Ms. Aly of the Learning Lab invited me to join her on an IG Live, where we discussed how learning differences impact students socially and emotionally. Learning Lab creates customized academic intervention plans for students with dyslexia and ADHD. In this blog, I extracted a handful of golden information nuggets from that Live. Here we go!
Please tell the audience why the Learning Lab and Coach Franny hybrid is so powerful. Talk a little bit about who you are, what you do, and how our services complement one another.
I’m Fran Rubio-Katz; everybody calls me Coach Franny. We started the Learning Lab because we are passionate about how children learn. We are even more passionate about how adults support children socially and emotionally. Without that support, there’s no consistent or meaningful learning. Even worse, a lack of support can break down children’s motivation and self-esteem.
You are now the sole owner of the Learning Lab, specializing in dyslexia and ADHD tutoring. You and your team teach in the dynamic ways these unique students learn.
I am the founder of Coach Franny. One of my focuses is Mindful-Ish™️ parent and family coaching. When children have learning and attention differences, there are often behavior differences. I love teaching parents how to understand these behaviors and respond to their children differently. The approach is mindful parenting while keeping in mind there is no perfect parenting. Therefore, we aim to be ish and that’s good enough. Actually, 20% of the effort yields 80% of the results in Mindful-Ish™️ Parenting.
The hybrid of Learning Lab and Coach Franny is dynamic because the Learning Lab helps misunderstood and struggling students reopen their hearts and minds to learning. In contrast, I help families work through the upset that learning and attention differences can cause at home, especially in parent-child relationships, behavior, and discipline.
What have you noticed recently in this post-COVID lockdown world related to students, their mental health, and learning?
I’ve noticed many things, but here are the top three that come to mind:
First, I’m seeing more children and teens push things to the side that feels challenging. They don’t want to do it if they are not successful right out of the gate.
Task avoidance is not new, but the number of students using it as a coping skill is. Physiologically this makes sense. Since Covid began, society has experienced many changes. Children-centric changes may include closed schools, virtual learning, losing loved ones and opportunities to play and socialize in groups, and parents losing jobs.
Brains are pattern-seeking. With the changes I mentioned and so many more, our nervous systems don’t have much room left for doing something new or different, and learning is all about doing something new or different.
So I’ve seen a lot of children lacking the capacity to try. The behaviors might be mindless or endless scrolling on the phone, overplaying video games, outright refusing homework or chores, or running and hiding in the bathroom.
Another thing I’ve noticed is children coming back into the classrooms not knowing how to socialize safely or appropriately with one another anymore. If your child is not feeling calm, and if your child’s not feeling connected, they will not be able to learn.
The third thing I’ve noticed pertains to much younger children. They are speaking later and lack exposure to social exchanges or the back-and-forth of communication. Both of these issues will significantly affect learning. We will face the fallout over the next five years at least.
In my experience, most school systems are ill-equipped to identify learning differences on time. I always tell parents, and research shows that early intervention is the key. Since schools don’t have the protocols to be proactive, they wait for the child to fail. In your opinion, what are the repercussions of this? How does this impact the child’s mental health?
There are so many excellent teachers out there. And like you said, it’s about the protocol or lack thereof. We’re not against teachers, so many teachers want to do differently.
The wait-and-see approach is detrimental to children’s mental health. Children do well if they can, and doing well is preferable to not doing well. That is what Dr. Ross Green says all the time. Dr. Greene is the creator of Collaborative and Proactive Solutions (CPS).
Some children are lagging in specific skills. I’m not even talking about reading or math skills. I’m talking about skills like flexibility, adaptability, focus, and the use of language and communication. These students feel frustrated and confused. I say confused because adults are telling them to try harder. They can try until they are blue in the face, but nothing changes because they need to be explicitly taught the skill in context.
The number one way to kill motivation for a child is to tell them to continue trying to work at a skill and not teach them a different way to acquire it. We burn that kid out, and they get frustrated or irritable.
We see these students as task avoidant, disrespectful, or lazy. These limiting words become their labels.
Parents are afraid to have their child diagnosed with a specific learning disability or attention disorder. Instead, children end up mislabeled. Those negative labels become internal beliefs.
Then we end up with two challenging issues. The student did not receive the skills they need to be successful in a timely manner, and now there is self-esteem damage to repair. Everyone must work harder than ever to improve the emotional damage before attempting to teach the missing learning skills.
Yes, we must rebuild the student’s confidence before we can do academic remediation. It’s so hard and does not have to be that way. What can parents do to be proactive?
If in your Mommy or Daddy gut, you know that something’s not right, then listen to your intuition! I can’t tell you how often a parent told me they knew something was off with their child’s learning, but someone else convinced them all was well or that their child was a late bloomer. You must advocate for yourself and your child.
If you don’t know-how, look on social media. Unfortunately, there are many families in the same boat. Fortunately, they are willing to help others start the journey. And look to qualified professionals.
Another thing I must mention is that if you are getting help and your child starts to do well, don’t stop the services. A data-driven plan must be created to scaffold support systematically as needed.
One solid report card and everyone thinks the child is “fixed.” It’s all done.
Everyone is shocked when they pull services, and the child falls flat on their face within six months.
Unless children fail miserably, they will not qualify for services and accommodations. Even if a parent goes to a psychologist and gets a report saying the child has dyslexia or ADHD, if the school does not think they need the help or see the child is somehow getting by, they’re not going to get that support.
And that’s where I see kids melting down. Many people don’t know this, but children with dyslexia are usually brilliant. So they create coping strategies. They have their tricks to get by. They tend to be likable and social but are struggling secretly. It takes so much for them to get by. It’s like they’re swimming in the ocean with this 10-pound weight. Did you tell me about that metaphor?
Yay. Imagine we were at the beach and going to race out to the buoy, but I had a 10-pound weight tied to my ankle. Could I join the race and push myself like crazy to make it- of course. But is that sustainable to do every day or multiple times per day- no.
I used the buoy/weight metaphor in an IEP meeting for a dyslexic student the other day. She’s doing better at school but struggling emotionally and having a hard time at home. I kept saying in the meeting, “She’s getting by, but to what demise for her social and emotional well-being? You’re not seeing the gray. You’re just checking your boxes, and it’s not black and white.
It’s not black-and-white at all. Some children can hold it together during the school day. Then they come home and have what I call “Emotional Diarrhea.” They’re all over the place emotionally. The upset is coming out of every orifice. The upset shows up as neediness, anger, aggression, and shutting down. Parents are like, “I don’t understand. My kid behaves perfectly at school, and we’re having these issues when they come home.” That’s always a telltale sign that it may be more challenging than you realize for your child at school.
I empower parents and teachers to feel calm, capable, and confident so that they can problem-solve and create new possibilities with their children.
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