing is to write more. By using creative formats, supported by artwork, younger students will be motivated to express themselves in writing and be better prepared for the writing assignments they will face in the fall. We recommend:

Storybird - grade 1 and up
This beautifully crafted, aesthetically pleasing website-based app provides support for writing and an avenue for self-publishing.

Comic Creator - grades 3 - 8
Students can design and save or print comic strips with this user-friendly site. In addition to creating stories, it is an inviting tool for summarizing books to help improve reading comprehension. Comic Creator keeps it simple with very basic graphics and pared down options, making it great for students who may find flashy extras distracting.

 Story Jumper - grades 1 - 5

Younger students can choose between a seemingly limitless array of formats and pictures to supplement the stories they write. Books can be saved, shared, or purchased in hardcover form.

It hasn't escaped us that after more than a year, we are recommending more online instruction. But limited screen time and targeted lessons can be worth the "sitting still" time these programs require. We hope you and your student find them fun and helpful.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Moving Towards Normal

The announcement this week that New York City schools will be open for in-person instruction in September, with no remote learning options, is one more step towards a post-pandemic world. But make no mistake - things aren't going to be the same. Even without the heartbreaking loss of life, this pandemic changed us all, in ways large and small, and it is unlikely that our families, our city, our country, and the world will go back to what some have called "the before times" any time soon.

Even as more of us are vaccinated, there still remain many Americans who cannot or will not get vaccinated, at least in the near future. The ages at which the vaccines are deemed safe and effective keep dropping, but young children still cannot receive the vaccine, which means that in families in which everyone 12 and up has received their shots, there may still be younger children who are not protected by these scientific miracles. And there are still folks who haven't gotten the vaccine and who may not be planning to. Some may have medical conditions that make a vaccination problematic. Others are skeptical for a wide array of reasons. We'll leave the reasons for this aside, but note that reaching "herd immunity" is going to be a stretch in many areas.

Our workplaces, too, have changed and it is not clear whether people will return to their offices on a regular basis, or whether a large number will continue to work remotely either full or part-time. Here at The Yellin Center we are thinking about what our offices will look like in the months to come. At some point, but certainly not yet, we won't need the plastic screens between our clinicians and our students. We will be able to take down the signs reminding everyone to keep their masks on. And we will even be able to put the magazines back in the reception area and the toys back in the family rooms. But not yet...

Students have missed so many of the learning opportunities and social rituals that being together in a classroom, in a school building, or in a school community provide. Goofing around in the hallway, lunchroom, or playground; graduation and proms; and creative classroom play for the youngest of students all have been lost for more than a year and it will take time for students and teachers to get used to them again. Learning loss over the past year and more has been significant. While some children (often those in private schools) had a good deal of in-person instruction, most students dealt with remote schooling most or all of the time. Students with learning or emotional difficulties were often especially challenged by sitting in front of their computer all day, lacking the level of support they had been used to receiving before the pandemic hit.  

Your blogger, too, temporarily lost her writing muse and is just now emerging from a pandemic funk to look around and see things she wants to share with readers. As we spend time with family and friends and start to share hugs with those we have missed, as families send children off to summer camp, and as students think about buying school supplies for in-person education in the fall, things will slowly, slowly head back towards a new kind of normal. We look forward to plotting the way forward to post-pandemic life and learning with you.

Photo credit: Steven Cornfield on Unsplash

Monday, March 22, 2021

New Data Confirms Emotional Toll of Virtual Learning

There has been much conversation over the past year about the impact that virtual learning has had on children and families. The ways that virtual learning has been used during the pandemic have varied -- sometimes abruptly -- as school systems and families have reacted to infection rates, clusters of outbreaks, and the availability of vaccinations for faculty and staff. But almost all students have faced reduced class time and many have dealt with the unavailability of effective online learning as well, when families lack computers or efficient high speed internet connections.

A new study released by the CDC has examined the impact of virtual learning on the mental health and well-being of children aged 5-12 by looking at almost 1300 families. Of those families, approximately 46% had children receiving only virtual instruction. Another 31% received in-person instruction and approximately 23% received hybrid instruction, both virtual and in-person.

The study looked at 17 indicators of child mental health and found that children who were getting virtual instruction scored worse on 11 of the 17 mental health indicators. In addition, children learning virtually full or part time spent less time outdoors, spent less time with friends (both in person and online), and reported decreased physical activity. And it wasn't only the children who were affected by virtual learning. The study noted,

"Parents of children receiving virtual instruction more frequently reported their own emotional distress, difficulty sleeping, loss of work, concern about job stability, child care challenges, and conflict between working and providing child care than did parents whose children were receiving in-person instruction."  

None of the statistical findings of the CDC study will come as a surprise. Hopefully, with increased vaccination of teachers and school staff and lower Covid rates as more of the general population gets vaccinated, in person instruction will increase and families and schools can turn to addressing the academic and emotional challenges that have affected children and families during the past year. Making up for the impact of the pandemic will not be easy.


Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Watch Dr. Yellin Discuss How to Help Struggling Learners

In case you missed a terrific discussion with Dr. Yellin, you can catch the video below. In a conversation with Laura Hart of Robofun, Dr. Yellin gives a clear explanation of the evaluation process and how it can help students of all ages. 

The "call in hour" Dr. Yellin mentions in this video is scheduled for every Thursday morning (EST) from 8-9 am. Our office telephone number is 646-775-6646. If you can't get through, just leave a message and someone will get back to you.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Our Traditional Holiday Poem - For an Untraditional Year


This terrible, horrible, no good year is coming to an end

It has broken our hearts and made things so hard

We’ve almost gone way ‘round the bend


But there have been some glimmers, some real rays of hope

That have helped us to power on through

And as we close out our year, we thought we would share

A few of these glimmers with you


Our office is open and our staff has stayed well

(And we pray will continue the same)

We’ve taken precautions, with distance and masks

We’ve removed all our books and our games


We’ve used telemedicine, Facetime, and Zoom

And can do many meetings online

We’ve been doing in-person assessments

And these are all working out fine


As kids work from home, with learning remote

Some challenges rise to the fore

We’re glad we can work with these students

Giving strategies, insight, and more


The election’s behind us, democracy holds

Though our system has been sorely stressed

As a new term begins, let’s hope justice wins

And our country can be at its best


In this year of great loss, there are new babies too

Arriving amidst the pandemic

Two new Yellin boys have brought us great joy

Though visits and hugs are too few


The vaccine is here and it brings us all hope

Though we’ll have to all wait for our shot

Still, it remains our best path

To go back to our lives

The very best chance we have got


So deep in this season of hunger and loss

We wish you some moments of light

With good things to come, good health, and warm homes

And may everything turn out all right!


The Yellin Center will be closed beginning December 25th, reopening on Monday, January 4, 2021.

We wish you all a happy, healthy 2021!

Photo Credit: https://unsplash.com/@racphoto 









Monday, November 23, 2020

Still Thankful

Every year around this time we have posted a Thanksgiving blog, noting all the ways in which we are thankful and sharing suggestions for children's books about Thanksgiving. We remain thankful this year but, as with so many aspects of our lives, in very different ways than we could have imagined even just a year ago.

We are thankful that The Yellin Center is able to be open and that we can see students in-person in our spacious, COVID-modified office space. We have found that many parents have seen new aspects of their child's challenges and strengths while watching them learn remotely, and we are glad that we can help support both students and their parents in these unique learning times. 

We are incredibly grateful for the dedication and skill of our clinical and administrative staff, whom have kept us going through these difficult months. We are thankful that our staff has stayed safe and well and that our own kids and grandkids have too. Both family members and dear friends have lost parents to COVID and we have shared in their sorrow. And we know that so many others have also suffered losses. Our thoughts go out to them all.

We remain grateful for the front line medical workers - and the folks who work in the grocery stores, deliver our mail and packages, and do so many other things to keep us going in these difficult times. We are glad to see that here in NYC, wearing a mask and keeping distance is very much the standard, but we remain alarmed to see that these simple steps to protect ourselves and others are not universal, and certainly not once you get outside of our New York bubble. Why is it that our not-quite-three-year-old grandson always wears a mask when outside, but so many grownups still haven't learned this lesson?

We are thankful for the light at the end of the tunnel - the excellent news about soon to be available vaccines that can eventually bring this national crisis to an end. We are enormously grateful to the scientists whose tireless work and dedication will make this possible and look forward to this "shot in the arm" for all of us.

We are thankful, too, that our nation seems to be slowly moving past a gut-wrenching election process and that the path to presidential transition seems to be growing clearer. We continue to hope that everyone involved puts the good of our country first, and that January 20, 2021 dawns clear and sunny, with blue skies ahead. 

So, as your blogger plans a Thanksgiving feast for our immediate family, with a break for a Zoom call with the multitude of Yellin relatives who usually make our holiday so wonderful, we wish you all a happy, healthy Thanksgiving!

                                             .LIST: Local Thanksgiving meal giveaways | WSAV-TV

Monday, October 19, 2020

Take N.O.T.E. - A Tool for Parents

Two of our favorite organizations - The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and Understood - have teamed up to create a tool for parents to help them recognize when and how their children may be having learning difficulties and the steps to take to help them.


Take N.O.T.E. breaks learning issues down into four steps:

NOTICE is the first step, with subject by subject guidance on how a parent can be certain there’s something going on with their child that’s out of the ordinary. Areas of concern need not be academic and include:

  • Reading and writing
  • Math
  • Focus and organization
  • Self-control and hyperactivity
  • Frustration, stress, and anxiety
  • Developmental milestones

OBSERVING comes next. Once parents notice a problem, the program guides parents in how they can learn how to find and keep track of patterns in their child’s behavior with downloadable observation tools.

The third step of the process is TALKING. The program includes tips and conversation starters for parents to use when talking with those who know their child best, like teachers, aides, and other caregivers, as well as talking to their child about what they are observing.

The final step is to ENGAGE, helping parents figure out  how and when to connect with experts like pediatricians and school specialists, who can help you figure out if your child might have a learning and thinking difference.

The Understood site includes links to helpful articles and videos designed to illustrate the issues in  each of the steps involved. So far, so good, since Understood is known for its helpful information for parents. But Take N.O.T.E. goes further, and that's where its partnership with the AAP comes in. The AAP urges pediatricians to be familiar with the steps in the Take N.O.T.E. program and shares links to information from Understood. Furthermore, it offers guidance to its members on how to discuss learning and developmental issues with families, including suggestions to start with open-ended questions, asking for details, and getting more information. 

Dr. Yellin serves as one of Understood's "Experts" and is a resource for numerous pediatricians who seek to refer their patients for a better understanding of their learning, behavioral, and related difficulties. Parents and professionals are welcome to contact our office for more information.