Saturday, September 23, 2017

Talent Development in Atlanta - Can you prep your child to be gifted?

If you have ever had the chance to experience an existential crisis (like some people over the age of 20 have at some point in their life) one activity comes to mind: reading a book.

Whenever a person hits a low - they engage in an act of selfish, celebratory knowledge consumption that brings them to a trail of history, self-improvement and an assortment of biographical and autobiographical materials that will make any English professor proud. It happens to the best of us - and it brings you closer to who you truly are.

It seems that when parents look at helping their child realize their potential, they engage in selfish acts of trendy activities that show little to no value to a child's natural interests or curiosity. In the last few years, I have seen parents enroll their children in the most esoteric program timelines that the end result is a child that is a master of nothing. In my role as a professional, I hesitate to give advice on what they want to do with the little time that is spent with their child because at the end of the day, it is the parent that will answer for everything that they have scheduled for the child.

In no way am I stating that some children are gifted or truly talented. I've met many bright individuals and have attended coveted leadership programs where many of my former colleagues and associates have chaired, directed and overseen research and program development programs around the country. However, there is a hidden drive and a true path to success that separates one successful child from a child whose parent is the only driving factor to a child's purported path to success. Forcing a child to do something that is not in their true nature shows more of an insecurity upon the parent than helping a child find their true talent.

If a child is to be truly gifted, it takes more than years of driving them to and from an activity for them to be drawn to what will make them the world's best (fill in the blank) that will shape their future. In order for a child to be gifted, a parent must be a gifted parent in understanding their child and learning how to balance what they need and want their child to be with a set of priorities that focus on emotional/social/physical and intellectual well-being. No child wants to be coerced into a life of empty promises and meaningless dollar a pound trophies that will be a figment of their imagination in 30 years. They'll remember the lessons that they have learned along the way from people who teach them that the road to success is hard, and nothing in life should ever be taken for granted.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

What I Am Being Blamed for When Children Are Being Put To Sleep

Many years ago, I shared an article about how I was able to help some parents sleep better at night. It was an anecdotal story shared with me by one of my former students who is now in college living the good life. (I really am happy for you because you are living in the heart of D.C. Lucky man!)

Now that my young students have come and finished one of my many programs, I can certainly say that for many (if not all of them),  have moved on to bigger and brighter futures. Except for the case of one mother who has recently contacted me on Facebook.

To make a long story short (or bearable in this case) I was on my way to one of my private school vendors when Facebook alerts me of a message that was shared by a former client. Instead of looking away from the screen and starting my car to travel a total of two miles, I decide to read the message that - for one brief second, solidified the reason why I love what we do.

Here is the message that she wrote (I know that she might be reading this so I am deleting some of the information because - confidentiality):

I know that for some reason or another, our company has been able to help so many students. I remember working with this little man and many others like him. Like many who visit my practice, his parents decided working with us after visiting another agency for six months. This wonderful mother (a former teacher) was one that I came to respect and was happy to work with. We came up with a few changes to help him not only have the stamina to read, but showed him how to manage the world around him.


K** here. Not sure if you remember working with W********? K************* Just to let you know we have nightly arguments for him to go to bed because all he wants to do is read! Thank you so much and now that I am back teaching I recommend LR to parents.

By the way, thank you to "K" and all the other parents that I am so happy to have helped over the years. I'm grateful that you allowed us the opportunity to work with your child and bring them a newly learned skill that they will value for the rest of their lives.

If you have any questions about Learning Ridge and our approach to Orton-Gillingham, please do not hesitate to contact Christine at christine@learningridge.com or you can call us at (404) 964-8533.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

JATP : The 3 Ways Atlanta Parents Choose Their Private Schools

It's not uncommon for parents to shop around during the Private School/JATP process and see what it is that they should and should not do in choosing a school. Unless you are shopping at a local Whole Foods, it is difficult for one to obtain and objective perspective on what the schools represent until you make an appointment to tour the schools personally. Parents in the Atlanta area must rely on word of mouth to determine which schools would serve their students best.

In an effort to help understand how parents "think" and make their final (or in some cases, only) choice, here are some strategies that some parents have subscribed to in preparing for this life-changing decision:

The "Cast a Wide Net" Approach 

In some circles, this is an approach that is used by families who are more concerned with the status of being in a private school than the actual private school itself. They have listened in on the various conversations that their fellow "Parent-In-Arms" are having at the playground, preschools and athletic fields to gather information freely. Once they hear of another school that was not on their radar, they add it onto their personal list, call the school the next day and sneak into the next tour before the end of the month. They are new to the private school world because they either are not from the Atlanta area or they attended public school and do not want their children to attend public school.

Pros: Somehow, one of these schools may provide a favorable response and glimmer of hope that may cause you to star in your own "School Wars" trilogy

Cons: A school may choose you because they need to fill in the numbers and it may not be the best choice for your child.

"Legacy" Approach

My practice is private and confidential, however, I can tell you that there are a number of Legacy families that I meet on a daily basis. The "Legacy Approach" (also known as the "Blind" approach) is one where the pride of a family and where one or more than one individual attended, takes precedent over the proper selection of a school with a child. It is important to keep up with traditions that are meaningful and important, but isn't that what Thanksgiving football games and the Macy's Parade is for? Knowing that Grandma and Mom went to the school is important, but times have changed and some schools have changed in their educational philosophy and have contributed some wonderful students in the global community.

Pros: Great for family pictures and maintaining a certain degree of conformity within your micro-community

Cons: Choosing or imposing a school for your child may cause more harm than good especially if your child does not feel that school is for them.

"One-Shot" Approach

This approach is taken by some families because they either know too much about one particular school through another child or family member attending the school or because they are completely enamored by that chosen school. They have played out their cards rather favorably because their children can attend the local neighborhood public school as a back up in their envious neighborhood or continue to attend their "Plan B" school that their child is currently enrolled at.

Pro: Saves you time in planning and prioritizing your school search. For the most part, you only have to schedule one of everything for this "chosen" school.

Con: This leaves nothing on the table for other schools in the search. Many schools in Atlanta are being avoided because the parent is only choosing one school. Because you are looking at one school, the pressure is insurmountable for some individuals who may not be able to handle it. (Yes, that means you might need to call on your support system when your children are in bed at 11:00pm or early in the morning at 7:00am to relieve stress). And, it might cause you to have a nervous breakdown if your application make a grievous mistake anywhere during this process.


If you would like to learn more about how Learning Ridge has helped Atlanta families through this process of choosing an Atlanta private school and obtaining a favorable response, feel free to contact Christine at christine@learningridge.com or you can call me at (404) 964-8533.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Why Finding a Great Orton-Gillingham Professional in Atlanta is harder than you think..

I've worked with several parents this year that have been recommended to different Orton-Gillingham professionals before seeing me. I can't blame them for meeting with other professionals because the fact of the matter is, most people spend more time on marketing and networking than working on their clients - and as such, that is when referrals come. What makes me a little sad are the stories that I hear when they finally pick up the phone to call me.

One of my lovely clients is a wonderfully talented physician in the Metro Atlanta area. She called me out of the blue asking me questions about our program and giving me the sob story of what has (or has not) happened to her son over the course of the last year. Her son (sad to say) had worked with a provider who has a reputation for "not being nice" but has given the parents an expectation that "you don't see results until after 100 hours". Guys, this isn't losing weight without bariatric surgery, this is helping a child learn how to read in the most authentic way possible. In no way am I saying that I know everything about Orton-Gillingham. To be quite frank,  I know a great deal about cognitive development, motivation, brain processes, and other boring facts about learning and psychology that would put anyone over the age of one years old to sleep. It really pains me to share with you that I have a few books on the brain that I have tucked under my pillow that I read for fun at night.

After my client spent an entire year with the provider, she saw little to no progress. I'm not saying that this was a nine-month school year - this was 12 months of seeing the same organization over and over and for some reason, they could not teach him the basics. In comes "Learning Ridge" into the picture. They visit me on a quiet Friday afternoon. She brings her entire family to my office and little did I know, her husband is a former international educator. Before we finished the conversation and my initial impressions of what we will be doing should he start working with me, she shares her husband's notion that the first place that they went to was a "quack" and he does not feel that I will be doing anything to help make the situation any better.

This news hits me pretty tough. I'm not one to back down from an insurmountable claim. Nonetheless, I smiled and said, "You know, it's okay. Sometimes I don't believe that I'm great at what I do either. It's been hard knowing that you are capable but I guess he'll just have to wait and see." I laugh (and tear up) at the same time. Orton-Gillingham has been something that I hold really close to my heart. It has helped shape some fundamental processes and strategies that I use in my teaching and interacting with those whom I instruct and for some unknown reason, others in the industry use it as a "hook and catch" phrase to attract desperate clients.

Sorry, I digress.... After several weeks, I meet with my wonderful client and start what I was hoping, would be a key to unlock my new friend's reading ability. During that first lesson it was as if he was getting ready to catch some fish and I was there with the fishing rod and a few hooks. I provided him with the best (and least boring) lesson I could think of and suddenly, his face lit up. Letters started to click and the movement of the lesson from one concept to another started to (for once and for all) make sense. I left at the top of the hour and gave the mother some instructions/guidelines that she should consider for the next lesson.

I'm happy to say that when we met again for the second lesson, her husband became a believer. Given the fact that he was not raised in this area, he shared with his wife that for some reason or another, what I did makes sense and it works for their child. What that company attempted to do in one year I had accomplished in less than one hour.

The truth is, the power to connect at Learning Ridge is one person at a time. I know each and every one of our clients and what we do for them is life-changing and important. Teaching a child how to read or helping them attain a goal they were unable to do prior to meeting with us is life-altering. I'm proud of each and every one of their accomplishments and there's nothing better than making doubters in this life your biggest fans.

Thank you to my Learning Ridge Orton-Gillingham clients for always trusting in us. Your child's happiness and success lies in their ability to feel confident in their life and I am eternally grateful to be part of that!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

JATP | Gifted Prep | The Power of Great Parenting in Atlanta

Listen, watch, and observe - is what people are too busy not doing. It does not take me very long to see which parents that I meet will end up being at the top of their game with their children, and the rest of them will be swimming against a current of disappointment.

Let's start with my Private School Parents. The best ones that I have encountered are the "cool ones". They have been given the "script" of what to do, how to act, and other "insider tips" that help them stand out when they need to, and blend in when they have to. It does not concern me as to who their grandparents are or what patent they have received the year after their second child was born, these parents are more than their last "success".  They are the individuals who know never to pick a fight because it is not about winning or losing and they value the time and expertise of a respected professional.

Parents of children that are classified as "Gifted" fall into a category all their own. I'm uncertain as to what these parents end game truly is, but a parent that did everything to help their child get into the Gifted Program (and not game the system) is one that models what true parenting is. One of my favorite clients learned the hard way that her child is not reduced to a number or a label but is a valued member of society that needs to understand what is expected, and to clarify what they cannot understand. For the last four years, she has helped her child reach his fullest potential without ever asking for anything more than "please let me know if there is anything that I can do at home" from each and every loving professional that has worked with her son. (Yes, and I do mean that. His teachers have always valued his genuineness in the classroom and his "Magic" tricks!).

Sometimes parents rush to a finish line in the hopes that they will finish first in a race that they never qualified for. Being a good parent means knowing what you can do, and knowing what you need to do to help your children be the best that they can be. It's not about having all the money in the world or a job that entitles you to unlimited paid time off. A good parent is one that knows how to communicate with others and ask the right people to help them get their children where they need to be. A good parent is one that knows how to respect the opinions of others and understands the value of what accomplished, humble people have to say.

I'm happy to tell you that I have a number of wonderful parents that I have been so fortunate in working with over the years. Some parents that I have met will undoubtedly be successful in life because they have integrity and the morale fiber that one cannot measure through material worth but in the admiration of their peers and the community.

Thank you to all of those parents who I've helped through the years and I look forward to meeting more of Atlanta's Great Parents!


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Orton-Gillingham and Handwriting Without Tears at Learning Ridge: What is the Difference?

A few months ago we met up with a few old friends for the holidays. We've realized that as we watch the years pass, the time that we spend with those that we care about are more precious than streaming our favorite television shows. After catching up with friends who have always known that I "work with children", they came to realize what it is that I have done for the better part of over a decade.

There were certain words that I hear from a young parent that are "trigger signs" for intervention. "He's struggling", "we are unable", "we've talked to this Dr." are all examples of what it takes for my ears to perk up in that moment. It takes less than an hour for me to do an assessment in my office to generate a report that guides the educational planning for a year, but like a physician who does a physical in the examination room, it only takes me five minutes to see what could be troubling a child.

Unbeknownst to many parents, including my sister, my in-laws and a few cousins, I disguise the act of "playing" into assessments. At the holiday get together that I was at, my husband was left behind to describe my unconventional process to the other guests and they were in complete disbelief that a child could be assessed, remediated and enriched using the art of "play". I'm not certain that I could agree with them, but it is difficult to have children (and adults) accomplish anything when they are bored. I despise cleaning and/or organizing unless I have music on or if I dance across the floor trying to sweep dust away from our walking paths. Work is not something that I can look forward to - but engaging in an activity that appears to be fun and exciting is something that I do everyday.

After a few minutes of listening to our family friend ramble on and on about what pains them with their child, I finally crossed the line of friendship and said, "let me do a few things to see what might be happening". I grabbed a few materials from my car and began my "pretend work". It seems as if I need to be in a classroom or in an office with a hint of "superiority" beside it, but it took me just a handful of tasks and I gathered all the data I needed to help our family friend with something that they had been struggling with for the past few years.

"In order for all of this to make sense to your child, and for him to move past this developmental stage - you need to work on this one thing... Once that happens, he'll take off.." My words resonated like the lyrics from an opera and it was if the biggest revelation was made for them this decade. In a sea of professionals that they had worked with, it boiled down to one thing physically, and the rest of the work was done by (and given credit to) me.

It took our family friends less than a week to make everything happen in their schedule to work with me and my organization. My promise to them was that this challenge would be taken care of and the only thing that I could guarantee is my hard work and honesty.  Nothing less than what they could ask for but I always made sure that I was deliberate and attentive in what they needed and they showed me that their son's education and well being is important.

Fast forward less than three months later, he's made more progress than I can write on one sheet of paper. His stamina when it comes to reading and utilizing the Orton-Gillingham method  has been astounding that when I keep my books on the table, mid conversation he'll start to read a book (without being prompted) and will finish the book by himself. We've come up with ingenious ways to help shape his behavior (thanks to my background in behavior modification) and to work towards a goal - by thinking big picture and then taking it one step at a time. Progress is never expected to occur overnight, but after a long and arduous walk filled with hours of conversation, stories and laughter, you've reached your destination.

I'm so proud of the little man that I've worked with for the past few months. He's not just the "family friend's son", he helps me realize that my job is never done and I'm able, without effort, to be at the top of my game all over again. Helping a child, any child, learn how to do something difficult is one of the best feelings you can have as an adult, Whether it's helping them read, write stories, draw, ride a bike - it does not matter, Once they have learned to do something with your help (and your heart), your existence is forever branded in their spirit!

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 .