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  • March 05, 2015 2:08 PM | PEN (Administrator)

    For our Ask the Expert blog series, Pathways Institute asked parents for their stories, with the idea that it would be helpful for parents to hear from other parents about their struggles and transformations. We asked: What has this journey of parenting kids with learning differences meant to you? How has it transformed you? This is the response from one of our parents. She requested to remain anonymous out of respect for her children.

    Margo’s Journey

    Can you describe the biggest challenge or crisis you faced as the parents of a child(s) with learning differences? 

    Photo of two people on a journey

    There really wasn’t a single big challenge or crisis with my son and daughter and their learning differences. The truth is that when you have children who have diagnosed learning differences it is much more about managing life from one small crisis to another. However, there was a defining moment for me that forced me to rethink how I was managing my kid’s education and treatment.

    I had my children late in life, and I can’t imagine my life without them.  They were born 20 months apart and they have always been each other’s best friend.  When they went to the preschool by our home I enjoyed walking them to school and watching as they ran off happy to play with their friends. I thought that their entire academic career was going to be that easy and that fun.  After pre-school, they attended a parochial school by our home. We were thrilled to be in a local school with a rich academic history.

    I could not have guessed that my son had learning differences in kindergarten. He was happy, carefree, and participated in everything; his nickname was Happy Jack. By first grade it was clear that there was a problem, and by second grade, my beautiful smiling little boy was gone and had been replaced by a shy, reticent child.  He had anxiety attacks in the morning and he struggled to get to school. His teachers and classmates loved him because he was an easy-going kid, and other than his dyslexia, he was the model student.

    In second grade we had a thorough neuropsychological evaluation. The problem wasn’t getting the testing or even understanding the testing; the problem was that there were too many teachers and administrators at the school offering advice and suggestions. Of course, only one of the teachers was credentialed in Special Education. All of the other teachers had heard about, or read about something that someone had said about dyslexia. Every week it was a new plan, and a new idea. It was extremely frustrating. The doctor responsible for the evaluation said that with tutoring and a few accommodations that my son would in fact be capable of the same work as the other students.  He also stated that moving him to another school would be detrimental to his self-esteem and self-confidence; and he was right. At the end of second grade the school did not renew our contract and kicked him out.

    For some reason it wasn’t quite as surprising when the school identified my daughter as having a learning difference.  At that point I knew the drill and I knew what to do.  We had a very extensive neuropsychological evaluation. We took it back to the school and put a working plan in place, got her a tutor, a therapist, and set up a few accommodations.  But it was sort of odd in a way - at school the teachers and administrators treated us as though we were part of some “Secret Society.”  Meetings happened behind closed doors, and no one talked about the issues in public.  Both my kids had the same tutor.  She became a part of our family and in many ways she became the voice of reason.  She became a part of how we ended our membership into the “Secret Society.”  My mom or I would meet her in front of the school, in front of all the other parents and students to hand my kids off to her for their tutoring sessions. We were very public and very open about their dyslexia.

    Despite the tutor and the accommodations and my daughter’s progress (she was in third grade and reading at a third grade level) we continued to have problems with the school. Every week there was a change in plan, a new strategy, and a new accommodation.  And again there were several well-meaning, young, childless teachers who had no Special Education training, but were thinking about being a Special Education teacher, who offered insights and suggestions. It was one of those well-meaning teachers who sent me hurtling into one of the worst days of my parenting life. 

    It was a Saturday and I was rushing off to work for a community meeting, when I opened an e-mail from one of my daughter’s teachers who had “concerns” about my daughter expressing that she wanted to be a shark. She was a third grader with an incredible imagination. She felt that my daughter needed “intensive psychotherapy.” In a fit of rage, I whirled around raged at my daughter. I remember yelling at her, “Why? Why can’t you be like the other girls?” My daughter cowered in a chair, and there was fear in her eyes. I had broken her trust and crossed over the line. To this day, and even as I write this, I can hardly hold back the tears. That day marked the turning point for my kids and me. I had finally been pushed to my limits and I needed to get control of our lives and of their education.  Ironically, that afternoon while I was at work, an older woman, who had raised two daughters, and had twenty years into her sobriety said, “What’s the matter Sunshine you don’t look too well today?” I told her about my morning and how gutted I felt. She said, “Sugar, don’t let no stranger in your house or run your home. Those are your babies and only you know what’s right.” 

    What action did you take to address the crisis? 

    I went home that night and I started putting boundaries into place. The teachers and the administrators were told that there would be no emails after Thursday. Nothing can be fixed on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday. I designated one person at the school to be the single point of contact with me. I worked with the tutor and an educational consultant. Both women were credentialed Educational Therapists, and both had raised a child with learning differences. They were my advisors, and could provide me with honest feedback. 

    I became my own subject matter expert. I understood that everyone was well intentioned, including my former mother-in-law who sent me the book The Price of Privilege. She decided that my children didn’t have learning differences; they were just spoiled and needed a few more spankings. But I needed to silence all of the white noise and the background noise in our lives and focused solely on my children. I knew one thing for certain: if I didn’t invest in my kids, and place all of my attention and resources into them, they would not have a chance at a great life. 

    Then it occurred to me that I was sort of piecing their therapy and their education together on my own. That’s when I decide to transfer the to a school that specializes in educating children with dyslexia.  At the new school they would get all of the services that they needed in one place, develop learning strategies, and learn to self-advocate. It’s was a school in which EVERY teacher had the right training and credentials.

    As a single mom living in San Francisco the move to a new school was not an easy decision. I moved back into my childhood home so that I could afford the tuition and the transportation.  I became a 40-something year old woman living at home! I downsized every part of my life so that my kids could have the best education that I could provide for them.

    What has this journey of parenting kids with learning differences meant to you?  How has it transformed you?  

    Having two children with dyslexia has made me a better person. I have a great deal of respect for everyone’s differences, and I recognize that we all think and function differently.  When I am managing a project I let my team function within their skill sets, and I look for strategies that will draw out the best in their work.  It has also made me a better strategist and planner with a serious dose of patience.

    When it comes to my children,  I celebrate all of our successes –big and small. I have learned that the experts don’t have all the answers and sometimes the best decision that you can make is the one that comes from your heart.

    What was the best advice you ever got or what is the best advice you’d like to give to other parents facing this journey?

    To this day the best words of advice that I got came from my co-worker: “Sugar, don’t let no stranger in your house or run your home. Those are your babies and only you know what’s right.” 

    This is the part of my story where I get to say that son is a sophomore in high school, plays football, runs track and field, is on the honor role, and attends all of the school’s social functions.  My daughter is now a freshman in high school, is a brilliant creative writer, reads at a college freshman level, performs in the school productions and I wouldn’t trade her for any of those “other girls.”  But that’s not what matters most - what matters most is that they are happy, self-confident and have a lifelong passion for learning.

  • January 29, 2015 2:52 PM | PEN (Administrator)
    January New Years Blog - 2015
    by Elizabeth Corsale,  MFT
    Pathways Institute, San Francisco, CA

    I have been reflecting on what I’ve learned from the many parents of kids with learning and attention differences I’ve met this past year. Here are some of the things I’ve learned:

    1. Seeing your child or children struggling to learn can be traumatic.

    Parents don’t often realize they have experienced trauma, which can be defined as the psychological, physical, neurological and emotional experience of a bad thing or things happening that you have absolutely no control over, such as having a child that cannot learn to read.  It’s not your fault,  but you as parent cannot change it, even though you do have to address it.  Parents have also been exposed to secondary trauma: their child’s trauma of going to school day after day and failing. 

    Parents need tremendous support to understand it’s normal to experience it as traumatic, and to tell and retell their trauma story as many times as they need to integrate the experience into a deeper understanding of themselves, their kids and the world around them.

    2. It can be harder and often painful for these parents to let go of their kids and let them have the expected ups and downs of life’s experiences. 

    These parents saw their kids fail at inflexible educational systems starting in preschool and they have honed their parenting protective instincts to include constantly stepping up to help their kids. Therapists, teachers and advocates need to honor this instinct in parents and not alienate parents by calling them codependent or overprotective.  

    Parents have to be supported to let go little by little.  Often it helps to set their expectations and let them know they are going to feel anxious, they may slip grabbing back control, doing for their kids what their kids are ready to do for themselves and they can expect to have some grief when they do let go. It is so important to keep encouraging parents; slowly they will learn their kids are going to to be okay and they are going to be okay.  And it really is okay for parents to feel okay.

    3. Parents need to be encouraged to talk to other parents going through the same kinds of experiences.

    This can be hard because these parents are so often overwhelmed and feel like they can’t spare an hour or two a week or month to take care of themselves in this way.  Again the approach needs to be gentle and encouraging.  Let them know the world won’t fall apart if they join a group, talk to a therapist, go to the gym or go out on a date.

    4. Parents of kids with LD are often the most compassionate and understanding people I have ever met. 

    They don’t shy away from life’s painful or scary experiences.  They are often first to celebrate the successes and joys of life. They experience profound psychological and spiritual transformation.   They understand that “life happens” and they need on-going encouragement and support to figure out how to stay resilient so they can stay healthy, happy and whole for themselves, their family and community.

    5. They often have a wickedly fierce sense of humor.  Thank goodness!  They need to call on it daily!

    6. Many often give back, such as all the amazing people who work and volunteer at Parents Education Network.

    It is a great honor to work with the parents of kids with learning and attention differences.  I am lucky to learn so much from them about how to keep going in the face of extremely challenging circumstances.  These lesson go well beyond learning and attention differences - they apply to all kinds of hardships and losses one will face in the course of a lifetime.  And finally, these parents are deeply humble as they almost always say their challenges are nothing compared to the challenges their children who learn differently face daily.

    If you are parent and reading this now, give yourself an internal high five for making it through another year and being an inspiration.  Wishing you a very wonderful and Happy New Year!

    …...Give me the strength to lead the way
    Send me the words I need to say
    Use me to guide them day by day
    This is a mother's prayer….
    by Melissa Manchester

  • January 05, 2015 2:45 PM | PEN (Administrator)

    Photo of Rachel SherakHi Everybody!

    My name is Rachel Sherak and I am so excited to be joining PEN as the new Administrative Associate! 

    I moved to San Francisco this past summer from Boise, ID, where I was dancing in a professional ballet company and working to make creative learning a bigger part of the lives of students and families in the community.

    I try to always bring kindness, creativity and laughter to my days, and in my spare time, I love to read and cook dinners for my friends.

    The important work of PEN to empower students with learning differences to achieve success in school and out in the world inspires me to do my best to keep the mission alive and growing!

    I look forward to meeting more of the PEN community at future programs and events!


    Rachel relocated to San Francisco in the summer of 2014 following a nine year career in professional ballet. 

    Throughout her years of dance, Rachel had many fortunate opportunities to engage with students, families and audiences around the world, and developed a passion for creative education and community outreach. Her background is largely based in the work of arts nonprofit organizations and has helped her to develop skills in communications, administration and active community engagement.

    The mission of PEN is one that speaks to Rachel greatly and inspires her to help the organization strengthen its voice of hope and support in the LD community. 

    In her free time, Rachel teaches ballet and enjoys reading, cooking and studio cycling.

  • January 05, 2015 2:23 PM | PEN (Administrator)

    For our Ask the Expert blog series, Pathways Institute asked parents for their stories, with the idea that it would be helpful for parents to hear from other parents about their struggles and transformations. We asked: What has this journey of parenting kids with learning differences meant to you? How has it transformed you? This is the response from one of our parents. She requested to remain anonymous out of respect for her children.

    Letting Go and Being Okay

    I grew up in an alcoholic family system where there was one crisis after another. In-between there was a fair amount of numbness and once in a while good times. I spent time in therapy, at first trying to get control of my own self-destructiveness, then surrendering to the reality of needing help. I learned to be able to deeply think, wonder and take the time that I needed to understand myself. I was challenged to understand that drama, and emotional upset were different from being present and being in real contact with myself. I learned to meditate and continue to do so daily - I highly recommend it.

    When I turned 30, I was no longer terrified of intimacy. I got married and by 32 had a daughter and a son. I couldn’t have asked for more, I was truly happy and felt on the right path for life.

    Then, when my son was young, he was diagnosed with dyslexia. I was told he should go to a school that specialized teaching dyslexic boys. This was hard to hear but thankfully the school was in the same town we lived! I told myself, “this dyslexia thing is just a little hiccup. Things will be fine.” I thought my son would beat this thing called dyslexia and perhaps be the next Steve Jobs, Charles Schwab or Sir Richard Branson.

    During my son’s first year in the special school, my mother was diagnosed stage 3 breast cancer while caring for my father who was in the late stages of ALS. I believed I would be fine and I could handle all of it. But I just couldn’t. My family was fractured and I felt completely out of control about everything and kept wanting to scream: “WHY ISN’T ANYONE LISTENING TO ME AND LETTING ME BE IN CONTROL?” Somehow, in the middle of all it all and in a moment of grace, I was reminded of Al Anon, something I had done before, and I went to a meeting.

    It took a while for me to get clear-headed in Al Anon and watch my self-righteousness cool down, soften and slowly peel away by listening to the wisdom, generosity of spirit and great humor of the group members. I started to realize I needed to surrender the “people, places, and things” I couldn’t control, and a shift happened: things greatly improved for me with my siblings and parents.

    But as things got better with my family, I realized I was not done with my work in Al Anon. I was still in a battle of wills: my will versus reality regarding my son and dyslexia. I realized I needed to stay in Al Anon years after the family crisis had abated because I was treating dyslexia like alcoholism and my son as if he were an alcoholic. I was trying be in control an uncontrollable situation.

    My son was making progress in school but it was slow and no one was telling me he was going to be the next Steve Jobs. The experts were saying that he was struggling to accept his learning difference, which is why he is so angry and anxious all the time. He needed therapy, additional tutoring and massive amounts of patience from his parents. I wasn’t very good at patience; I would get upset, angry and anxious. I would try to force solutions.

    There were times when my son behaved like a PTSD survivor. He would be given an assignment in math and by the time he got home he couldn’t remember how to do the problems. He would descend into anger, escalate, perseverate and explode in rage, because his brain was having a brown-out and sometimes a full black-out. I would panic and think, “I have to do more of this and more of that, find people who can help him.” I would email the teacher, upsetting my son and creating serious problems in my relationship with him.

    Gratefully, in Al Anon I learned to not talk to the dyslexic kid when the dyslexic kid is doing homework. I learned to breathe, walk away, and stay calmly, “I’m sorry homework is so hard for you.” I have learned to calm down because there is nothing I can “do” and more importantly I now have faith that my son is okay and going to be okay even in the middle of his struggle. Our son has the help he needs, is allowed to appropriately express his feelings and thoughts about how hard having dyslexia is at times, and is loved no matter what. I have begun to understand that I can never protect both my child from the suffering and struggles that come with life, including this one.

    I am also now learning that I need to come to terms with being OKAY even if others in my life are struggling or suffering. Being okay doesn’t mean I am uncaring about another’s struggles , in fact there are times that I am involved in trying sort out my son’s learning problems and participate in the process supporting or finding a solution. It just means that I don’t have to join the suffering.

    The 11th step in Al Anon is, "Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out." Meditation has given me an important coping and resiliency tool, and where I have learned about and practice detachment. Detachment isn’t disconnection or disinterest. Detachment is the ability to say to myself, “Let go. There is nothing to carry, nothing to become distraught about.”

    I use to think that I wasn’t allowed or entitled to experience real joy, freedom or happiness if others and in particular if my son was struggling. What kind of parent would have a good day while their kid was struggling with reading? I would sink into GUILT. But I now realize not only am I allowed to be free of guilt and experience the good stuff in life, my son who struggles with learning needs to see that I am okay. In fact he deserve to see that I am not taking on his learning struggles psychologically and emotionally. He needs to experience me creating positive interactions with him. Otherwise, if I’m an anxious mess, a negative downward cycle begins to corrode our relationship - we are on a sinking ship together. When I keep a sense of humor and my deep sense of gratitude, and keep moving forward, it gives him the feeling that he’s just a teenager and I’m just his mom, and everything will be okay. It gives him hope, and the balance we both need.

  • November 26, 2014 11:59 AM | PEN (Administrator)
    Ask The Expert: Acceptance, Communication and Boundaries - Breathing your Way through the Holidays

    By Elizabeth Corsale, MFT, Director at Pathways Institute

    Parents of kids with learning and attention differences can often feel stress about the prospect of long dinners, evenings, travel and many other logistics as the holidays draw near. One parent told me, "My husband and I take turns when our son gets up and down during Thanksgiving dinner at my mother house. We do this so we get a little bit of time with the extended family. My mother sometimes gets upset and feels like we are pushover parents by not punishing my son for leaving the table."

    What should a parent do to prepare for a situation like this? For parents of kids with learning and attention differences, the work of preparing for and getting through the holidays is inside of ourselves as much as it is logistical.

    The big question is this: "What can I realistically expect of my child during holiday events? What can I expect of myself?"

    To answer this question, you should start with some mental mapping. This means: think, visualize, and get a feel for the events, including timelines and activities.

    After mapping out the holiday, take a deep breath. Exhale. Think about your child and how s/he usually behaves under these type of circumstances. What is the reality of the situation, versus the fantasy? Time for another deep breath and another deep exhale. Now ask yourself, "What's in my control and what's not in my control?"

    For example, if the longest your ADHD child is able to sit at a table is 6 minutes (as opposed to an hour) then you need to really think about how you want to approach a holiday meal. Is there anything you can do to encourage your child to stay longer? Is there a reward they might get if they stay for 15 minutes? And how about if they then take break and come back for dessert? If they are older could they be given a job of serving the food, moving around the table filling the water glasses? Or do you want to just accept your child's current table time limit and not work on skill building this particular holiday?

    You need to find the courage to communicate your needs and your child's needs honestly with the host or guests about what they can expect. Remember, your child's ADHD isn't a parenting issue, it's a neurological issue and it requires understanding, compassion, patience, creative solution solving and non-judgment. You may need to ask your family and friends for any suggestions or thoughts about what could help them understand and what they might need or want during the meal. Rehearse and practice what you need to communicate, if you need to. And don't wait for the day of the holiday; have these conversations a few weeks before.

    Now inhale and exhale. Let's talk about boundaries. Boundaries are not meant to shut others out or close down connection; they keep us psychologically, emotionally, physically safe, and secure. Boundaries create safety for everyone and invite communication and facilitate understanding. One of your jobs this holiday is to keep your boundaries. If you know that your
    child can't wait until 9pm to eat dinner, can't stay up until midnight to go to mass, can't wait for everyone to open one gift at a time, then you need to accept this reality, thoughtfully explain it to family and friends so they can understand and find a solution. Then you need to stick with the solution - that is your boundary and your child's boundary to keep.

    One last deep breath. You have thought through the holidays and mentally mapped them, you have rehearsed your communication, you have spoken to the hosts, you have come up with some creative solutions and now you have to let go, detach, surrender and try to stay present with yourself, your family and friends. Okay, now exhale…..

  • November 03, 2014 3:39 PM | PEN (Administrator)

    Hyper: A Personal History of ADHD
    by Timothy Deveni

    Review by Douglas C. Thompson, Ph.D., Head of School,
    Mid-Peninsula High School

    Timothy Denevi’s latest contribution to the literature about learning differences is a complex and engaging work. Denevi provides a hint as to what to expect in his new book, Hyper, by subtitling it A Personal History of ADHD. And while the book certainly is that, it is much more. It is also a portrait of a marriage (his parents’), and of a family. It is a biography of childhood and a story of growth and self-discovery. It is a cautionary tale about the perils and pitfalls of school, from Kindergarten through high school. It is also a very personal biography of treatment for a mental disorder, and finally, it is a comprehensive history of Western medicine’s attempt to get a handle on the concept and treatment of mental illness, with a focus on ADHD.

    These strands are woven together throughout the narrative.  The effect is at first jarring, especially the contrast between the everyday language of family and social interaction (F-bombs abound) and the much more formal language of the medical passages. But the eventually the pieces of the story start to fit together, like a mosaic, and the narrative takes on a life of its own.

    Denevi acknowledges in his choice of two epigraphs that memory is a tricky thing, implicitly asserting that the story he is about to tell is not necessarily the truth, but his truth.

    The chapter titles read more like those in a volume of poetry:  “Reflection in the Low Linoleum Glaze,” “In the Way You’d Watch a Bird That’s Flown in Through a Window”--they put me more in mind of Wallace Stevens than of a serious medical study. But the seriousness of Denevi’s effort is attested to by the 20 pages of notes and the 14 page bibliography—this is a very thorough and informative analysis written in a way that not only lays out the facts but also allows us to understand from a personal perspective why the facts are important

    Denevi begins his history of diagnosis and treatment by citing “the early-twentieth-century physician George Frederick Still,” who “during a 1902 presentation at London’s Royal College of Physicians, … identified several of the present-day ADHD diagnosis.”  He traces the history of diagnosis and treatment through the twentieth Century and to the present, with reference to specific individuals too numerous to cite here, but including Freud, Jung, Ken Kesey and L. Ron Hubbard!

    He parallels this parade of clinicians and therapists with an equally various set of teachers he worked with throughout his school career.  As he does with the health professionals, he regularly provides us with highly detailed and evocative descriptions:

    He’s in his early seventies, and his hair is white and sheer, capped thinly against the pink heights of his skull.  He’s wearing an army-green blazer.  His mouth is closed.  But look at his eyes; they’re black and small, crowded together.  It’s a disgruntled expression—he’s like an aging film director who’s not quite sure why he keeps demanding so many takes.

    In fact, his passion for detail of all kinds illustrates the crucial central fact that ADHD is not a failure of attention, but rather a tendency to focus attention elsewhere from where someone else wants it. 

    In the end, the argument Denevi makes is one that I am coming to after 30-some years of working with learning differences: we all learn differently; it’s just that some differences are more obvious and, sadly, more inconvenient in a traditional social/academic structure.  Denevi in middle school is a boy going through the familiar phases of growing up, but experiencing everything more immediately, more intensely, and less manageably than some of the rest of us:

    To look back on that world!  You wake up each morning and walk the bright corridors: the sound of voices, of lockers rattling shut. Everyone is in motion, and you think maybe this is the day things will turn around.  Then they notice you.  The tone drops.  You hear whispers, feel the glances; you’re meant to feel them.  It’s like the plunge in humidity after a thunderstorm.  This is their weapon, not fistfights or taunts; the other teenagers let you know you’ve offended them, simply by showing how much your presence disrupts their own.  And you’re forced to see yourself from only one perspective: theirs.

    Which of us has not been there, not felt that pain?  In the end we see ourselves in his story, and then his story becomes ours:

    When it comes to the broader narrative of ADHD, the most important questions are the kind you’d ask about your own life.  How did we get here?  Where are we going next? And what’s the point of all the work—not just in the present, but also by the people before us, along with the ones who’ll be around after we’re gone?

    Clear hear to support PEN by purchasing Hyper from Amazon!

  • October 31, 2014 12:06 PM | PEN (Administrator)

    Got some free time this Sunday? PEN is a community partner for Superfest: International Disability Film Festival this Sunday, Nov 2 in San Francisco. 

    Superfest is a showcase of juried films held in the San Francisco Bay Area. This annual competition celebrates cutting-edge cinema that portrays disability culture in all its diverse, complex, and empowering facets, and is the longest running festival of its kind in the world.

    Check out the film schedule here!

  • October 15, 2014 4:50 PM | PEN (Administrator)

    Photo of Sara KayI am excited to be joining Parents Education Network (PEN) as the new SAFE Program Facilitator!

    Before I joined PEN, I served as an AmeriCorps VISTA in St. Paul, Minnesota for Urban Boatbuilders; an organization that worked with adjudicated youth to build wooden boats as a way of teaching academic, vocational, and leadership skills. In this role I focused on development, communications and program management to hone organizational goals and triple youth serving programing.

    Prior to my year of National Service, I graduated from Grinnell College in central Iowa with a BA in Sociology and a self designed concentration in Cultural Food Studies. There, I also served as a Sociology Student Educational Policy Committee leader, Student Resident Advisor, the Editor-in-Chief of the college’s small press.

    As a student with learning differences myself, PEN’s philosophy of educating, collaborating with, and empowering students resonates with my personal experiences of self-advocacy and individual growth.

    I’m thrilled to be joining PEN’s team in this exciting time of organizational growth. I look forward to meeting you and your children in the very near future.


    Sara Kay
    SAFE Program Facilitator

  • October 09, 2014 3:30 PM | PEN (Administrator)

    The cognitive benefits of exercise for kids, and especially those with ADHD, continue to attract media attention. A New York Times Magazine article in early September exhorted schools to Put The Physical In Education. A more recent article by James Hamblin in The Atlantic (Exercise Is ADHD Medication) summarizes current research on physical activity's impact on academic performance. In a study reported in Pediatrics journal, the difference in executive functioning between kids who participated in an exercise program for nine months and those who didn't is, says Hamblin, "so dramatic it's unsettling."

    Hamblin becomes caustic when contrasting the cautious reception that greets such research to "the haste with which millions of kids have been introduced to amphetamines and other stimulants" to treat ADHD:

    The pharmaceutical market around the disorder has grown to several billion dollars in recent years while school exercise initiatives have enjoyed no such spoils of entrepreneurialism. But, you know, once there is more research, it may potentially be advisable to consider possibly implementing more exercise opportunities for kids.

    Hamblin goes on to cite John Ratey (who spoke for PEN back in 2009) who advocates thinking of exercise as medication for ADHD, even likening its effects specifically to a combination of Ritalin and Prozac. Ratey's recent TEDTalk on the topic can be viewed here.

    We can only hope the focus on this issue in the media continues and creates change in our educational practices. As Hamblin makes clear, physical activity is "integral to maximizing the utility of time spent in class" - for all kids, but especially those with attention and executive function issues.

  • October 02, 2014 12:08 PM | PEN (Administrator)

    Learning Disabilities Awareness Month is a designated time each year to honor children and adults who have learning and attention differences, and to spread awareness about their unique challenges, strengths, struggles and triumphs. LD Month was officially proclaimed in 1985.

    We invite you to celebrate this month with PEN in a couple of ways. Firstly, we have scheduled a special Speaker Series presentation on dyslexia by Tuck Geerds, an expert in the field with a long record of respected service to the local LD community.

    Join us for Understanding Your Dyslexic Learner: How to Support the Student with Language Processing Difficulties, Oct 17 in San Francisco!

    Secondly, over the month, we will be sharing a series of links full of myth-busting information and practical tips about learning and attention differences. We encourage you to share these by email, Facebook and Twitter in honor of LD Awareness Month!

    Yesterday we encouraged our email subscribers, Facebook Likers and Twitter followers to share any article from's Facts vs. Fiction section. Please tag us on Facebook or Twitter if you do!

    Please look out for these and other ways to spread accurate information about learning and attention differences this month. Thank you for celebrating with us!

    Understanding Your Dyslexic Learner: How to Support the Student with Language Processing Difficulties
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