Friday, February 24, 2017

Orton-Gillingham Excellence in Atlanta

When I read through a stack of resumes, it's almost like watching a reality television show. Some resumes impress me and some force me to get up for a drink of water because I've almost lost my breath laughing.

Here is my story: As I talk to various parents who have problems with their child's reading there are a few questions that they like to have answered. It seems as if they always like to hear what people like for them to hear and it makes me think to myself how too much time on message boards can leave you a little queasy.

Yes, when it comes to education there are certain standards, or (for lack of a less intimidating term) strands. However, just because you buy the certificate does not make you the best person for the job. It also does not mean that if the person's office or tutoring schedule is busy that they will make the biggest impact on your child. (Just because Walmart is busy doesn't mean that it's the best place to shop, right?)

After working with thousands of clients through the years, there are certain things that I am looking for in a client who would like to see their child successful. The first thing is : Commitment. We have spent hundreds of hours preparing for the process of remediating and/or enrichment training for your child and in return, we want to make sure that you, the parent, will know what to do. The other important aspect of our process is: Trust. There are certain benchmarks that each child has. It's almost like being in your Introduction to Philosophy class where you are studying logic: If you have A and B, then C will happen. I've had parents call me after a week and say, "Why have they not learned concept "Z" yet?" All I say is, "Well, we are still on concept "M"... We'll get there, but you need to be patient."

Orton-Gillingham is a great methodology to help teach someone who is struggling with reading how to read and it helps those who already knows how to read a proper framework for orthography. There's more to it than a program. For me, I have spent an additional two years of Graduate School studying educational pedagogy, neuroscience, motivation, and behavior along side with a Professional Development Plan that clocks in over 300 hours a year. What is even more odd is that some "practitioners" with more years of experience than my Grandfather had in taking depositions as an attorney call me for advice or what's even more striking - ask me questions that I thought the certificate would help them answer.

Yes, I have a certificate on the wall at home, but there's knowledge behind it as well. I'm happy to share my knowledge and expertise to anyone who would like to be part of the Learning Ridge Family!


If you or anyone you know is having problems with reading, phonics, or processing, please call me at 404-964-8533 or you can visit our website at www.learningridge.com .


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Singapore Math in Atlanta: It Really Is Amateur Hour

Yes, I said it - only because I can prove that this really did happen and I am sad to say that it was proof that some great schools make unbelievably horrible choices.

On one extremely cold and rainy day in Atlanta, I stopped by one of my favorite Tea Shops off of Ponce De Leon Avenue and was preparing for an Orton-Gillingham/Admission Preparation tutoring session with the son of a sweet family friend. (Yes, this is a picture of him when I brought him to a store to pick out a LEGO because he is doing such a great job reading. I would never identify him because that's not why I'm writing this post - but he was the "Caped Crusader on this day).

I was cutting and stapling an assortment of materials and I could not help but be in awe of two teachers who were having a discussion on what I thought was a PhD Dissertation topic. The conversation was along the lines of: "How do you know when a child is struggling in a topic? Are all children with poor grades unable to grasp that subject?"

It hit me, I thought that I was on "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" and was brought to this particular Tea House to answer this question and win a chance to help a person with their dissertation paper. Sadly, I was mistaken about the motive for them asking that question and when they revealed to me that they run the Student Support Services for a Charter School in Atlanta, I thought I was about to faint. How can a school, fully funded and armed with a cavalry of staff and resources, not be able to help students with Math?

In talking with these ladies that "run" the department, I was taken aback by their lack of experience and/or insight on the process of helping students. After invisibly shaking my head, I gave them some anecdotal stories of how parents at their charter school run into my office and beg for assistance in understanding this curriculum that for some reason, is being taught by individuals who have a degree that is as close to Math as Physics is to Classical Music. When they asked me how I knew of the school I told her that they were one of the schools that several of my clients had been excited about attending, but now that they have a lopsided approach to teaching (they have actually told parents that the children will receive a great education in everything but... math) and that their administration has the compromising abilities that are the equivalent to a five year old, I see little to no change in Professional Development.

If a school says that they use a program, please make sure that it is not a year of Curriculum Experimentation where your child will fall victim in their first or second year implementing the program. It is important that with any transition, you find the proper support in assisting your child with understanding the background and concepts that are associated with the curriculum.

If your child is at a school where they are implementing a math program that is different from what they have used in the past and are struggling, please feel free to email: christine@learningridge.com or you can call me at (404)964-8533.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Atlanta JATP Testing: Why Do Parents Wait Until The Last Minute to Think About Private Schools?

If you ever met my in-laws, you would not be surprised that they planned for my husband's education and his scholastic transitions five years before he changed from his first school to his second school. When I talk to my mother-in-law about these different events, she describes the planning that she had to do in addition to all of the milestones he would need to meet in order to be considered for some of the scholastic challenges that lie ahead.

Fortunately for my husband, the work was done for him. My situation of transitioning from one school to another was not as smooth. My parents moved in the middle of my fifth grade year from one area of town to another and even though it was still in the same city, I lost a core group of friends and teachers that understood me as a student and needed to re-learn everything.

When parents look for someone to help them with the private school process in Atlanta, it is a daunting and challenging process. During the first meeting that I have with my new clients, I find myself apologizing at least once (maybe more than once) about the information that I provide to them and sometimes, expect them to remember when they leave the office. I'm extremely happy by the sheer number of parents that contact me early because I compliment them on their timing and can be honest about the element of time and how it can help with your child's development. However, parents who contact me with only a few weeks to help them navigate through the process of selecting a private school are not as lucky.

Some things to consider when you are looking for a professional who is working on an advisory role as you choose private schools for your child are the following:

1. How well do they know the school? (Other than receiving subjective information from a friend.)

2. What makes them qualified to speak about school choices? (A response of "I"m a parent!" is not a qualification..)

3. How long have they been doing this professionally? (If they are recently retired from one of the schools, that makes them bias - and great for that school in particular.)

4. What can they do other than talk about a school? (If they have a brochure from the schools, that is great if you would like to hire someone to act as a filing cabinet.)

5. Why are they advising you on school choices? (I have clients every year call me the "School Whisperer" because I predict which school(s) will send the acceptance letter.)

If you are on the road to having your child go through the Atlanta Private School Admissions Process and would like to have some additional insight/consulting on this rewarding journey, feel free to contact me at: christine@learningridge.com or you can call me at 404-964-8533.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Atlanta Orton-Gillingham: Does Your School Really Understand Dyslexia?

Sometimes I come across a parent who has a child enrolled in a school that has a person that champions themselves as being "Orton-Gillingham certified". I'm pretty fortunate enough to understand the difference between identifying a person who is "Orton-Gillingham Certified" and an individual who is "Orton-Gillingham Proficient".

At this period in time, there are many reasons why some children are struggling in reading than others. Not every parent has the ability to lean in during a Parent-Teacher Conference and really understand how some of the comments that your teacher is giving you can come across as a time when you need to start searching for help. But I would be a little suspicious if your child is struggling in school and the only individuals that the school is recommending are staff that are in the same building.

I've seen some awful things in my life when it comes to children who may need a different approach for remediation or enrichment however, one of the worst has to be when parents choose the wrong people to help their child with an issue. One parent came in to tell me that one of their teachers (an Orton-Gillingham Member) claimed that her daughter needed Orton-Gillingham and for some reason or another, the mother paid thousands of dollars to the school and after four months, the school could not provide any documentation that demonstrated progress from the money they collected. I was livid when I heard of this and after less than one month, the student went from sounding like a Kindergartner sounding each sound out to reading in complete sentences.

I'm always happy to see that I can stand behind all of my hard work and everything that we set out to do is accomplished.


Thursday, February 9, 2017

Atlanta Orton-Gillingham/Singapore Math: How to Know When Your Child May Be Having Problems at Home or School

Every month I am able to work with clients all over Atlanta and the country who share with me the challenges that they have with their child. Some issues that their young ones may have are quite normal for a professional like myself who sees this more often than not however, given that they are seeing this issues first hand, it is all very daunting to a new parent.

Here are Some Behaviors that may be indicate that your child is struggling at school

1. Refuses To Read Out Loud

In the early years of your child's education, the foundation of learning is based on print. They transition from a sensory environment that is filled with music and art into one where they must look at information and describe it.

If your child is having problems with learning how to read, they become their own worst critic and may not want to share with you how difficult it is for them. After seeing other children in their class pick up books and go through the material, they struggle with understanding the different letters and "sounding like them". It is easy to see why they would not want to read your favorite bed time story with them when they come home.

2. Enuresis Makes A Comeback

Many children lack the communication skills to describe the barrage of feelings that they hold deep in their heart. Whether it is dealing with a difficult classmate or missing their mommy/daddy when they work too much or are out of town, they keep it bottled up inside because they have not been taught how to "talk through" their feelings.

I've listened in on parents telling me that their five/six/seven year old is still bedwetting and they miss the psychological aspect behind this issue than the physiological aspect. If you've noticed that your child is starting to have accidents more frequently, it may be a sign that should ask your child what they are worried about.

3. Does Not Want to Engage in Conversation After School

"What did you do at school today?"

Some children are unable to answer the question because they have repressed their entire school day because it is truly traumatizing. Fortunately, with technology and access to his/her teacher and classmates, it is much easier to find out what is happening at school and what you can do at home to remedy their communication ills.

4. Has Problems with Transitioning

When it is time for you to go to a social event such as dinner or a community gathering, your child should not take more than a few minutes to get ready and walk out the door. However, if your child has problems with time management and then reverts to a tantrum after you have reminded him/her that you are leaving in one minute, there are underlying issues at hand that need to be dealt with.

5. Strained relationship with siblings/pets

Sibling rivalry is more of a state than a condition in many families. When your child is with their younger or older sibling and has changed personalities over the course of the last few weeks, there may be an issue that you have not been apprised of. I've seen children verbally taunt and become physically aggressive to their siblings and when asked why they are doing this, the response they give is usually that they have felt attacked at school and are backed into a corner.

If your child is having a difficult time with school and has manifested these behaviors, contact Learning Ridge by emailing info@learningridge.com or you can call us at 404-964-8533.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Atlanta Orton-Gillingham: The Different Individuals Who Could Help Your Child


Who are the different specialists that can help your child with a processing disorder?

Before you look at signing up your child for a program, here are the recommended individuals who could serve in the best interest of your child's development. This is a general list and may be helpful as you are researching and comparing different services:
    1. Pediatric psychiatrist
    2. Pediatric neurologist
    3. Pediatric developmental specialist
    4. Pediatric endocrinologist
    5. Pediatric geneticist
    6. Pediatric otolaryngologist
    7. Pediatric ophthalmologist
    8. Speech and language pathologist (audiologist)
    9. Neuropsychologist
    10. Educational psychologist
    11. Educator with special education credentials
    12. Reading tutor
    13. Physical therapist
    14. Occupational therapist
    15. Pediatric social worker
    16. School placement expert (educator)
    17. Disabilities attorney
    18. Family physician or general pediatrician 
If you are having challenges with your child's reading progress or need more information on Dyslexia and using research based programs to help with your child's educational progress, feel free to contact Christine at Learning Ridge by emailing: christine@learningridge.com or you can call me at 404-964-8533.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Atlanta Super Families: Habits of Highly Successful Parents

In my years of working with different families, I can always tell which parents who come to my office will have little to no problems in handling different situations with their children and which parents will be the subject of some made for tv show on how not to parent.

Here are some traits describing successful parents:

1. They Are Long-Term Thinkers

A mother and father duo came in last year and planned out and executed a successful transition from one private school to another that took us 6 months to orchestrate. The mother prepared for this event months before and called me during the early part of the season. Her and her family arrived at exactly the scheduled time for the assessment - and not one minute too early or late.

The following week, her husband, came in to "follow up" and made good on his word that they would follow through on the plan. He also reassured me that the family would make this a new habit and boy, did he mean it.

2. They Follow Through on Their Promises 

You will never know who my favorite clients are (it's something that I can never let on due to the emotional distance that I need to keep from my clients) but sometimes they read the blogs and can identify with what I am saying:

One father that is part of the Learning Ridge family is very humble and modest. I had a scheduled home visit that day to work with his daughter who was going from 5th grade math to 7th grade math in one summer. His younger daughter was practicing piano while I was talking to him and he asked her to stop practicing while we were conversing. She initiated a few more chords and he reiterated to her that she not play when adults are talking to each other. The moment that she hit the keys the third time he walked over to her, moved her away from the piano and said, "time out now".

Knowing that children test boundaries, it was quite nice to see that this parent did not spare one second in showing his children who's the boss.

3. They Know How to Treat People Who Care For Their Child(ren)

One of the best mothers I have ever met in my entire life was Mrs. C. On the outside she looked like she was always training for a half marathon, on the inside she was one of the kindest, most thoughtful individuals in my life who knew how to be grateful.

Unlike some individuals who I've come into contact with, she knew that the key to her children's success was the collaborative efforts shared between her and the people who work with her children. She always said "thank you" for everything that we did for her and made me feel important in our efforts to help her little four year old learn everything she needed to learn to be successful in school. I enjoyed working with her because she helped me realize why I love doing what I do and who I needed to help.

4. They Realize What Is a Priority, and What Is Not

I have been in close contact with an amazing mother who I have known for years. For some reason - this mother has a business sense that is unparalleled (she paid off her mortgage in ten years).

This mother has three wonderful daughters but the youngest child is Quadriplegic and has Cerebral Palsy. Instead of giving up on her daughter and leaving her in the care of strangers, she wakes up just a little before everyone else and plans out her duty filled day for everyone in her family. She sacrifices vacation for family celebrations with her three daughters and fights each and every day to make sure that all of her daughters feel important and empowered. There was even one time where one of her daughters was having a difficult time in her first professional occupation as a nurse and she gave her life advice on how to manage stress.

She's a hero to all mothers. Surprisingly, her actions are not done for a reward or an article that will be written about her in the newspaper; she does this because one day she knows her daughters will remember all of those times where their mother had given them one of the most valuable gifts: time.

5. They Know When To Be There (and When To Vanish)

I absolutely love working with the J. Family. This mother heralds a different set of mothering skills and is successful in long-term planning/emotional regulation for her children and in making you feel at home. Her husband is one of the kindest people I have ever met and I even have told her that I felt like she wasn't a real client because she was just "too nice".

When Mrs. J. would schedule appointments, she would come visit with her boys in tow and the doggie in the van. (I can't remember the breed of the dog - but he's huge!) Mrs. J would show up with a huge coffee beverage sometime between  7:45am and 7:55am in the morning for an 8:00am appointment and I can already envision how the first few hours of my morning would look like. She would have a huge grin on her face and as each of her children would come in and would act more like they were attending a "sleepover" and not a "session with your learning expert". She would leave in her dressed up pajamas and the boys would be left in their own devices learning vocabulary two to three years above their level and math that would knock any person out of their senses.

6. Understand the Difference Between Realistic Expectations and "Miracles"

If you know anything about me or my company, you know that I like to work using realistic timelines. Everything that I encounter is based on a timeline and the processing speed of information that can be absorbed by an individual.

During one period of time, I had revisited a student that I had worked with for a period of four years but needed a break from because of an irregular schedule that his family imposed on my personal time. (To be honest with you, that is the best way to not be taken seriously - if you do not have a plan in place for helping your child - do not expect them to respect you.)

When the student came back, they were in a different educational setting and this provided us with an opportunity to supply him with educational services. What first appeared as an hourly series of tutoring sessions turned out to be an all out homeschool support system that resulted in a series of A's and B's never before seen on his progress reports for high school.

I had to reason with him and his parents that through all of his hard work, patience, and persistence - these favorable grades could be accomplished on a more frequent basis. However if you expect long-term results for doing very little in a short period of time - this would be a "miracle" and not the norm.

What are your secrets to being a Highly Successful Parent? If you would like to share your comment or have questions on how to be a Highly Successful Parent, feel free to contact me at christine@learningridge.com .