Dr. Richard Selznick is a child psychologist and the director of the Cooper Learning Center, Department of Pediatrics, Cooper University Hospital in New Jersey.

His new book, School Struggles  –  A Guide to Your Shut Down Learner’s Success, is a godsend that details the potential problems faced by schoolchildren and offers solutions to parents who want to help them learn. 

Dr. Selznick has more than 25 years with experience as a child psychologist, nationally certified school psychologist, and adjunct graduate school professor. A former special education classroom teacher, Dr. Selznick is also a faculty member of Cooper University Medical School of Rowan University in the Department of Pediatrics.   His belief that each child’s uniqueness must be specifically understood and addressed personally has helped many parents and children navigate over a rough road safely. 

Does your child exhibit any of the school-struggling styles? Any of these behaviors often cause parents a great deal of anxiety and concern:  

  • a sense of being increasingly disconnected, discouraged, and unmotivated relative to school
  • fundamental weakness with reading, writing, and spelling that leads to diminished self-esteem and increased insecurity
  • increased avoidance of school tasks, such as homework, or any  academic endeavors that require sustained mental effort dislike
  • avoidance of reading
  • dislike and avoidance of writing
  • minimal grati?cation from school even if some children (i.e., the girls) are very pleasant in their public demeanors
  • social challenges. 

It is important that you don’t say something like, “Well, my child doesn’t have all these qualities, so I guess she doesn’t ?t the model of school struggling.” 

You are wrong. 

“Struggling is struggling, whatever the mix of variables,” Dr. Selznick says. These challenges can be overcome and the road ahead can be made easier.”

School Struggles, Dr. Richard Selznick’s follow-up to his acclaimed The Shut-Down Learner: Helping Your Academically Discouraged Child, details a broader scope of potential problems faced by schoolchildren as well as offering techniques and insights to help them with a variety of issues.  Dr. Selznick offers up numerous major principles or themes that he has developed to guide children and their families to success: 

Here are some of the concepts that Dr. Selznick discusses: 

Smooth Road and Rough Road Kids. There are the kids who have a relatively smooth ride, and then there are the rest. It’s not that the smooth road children don’t encounter any bumps in the road; it’s just that their bumps are not so bumpy. They have an easier passage from preschool through college. Meanwhile, for the rockier road kids, school can be brutal. Often they are learning at a much different pace than their peers. Dr. Selznick does not suggest that children on the rockier road will have all of the possible academic and social troubles. He says that the road is just going to be tougher, due to a host of variables and factors that all need special attention. 

Gradations from the Middle. Dr. Selznick is uncomfortable with labeling and pathologizing children.  As he notes, “I see kids more in gradations and shades of gray.”  “Does he have ADHD?”, “Is he dyslexic?”, and other such questions are often difficult to answer definitively since these syndromes occur on a continuum.  So many children reside in the zone that is “average” by the school standards, meaning the lower portion of the average range, yet they are struggling mightily. Being in the 30th percentile in reading or in paying attention may place you on the lower portion of the average range, but it still means that a good 70 percent of the population in your comparison group is ahead of you. This is not comforting, nor helpful to the child or the parent. 

The Soup Pot Theory of Everything. This means that things are not simply one way or another, but rather are a mixture of variables that interact to create the challenges in children. There is a myriad of different issues for most of the children of concern. You might have a helping of ADHD, mixed in with a tablespoon of reading disability, and a dash of poor coping, resulting in a challenging brew that is hard to label. The child may not be exactly “this” or “that,” but the variables place her solidly on the left side of the struggling curve—the rockier road.