Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday News

The annual Life After High School Conference sponsored by our colleagues at The Center for Learning Differences, will be held this coming Sunday, October 31st, on the campus of C.W. Post College in Brookville, New York. Representatives from local colleges and national schools such as American University, the University of Arizona SALT Center, and Mitchell College, all with strong supports for students who learn differently, will speak to the audience and be available for individual consultations with students and families. Our own Susan Yellin, Esq. will speak about financial issues for students headed to college and their families, and Dr. Lynda Geller will discuss executive function and organizational issues. More details and registration information are available in the program brochure.

Both Dr. Paul Yellin and Susan Yellin, Esq. (who serves as Director of Advocacy and Transition Services at the Yellin Center) have had proposals accepted by the New York Branch of the International Dyslexia Association for presentation at 38th Annual Conference on Dyslexia and Related Learning Disabilities to be held in March, 2011 in New York City. Dr. Yellin will be speaking on Learning Differences in High Achieving Students. Mrs. Yellin will be speaking with Christina Bertsch, her co-author of  the new book, Life After High School: A Guide for Students with Disabilities and Their Families. They will be discussing some of the topics covered in their book. 

Apple fans -- the computer kind, not the fall fruit -- might want to check out the new applications for its products that focus on skills for special education. These range from programs on Mac Computers to new applications for iPods and iPhones.

Tomorrow is the wedding day of our Clinic Manager, Jeremy, and former Yellin Center Learning Specialist Meghan, (now a school Principal in New York City). We are delighted to have two of our favorite people getting married and wish them both a lifetime of happiness together!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Teens and Driving

There is no easy way to discuss this topic. Auto accidents are the leading cause of death of American teenagers, killing nearly 6,000 each year. Anything that can reduce this number, and the anguish it represents, is welcome news for parents.

The American Automobile Association (AAA) has long been concerned with the dangers posed by new drivers, who often lack both  judgment and experience. Making things even more difficult is the social aspect of driving, which prompts teens to want to drive with friends in the car, sometimes with music blasting and with other distractions that add to the inherent dangers of operating an almost two ton machine on a road with other vehicles. The AAA has recently launched a new website to provide information to parents to help their children through every step of the driving process, from pre-permit education, through getting a learner's permit, to becoming ready to drive solo. The website is state specific; when you go to the web address it will provide the specific information on the state you are searching from and let you look at information from other states as well. This is particularly useful, because states have taken many steps to make teen driving safer, including graduated licensing and restrictions on when and with whom teens may drive. Of course, state laws are only a minimum standard. Parents can always impose their own rules and restrictions. We know parents who won't give their teens the car keys until they pass Mom's (or Dad's) Road Test, a far tougher test than any state examiner will provide.

By using interactive features and including sections for both parents (on teaching teens to drive) and young people (with lots of bells and whistles to keep the information on driving safely interesting), the website is one more tool in  helping to keep our children safe. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Implementing RTI - One District's Experience

This past Saturday, Dr. Paul Yellin and two representatives from the Hamilton Central School District in upstate New York, presented to attendees of the New York State School Boards Association Annual Convention in New York City.

Diana Bowers, Superintendent of the Hamilton Schools, outlined the steps her district took together with The Yellin Center and our colleagues at All Kinds of Minds, to move to a Response to Intervention model of addressing students' learning needs well in advance of the New York State deadline for implementing such a program. Response to Intervention, often called RTI, is one way that states such as New York are moving away from such concepts as "normal learner" vs. "learning disabled" and from offering support services only to students whose academic performance is not in line with their scores on standardized tests, such as IQ tests. Instead of the older model of intervention, often called the discrepency or "wait to fail" model, RTI looks at how children who are struggling respond to various academic interventions. If an initial array of classroom supports (Tier I) is shown to be insufficient, the student will move up to Tier II, small group instruction in the areas in which he or she is struggling. If that does not work, the student will be evaluated for a more complete understanding of his or her learning needs and implementation of additional supports and services (Tier III) .

Although many of the initial steps in determining which children are not responding to the general classroom curriculum and differentiating instruction for these children "are what good teachers are doing all the time," Dr. Bowers noted, she also spoke about the need for a unifying approach throughout each school and the entire district. That led her to seek training for her staff from All Kinds of Minds, and eventually led her to inviting Dr. Yellin to work with some of the most complex students in the district, first at our New York City offices and later in Hamilton as part of a week long training of Hamilton staff by The Yellin Center. Dr. Bower's presentation was followed by remarks by Peggy O'Connor, District Coordinator of Special Education, and by a discussion by Dr. Yellin of how the use of the shared vocabulary of learning and an understanding of the ability of the brain to change with appropriate interventions made early recognition of learning challenges so important.

The audience of school superintendents, building principals, and guidance staff was deeply engaged, with lots of discussion, questions and follow-up, many of which were focused on how they can bring the same effective techniques to their own districts.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Radio Resource

We had the chance earlier today to participate in a Satellite Radio broadcast on Doctor Radio, a project of NYU Langone Medical Center that brings NYU physicians and their expert medical guests from around the country and the world together to provide information and answer questions from listeners. Available on Sirius Channel 114 and XM Channel 119, Doctor Radio is broadcast live from a studio in the lobby of the Medical Center.

The hour-long appearance of Dr. Paul Yellin and Susan Yellin, Esq. focused on learning difficulties and school advocacy and featured caller inquiries from places ranging from Utah, to North Carolina, to Connecticut and New Jersey. It was hosted by Dr. Benard Dreyer, who is the Director of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at the Medical Center and a Professor at the NYU School of Medicine. A look at the line-up of other shows on Doctor Radio reads like a list of medical specialites, and includes daily shows focusing on pediatric issues, as well as issues such as children's mental health, sports medicine, and a wide arrange of medical topics of interest to parents and families. In addition to sharing information, the doctor hosts and their knowledgable guests take the time to address the specific questions of their callers.

If you already subscribe to Satellite Radio you might want to give Doctor Radio a try. If you aren't a subscriber, you can check out the schedule of shows and sign up for a free trial of Sirius or XM to let you hear a show dealing with the specific concerns you may have. It certainly does not take the place of your pediatrician or other physician, but it can be a helpful source of information and point you in the right direction.

Monday, October 18, 2010

October is Bully Prevention Month

We've all heard about tragic results that can occur when students are bullied or harassed by classmates. Whether bullying is prompted by race, religion, sexual orientation, or occurs because of mean or thoughtless young people seek to hurt or demean others, it is a problem that has been made all the more complicated to solve because of the instant information world in which we live.  

The Pacer Center in Minnesota has created an array of resources for young children, teens, schools, and parents to help educate children about bullying. The key is not just to encourage kids not to be bullies, but to educate them to speak out and take appropriate actions if they are the subject or bullying or if they observe bullying taking place. 

More locally, CAPS, Child Abuse Prevention Services, based on Long Island, is building on its long time work on this issue and establishing a Bully Prevention Center to provide a place for parents to turn for education and support and helplines for children and parents faced with bullying. The Helpline is staffed by professionals with expertise in bullying and cyberbullying. Contact numbers are 516-621-0552 and 631-289-3240 (ext 109).The email address is All inquiries are confidential.

Research has shown that interventions aimed at raising awareness, establishing rules, and counseling individual students about bullying can have meaningful results. Learn what your child's school is doing about all kinds of bullying. Speak to your child about how to avoid being a bully or a passive by-stander to bullying, or a silent  victim of bullying. And check out these websites for more important information.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Getting Kids to Eat Healthy

The U.S. Department of Agriculture just announced a new $1 million grant to Cornell University, along with smaller grants totaling another $1 million to other institutions, to look at how behavioral economics can be used to encourage kids to eat healthier meals at school and elsewhere. The program has been nicknamed BEN, since it involves Behavioral Economics and Nutrition.

The USDA is already in the school breakfast and lunch business in a big way; some 11 million children eat breakfast at school each day and 31 million participate in the National School Lunch Program. This new grant is designed to establish a new, research focused center at Cornell, the Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs. The other grants look at how small changes in schools can impact changes in how children eat. For example, the Baylor College of Medicine will work with Houston, Texas schools where cafeteria staff will "nudge" children towards healthier choices and families will get information on school menus and recommended foods via a website, Facebook, and Twitter.

In Utah, researchers at Brigham Young University will look at how placement of healthy foods on lunch lines, replacing vending machine choices with healthy foods, and providing small incentives to eat fruits and vegetables will change the way children eat in several local schools.

Every parent has his or her own rules -- or tricks -- to get kids to eat healthier. It's good to see that schools are being encouraged to try some behavioral interventions to improve nutrition and to investigate what can effect change. Children need adequate nutrition for maximum learning. And they need to eat healthier to help turn around our national crisis of obesity. 

Monday, October 11, 2010

Broadening Post High School Options

A federal grant, announced earlier this month, will provide almost $10.9 million for grants to 27 two and four year colleges in 23 different states to transition students with "cognitive" or "intellectual" disabilities to higher education. The grants are aimed at creating new programs or expanding existing programs  that focus on "academics and instruction, social activities, employment experiences through work-based learning and internships, and independent living. Grantees will provide individualized supports for students and opportunities to be involved in college experiences with their peers without disabilities. Evaluating what works and does not work is a key component of each grant."

It is not clear from the grant announcement if these students will be on track to get a college degree, or if they will obtain an alternate certificate or credential. We think this program is a terrific idea, but wish it went further. Students with learning differences, attention difficulties, executive function issues, and high functioning forms of autism all can need significant support to become successful members of a college community and to graduate with a degree. These students would not qualify for this program because they have average or above average intelligence.

We know that all students with any kind of disability are entitled to the protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). But those protections only "level the playing field." They don't require individual supports, employment preparation, or assistance with independent living skills. We'd love to see all students who need them get this level of support. In our increasingly complex world, helping students to broaden their experiences and education, with the goal of making them more productive individuals, can only help us all.

Friday, October 8, 2010

It's a Small World

Two recent events reminded us of the international reach of our work. On one day this week, we chatted with parents on three different continents, via Skype, about school options for their children here in the U.S.

The next day we received a note from a Japanese educator, Harue Kaneko, who has visited our Center in the past to learn more about how we conduct our comprehensive assessment. Dr. Yellin had also introduced her to his colleagues at CAST, The Center for Applied Special Technology, (where Dr. Yellin is a member of the Board of Directors) which is a leader in introducing Universal Design for Learning to schools across the United States. Now, through this introduction, Harue Kaneko is working with CAST to translate its work into Japanese and to consider how  to introduce the concept of Universal Design for Learning to Japan. In a recent email, she shared an entry into her Blog for Teachers:


Life After High School: A Guide for Students With Disabilities and Their Families Life After High School: A Guide for Students With Disabilities and Their Families
価格:¥ 1,806(税込)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Some Favorite Things

It's time to take another look at books, websites, and programs that families whose children struggle in school may find helpful. 

A Guide to Special Education Advocacy, by Matthew Cohen, an attorney and disability rights expert, "describes a complicated and sometimes adversarial process as clearly as is humanly possible," according to a reviewer. We think this is a terrific guide for families seeking to navigate the special education process and like its information about the "alphabet soup" language parents will encounter and its "how to" advice with practical examples.

Advocates for Children of New York, which we have mentioned a number of times for the important  work they do to "promote access to the best education New York can provide for all students, especially students of color and students from low-income backgrounds," is offering a series of free programs at their Manhattan offices this fall on topics such as Attention, Transitioning From High School, and How to Develop and Read an IEP. Space is limited.

We like to check out the website LD Online for articles for parents, educators, and students on all sorts of issues relating to education and learning differences. We are never quite sure what we will find, but it is a worthwhile visit. Educators may find the extensive list of resources on learning differences on the website of The Center for Learning Differences to be helpful. This same website contains lots of information for parents on the basic steps in the special education process.

Parents interested in a specific topic relating to advocacy or working with their school may find the website helpful. We love their information, including the full text of important court cases and solid explanations of important laws and principles, but wish this site were easier to navigate and search. Still, it remains an important resource for those with the patience to sort through the clutter.

For families of high school or college students, the website of the Heath Center at George Washington University lives up to its description as a clearinghouse of information for post secondary education for individuals with disabilities. Not all of its information will be relevant for students with learning differences, since they deal with all sorts of disability issues, but they have so many resources to recommend, that it is a worthwhile starting point for your college search.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Manhattan's Resurrection Episcopal Day School (REDS) is a preschool based on the Montessori model that reaches out to children of all faiths. We have come to know their Head of School and the depth of their commitment to creating an environment that celebrates and empowers each individual, cultivates a love of learning and fosters an appreciation for the diversity of life. Now they are about to begin an extraordinary examination of how parents and schools can teach children to be responsible, respectful, global citizens.

Starting with a "kick-off" session by Dr. Paul Yellin, who will speak this coming Tuesday, October 5th at 7:30 pm at REDS (119 East 74th Street, NYC) on "The Myth of the Perfect Brain: Understanding, Nurturing, and Valuing Neurodiversity in the Home," the program will begin by explaining how individuals can come to appreciate their own mix of strengths and challenges and come to appreciate the diversity of minds in their own community and even their own households.

Next, the series takes a look at how technology shapes the way children interact with their environment, in an in depth look at recent research and effective strategies by Dr. Gary Johnson, scheduled for October 20th. The series continues with a presentation by the dynamic Hans Hageman, on November 9th on "Melting Pot, Salad Bowl, or Community?"

Bobby Ghosh, International Editor of Time Magazine, will bring his extraordinary experiences as an award winning foreign correspondent and editor when he speaks on "Islam in America; Islam in North America and America's Interaction with the Islamic World" on Thursday, December 9th.

After a break for the holiday season, the series resumes with a presentation by Clancy Blair, PhD, Professor of Applied Psychology at New York University, who will speak on "Wired for Learning: How Experience Shapes Brain Development and Self-Regulation Abilities Important for Success in School and Life," on Thursday, January 13th, 2011. Dr. Kathy Hirsh Pasek, who is the Director of the Infant Laboratory at Temple University will discuss why play is critical for a child's academic, social and physical well-being in a session titled, "Mandate for Playful Learning" scheduled for Tuesday, February 1, 2011. As yet unscheduled, will be a presentation by Dr. Todd Rose of the Center for Applied Special Technology and the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Last, but by no means least, this extraordinary series of speakers will conclude with a presentation on Thursday, April 7th, 2011 by Dr. Eboo Patel, named by U.S. News and World Report as one of America's Best Leaders of 2009, who will speak on "Acts of Faith: Interfaith Leadership in a Time of Global Religious Crisis." In a world too often convinced of the inevitable clash of civilizations, Dr. Patel will examine how strong interfaith leadership can guide communities of faith to work with people of different religious and philisophical backgrounds to serve the common good.

These presentations are open to the public. For more information, contact REDS at 212-535-9666.