Parents Education Network


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  • September 25, 2014 4:04 PM | PEN (Administrator)

    Thinking Differently: An Inspiring Guide for Parents of Children with Learning Disabilities
    by David Flink

    Review by Jenna Ellis, PEN Board Member (Silicon Valley)

    Finally, an owner’s manual for the parent of a child with learning and attention differences! Thinking Differently offers parents specific advice and practical tools for every step along the LD/ADHD journey. In Thinking Differently, author David Flink, Cofounder and Chief Empowerment Officer at Eye to Eye, shares his own personal experiences as a LD/ADHD adolescent, college student and professional in a sincere and sometimes brutally honest first-person voice. Intertwined throughout the book are passages about Eye to Eye’s creation, development, methodologies and impact. In effect he “put(s) the lessons of Eye to Eye in your hands”.

    While dispelling myths about the causes and implications of LD/ADHD, Flink sounds a convincing call to action for parents who suspect something might be awry. He calls on parents to take the critical first step of having their child tested NOW. Good advice for parents who know “something’s not right here” and perhaps are waiting a year to see if the child grows out of it. That myth has been dispelled: your child will not grow out his/her LD/ADHD. Having your child tested will reveal his/her learning challenges, and also strengths, and knowing this will empower you and your child to create an effective learning environment. Flink argues that “environments are really what predict whether a student with LD/ADHD can be successful” and encourages parents to focus on fixing the environment, not the kid.

    Tools in Ch. 1-3: identifying LD/ADHD signs, how to talk with your child about testing, how to talk with your child about the results while boosting his/her self-esteem, how to boost your child’s self-esteem outside the classroom

    The author succinctly sums up the benefits of metacognition: “a happy brain is a successful brain”. An essential job of the parent of a child with LD/ADHD is to help your child uncover and understand how his/her brain learns best. Knowing this will empower you to know what kind of accommodations will help your child in the classroom and make you a better advocate for your child. Better yet, Flink contends, your child will be better at advocating for him/herself and more likely to reach his/her goals if he/she knows how he learns best. Also on the list of parenting jobs is seeking accommodations and encouraging your child to ask for help. Flink shrewdly advises: “Don’t wait till you fail to ask for help”. Ask for accommodations, get the accommodations and use the accommodations – those are the critical steps to teach your child to work smarter.

    Tools in Ch. 4-6: understanding educational assessments, how to prepare for an IEP/504 meeting, how to help your child uncover his/her strengths, understanding potential accommodations that might work for your child, how to use your accommodations to work smarter

    Allies are essential to your child’s self-confidence. “Sometimes your best accommodation is an ally,” Flink maintains. In addition to supportive parents, your child needs someone who believes in them and someone with whom they have a shared LD/ADHD experience. These allies can be found everywhere in both adults and peers. Your child’s allies will help him/her build her LD/ADHD community and find “kids like me” who appreciate each other’s differences. In addition to allies, your child needs advocates acting on his/her behalf and to be taught self-advocacy skills. Your child will use these skills throughout her life, and it’s the parent’s job to teach them.

    Flink concludes the book with another call to action. He encourages parents and students to become involved in the LD/ADHD movement to “create a world where all learners are recognized.” An inspiring message no matter where you are on the LD/ADHD journey. The LD/ADHD movement is currently just a “nudgement”, but this book may just inspire enough parents and students to join in and transform it to the tidal wave that will be necessary for change.

    Tools in Ch. 7-9: how to find the right ally, how to advocate for your child, how to teach your child to advocate for herself, how to empower your child, how to help your child develop his/her own LD/ADHD story, how to tap into the LD/ADHD community

    As a mother of two tremendous teenage sons with learning differences, I only wish this book had been published back in 2000 when we were “waiting a year” for my sons to grow out of it. They didn’t. And so my sons and I began our (albeit sometimes bumpy) LD journey together. I’m quite certain the path forward will be smoother relying on Flink’s advice and using the tools he has given us. Parents, just starting or who have been on the LD/ADHD journey for a long time, will surely find Thinking Differently a helpful road map along the way.

    Click here to purchase Thinking Differently from and support PEN!

  • September 18, 2014 3:43 PM | PEN (Administrator)

    We are excited to announce that Student Advisors for Education (SAFE) members Mia, Ben G. and Ben E. are participating in the Student Voice Live! Conference in New York this Saturday, 9/20. 

    Student Voice Live! is an annual education summit created to advance the education community through the voices and actions of students. Building on the success of the inaugural event last year, we expect more than 300 students and youth supporters to join us in NYC on September 20 with satellite events across the globe. While there, students, thought leaders and change makers will tackle some of educations' most fundamental issues and engage in community-building discussions to strengthen ties between students, teachers and policy makers.
    Mia, Ben and Ben will take part in the Think Tank: The Power of Diverse Learners session at 10:45AM PST.

    The event will be livestreamed so we can all view it over the internet. Check @stu_voice for updates!
  • September 12, 2014 3:42 PM | PEN (Administrator)

    PEN Phoenix board members Julie Erfle and Linda Parkis were interviewed on Eight: Arizona PBS about the resources they are bringing to their local community by founding a PEN Affiliate. Watch it here!

  • September 09, 2014 1:59 PM | PEN (Administrator)

    I am very happy to announce that we have hired a Deputy Executive Director. Please join me in welcoming Prasant Nukalapati. Prasant brings the skills and background that will support PEN through our next level of growth. He also shares our personal passion and commitment to the mission of PEN.

    I hope that you will introduce yourself to him and share some of your experiences of the PEN community when you meet him.


    Laura Maloney
    Executive Director

    I am excited to be joining Parents Education Network (PEN) as the new Deputy Executive Director during a period of dynamic organizational growth and expansion.

    Before joining PEN I ran the Oakland office of the A Better Chance program for eight years. As the Northwest Region Program Manager I empowered under-served families with academically high achieving students of color by helping them navigate the process of applying to independent schools for admission and financial aid. To ensure long term student success, I created ongoing student and family support programming once they found placement at a partner school. Prior to A Better Chance I was a middle school and high school classroom teacher for 9 years.

    PEN's philosophy of education, collaboration and empowerment through "face to face" connection is what drew me to the organization. I think that the work that PEN does with students, parents and educators is vital to ending the sense of isolation and despair that many families with ADHD and Dyslexic learners deal with. This issue is near and dear to my heart because I am the parent of a 11 year old resilient ADHD learner. As we all know there is a great deal of work to be done to ensure that our children receive the support they need to be academically successful and successful in life.

    I'm thrilled to be joining the PEN team. This is an exciting time for the organization as we grow and strengthen signature programs like EdRev, SAFE, the PEN Speaker Series, and the school liaison initiative while expanding the impact of our work beyond the Bay Area.

    I look forward to meeting you all at future PEN events!


    Prasant Nukalapati
    Deputy Executive Director

  • September 09, 2014 1:56 PM | PEN (Administrator)

    Dear PEN Members and Friends,

    Welcome back! I hope that you enjoyed the summer and have had a relatively smooth transition back to the school year. We invite you to join us for our first event of the year, our Parent Meeting, this Friday, September 12th, 9am-11am, at Star of the Sea School in San Francisco. Whether you are new to PEN or a returning member these meetings are a good way for parents to share information and meet other parents who are traveling the road of learning and attention differences. Once again Pathways Institute will facilitate discussions, this time with the focus on The Social Emotional Aspects of Being Different. I look forward to seeing you there.

    We have been very busy all summer working on a number of very exciting projects and partnerships so that we can serve you better and provide similar experiences to parents around the country.

    As some of you may be aware, PEN has partnered with 15 non-profits on a soon-to-be-launched online resource for parents of kids aged 3-20 who have learning and attention issues. will provide free access to game-changing information, expert advice, and the wisdom of other parents, allowing parents to learn about the “what” and the “how to” of their kids’ academic, social and emotional needs.

    I am very happy to announce that we have hired a Deputy Executive Director. Please join me in welcoming Prasant Nukalapati. Prasant brings the skills and background that will support PEN through our next level of growth. He also shares our personal passion and commitment to the mission of PEN.

    Click here to read an introductory note from Prasant. I hope that you will introduce yourself to him and share some of your experiences of the PEN community when you meet him.

    Here’s to a year full of progress!

    Laura Maloney
    Executive Director
    Parents Education Network

  • September 05, 2014 12:10 PM | PEN (Administrator)

    SF Chronicle Wednesday featured the inspiring story of Sage Ryan, a 15-year-old with ADHD who had trouble fitting into a traditional education and 'hacked' his way into UC Berkeley instead!

    Sage, who had behavior problems in middle school attributed to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, was stunned to be enjoying school [at West Los Angeles Community College]. He took more college classes: Spanish, piano, history, sociology, art history.

    [...] "I don't want anyone to get the impression that he's an intellectual genius," said his mom. "He's a typical kid with learning issues, getting in trouble with authority, and a horribly messy room."

    Read on!

  • September 04, 2014 4:50 PM | PEN (Administrator)

    As we settle into the new school year, we would like to thank several individuals who dedicated many hours this summer volunteering with us.

    Thank you to:
    • Debbie and Raffi, our amazing USF student interns, for spending their summer days with us
    • Rose Kuntz, insurance agent extraordinaire
    • Daphne Alden for helping with marketing and website development
    • Shelly Schaenen, our first official liaison, for her help on the membership committee
    • Kerry Ko, our skilled volunteer, committed to supporting PEN in improving our work on impact analysis
  • August 05, 2014 12:34 PM | PEN (Administrator)
    "We are in the midst of an exciting time of growth here at PEN as we launch new Affiliates and push to become a nationwide movement.

    To accomplish this growth we have had to do some restructuring in order to maximize our resources. Regretfully, we have had to cut back some of our local staff. 

    Please read Natalie Tamburello's generous letter below. We are so proud of Natalie for, as you can read, she has grown up along with our organization and is a vivid example of the benefits of our LD community support.  While we no longer have a full time position at PEN that can maximize Natalie's talents, we look forward to watching her continue to grow and remain an important part of the PEN community. We can’t wait to see what she does next!"
    - Laura Maloney, Executive Director

    When I was applying to high school I was asked, “If you had a million dollars, what would you do with it?” I told the admissions director that I would give the money to PEN and described all the reasons why: no organization had understood, supported or empowered me more.

    I participated in PEN’s first student panel in 2003 as a seventh grader. You can still see that panel video on SAFE’s website. Three years later, PEN launched SAFE. Before I graduated from high school, SAFE started its first Eye to Eye mentoring program, produced a public service video for the Giants, partnered with 826 Valencia Street and published Read This When You Can, the first anthology of essays written by and for students who learn differently, and we started speaking publicly throughout the Bay Area.

    I have been privileged and honored to be a constant part of this organization and its commitment to SAFE students. This fall, with a Masters in Education under my belt, I returned to PEN as the SAFE Program Director. I was elated to be able to give back to the organization that gave so much to me.

    SAFE’s success is directly tied to the enthusiasm of the students and the commitment of the facilitators and advisors. We are family, a community, tied together by our unique learning experiences and our commitment to change how we educate in this country – employing a strength-based, rather than a deficit model of education.

    I can’t summarize everyone’s contribution, but I know that each and every one of the SAFE students in all three chapters has made the success of this organization possible. And I can only imagine what lies ahead for current and future SAFE chapters given the talent, creativity and commitment of our SAFE students. To each of you, I thank you for allowing me to be a part of your journey; I am honored and privileged to know you all.

    The work we began this year will continue and I cannot wait to attend the San Francisco chapter’s first SAFE play, help fund-raise for the next EdRev Scholarship Fund, explore Silicon Valley’s website, and hear the Sacramento chapter’s EdRev anthem.

    Nick, Mariah and Christie are amazing facilitators; together we made a great team, and without their huge commitment to SAFE, the amazing ideas of the SAFE students cannot be realized. The insightful and supportive guidance of the SAFE advisors is equally essential, for without each of you acting as a sounding board, SAFE would not be where it is today. It is clear that together this community can do anything.

    I regret that I never did find that million dollars for PEN, and unfortunately there is not a full-time position for the SAFE Program Director at this time. Therefore, my time as member of the PEN staff has come to an end for now. The chapters of course, will continue and a part-time facilitator will be hired for San Francisco in the fall.

    As you can see, I’ve never really left this community and I never will. I promise to remain close to you all; please feel free to contact me any time. I can always be reached at natalie.tamburello AT I am here for each and every one of you during this transition and I will always be available for the students and families of SAFE whether I am a PEN staff member or not.

    It was my dream to give back to SAFE, the group that gave so much to me. As this school year flew past, you blew me away with your maturity, insight, ideas and empowerment. Continue to Stand Up, and Speak Out! I know that this is a community that will change the terrain of education.

  • June 11, 2014 2:50 PM | PEN (Administrator)

    The End Game is Learning – Not Reading

    Guest post by  Laurie O'Hara

    My son, AJ, is severely dyslexic and loves to learn. He consumes all he can from the internet and audio books. He is literate and can read, but not at his grade level and not with any joy. That’s OK though. In our home, we do not force reading. Rather, we encourage learning and the acquisition of knowledge. To us, the channel the learning is delivered to AJ is not important, but that knowledge is acquired and learning happens.  In our home, learning happens in abundance and AJ teaches us something new every day before breakfast.

    Years ago, when AJ was in first grade (for two years), he struggled with reading and we were constantly told that he would catch up; that it was a developmental lag; that boys learn later; to wait and see.  All those responses to legitimate concerns are stalling the inevitable diagnosis of dyslexia. But why?  The worst advice you can accept is ‘wait and see’ because that allows the frustration to continue, despair to set in and self-esteem to plummet. Being proactive about getting a child tested is how parents need to go – and sometimes with assertive advocacy. It is the parents’ rights to have their children tested when there is reason for concern. In our case, reading at the first grade level for three years was adequate concern.

    PEN (Parents Education Network) has been a fabulous source of education for me on my son’s learning disabilities and how to best guide him through his education. I enjoy their forums, panels, and workshops. They have been such a lifesaver, when I felt despair not knowing where to go for the right tools or how to navigate the education system. I have been to EdRev in San Francisco for years and thoroughly enjoy the camaraderie and always learn something new and fascinating about dyslexia. I’m happy to say that AJ is proud of his dyslexia and all the gifts that come with the dyslexic brain. Now we simply have a sense of humor with his spelling mistakes and reading errors.

    Laurie and AJ's book, 'Why Can't I Read?' tells AJ's story about how he struggled with reading and how he's come to deal with his learning disability. Laurie says: "It's the book we wish we could've read when we were confused and frustrated with his reading challenges." It is available on Amazon.

    This is a book about one boy's struggle with dyslexia. It is told from the child's perspective to help other children and their parents understand and deal with the frustrations, shame, and despair of not being able to read, to ultimately overcome the obstacles to reading, and become proud of the fascinating dyslexic brain. This book should be read by children, parents, teachers, and anyone who has a loved one struggling with a learning disability. It's a story of resilience, pride and hope

  • June 09, 2014 9:51 AM | PEN (Administrator)

    Dear PEN Members and Supporters:

    As our 11th year draws to a close, I would like to offer heartfelt thanks to all of you on behalf of PEN. Your support made possible another year of exciting advances in the movement to understand how we can move toward supporting all students in the classroom.

    Among our accomplishments this year were:

    • Affiliates: we helped local groups of parents to launch three PEN Affiliates, in Sacramento, Silicon Valley and Phoenix, AZ. PEN is going national!
    • Speaker Series: back in San Francisco, we presented 10 Speaker Series events to over 1,000 attendees, on subjects such as LD rights in college, nonverbal learning disabilities, executive function, assistive technology and resilience
    • Professional Development: hosted two Professional Development workshops for educators, on “The Whole-Brain Child” and Executive Function
    • Early Childhood: held two early childhood education presentations on early literacy, for parents and for educators
    • Parent Meeting:  our parent meeting at the start of the school year provided a forum for parents to connect with and support each other
    • SAFE: monthly meetings and other activities for students continued in San Francisco and in the newer Silicon Valley branch of SAFE

    This year culminated in another transformative, celebratory day at EdRev 2014: Step into a New Era of Learning, where we welcomed back our first ever keynote speaker, Jonathan Mooney, for a rousing speech on the future of education, and hosted:

    • over 120 exhibitors (the most ever!)
    • yet another fabulous Student Art Show
    • a range of 14 workshops
    • Student Celebration
    • 2,000+ attendees from around the Bay Area and all over the country
    • attendees from HI, MA, WI, AZ, NY

    The level of excitement and engagement at EdRev was greater than ever this year, as this event continued to grow as a gathering place for a national movement.

    These advances can only take place with the dedication of supporters like you. Once again, we thank you, and wish you all a rejuvenating summer. I hope this time of year provides the opportunity for you and your kids to spend time together and appreciate their gifts, their passions and their amazing potential.

    Laura Maloney
    Executive Director

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Parents Education Network (PEN), 6050 Geary Blvd., Ste. 101A, San Francisco, CA 94121    Phone: (415) 751-2237

PEN is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, federal tax ID# 43-2008436.

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