The confusion between accommodation and remediation

“I wish I knew this at the beginning of the school year!” How many times have you realized that you could have done things differently as a parent, had you had better knowledge about your kid’s learning and development?

In this article, I would like to explain the differences between two critical terms: accommodation and remediation. These two terms often remain under-the-radar in many parent-teacher meetings and are the cause of fruitless attempts of improving students’ performance in school. Throughout my work as an educational specialist, I meet with many parents who are faced with many challenges in helping their children succeed with tasks that require cognitive/executive functions. These kids face different kinds of issues on a daily basis. The main two being homework and class performance.

Nevertheless, those issues surface much more in school than at home. Therefore, teacher-parent collaboration is essential. In the absence of effective cooperation, many parents end up feeling hopeless as they see how their children are not fulfilling their true potential as individuals and as learners. Many parents share with me their willingness to cooperate and meet with the school’s demands, but the issues seem to persist; they keep on getting negative reports from the teachers. Nothing seems to be working.

To learn more about their children, I ask parents many different questions seeking to clarify the areas of struggle.
For example, one parent explained to me how his son can read a chapter from the textbook but cannot recall what he read shortly after. A more significant problem emerged when the child started avoiding learning and showing outburst of anger. When the school administrator contacted the parents, the conversation revolved around the behavior and conclusion that the student might have ADHD or dyslexia [or both]. The teacher reported many ways to differentiate the teaching, some of which include moving the student’s seat closer to the board, breaking the tasks down into smaller tasks, and even working with the student one-on-one during lunch time. All these attempts ended up fruitless. The school’s recommendation was to send the student for an evaluation. Sadly, no one suggested discussing a plan of action to remediate to the child’s weak working memory, an essential executive function.

Parents know that when the issue pertains to their children their ability to control their emotions becomes compromised rapidly; some even admit that they feel physical aching during those meetings in school. Another ability that is weakened during these situations relates to asking the right questions, one of which could be the school’s ability to help the child.

If we want to help struggling students, we must clarify two types of appropriate supports. Theses supports fall into two categories: accommodation and remediation. Parents should find out whether the teacher and/or school are able and ready to provide students with these kinds of support. Some schools do so as part of their teaching style, other schools do not. Accommodation means providing support for the sake of achieving a result. For example, erecting a wheelchair ramp at the entrance of the City Hall is a support for the disables who needs to enter the building. Another example, when my student broke his finger in basketball practice, the nurse recommended that he will type his class-notes on the computer. These two cases are examples of accommodations where support is available for one to attain his/her goal. These accommodations are not meant to heal the disability nor the finger of my student. It will, nevertheless, help them achieve what they need to get.

In contrast to accommodation, remediation deals with the healing of the problem. The word remediation stems from the Latin word, remedialis, which means “healing, curing.” For example, a student who suffers from test anxiety and resorts to procrastination will benefit from sessions with a coach or a counselor who will help the student find out about causes and together form effective solutions. Moreover, the student may discover that her test anxiety stems from a fear of failure. The work with a coach will then focus on flexibility and problem-solving skills.

Another example of remediation could be a student with dyscalculia who struggles with understanding number-related concepts. It was the Kindergarten teacher who noticed the problem first. However, due to the child’s ability to remember answers rather than understand processes, the issue surfaced only in fourth grade. At that juncture, the teacher, who did not know the previous teachers, allowed the student to use a calculator in class. After a whole year of using a calculator, the student arrived in 5th grade unaware of the concept of place value. Needless to mention his arithmetic skills were below grade level. To remediate the student problem of dyscalculia, his 5th grade Math teacher will have to find the exact problem or use the student’s IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) to remediate a few years of Math deficit.

As you may realize, the ramifications of addressing a problem with accommodation rather than remediation can create a cycle of unproductive efforts and growing frustration. I have seen many parents who could not accept the idea that their child will be better off in a different school. These parents perceived their conversations with the school as utter humiliation. Unfortunately, there is a bad stigma for specialized schools. Even though these schools are fully equipped and dedicated for remediation, many parents still perceive specialized schools as institutes for troubled kids.

There are instances where accommodation is the best alternative, but in some instances remediation is the best option. Every parent should seek to understand the balance between these two approaches. The possibility of a blend of the two can also be explored.

Accommodation and remediation are thus two critical terms parents ought to know and understand. For students with learning disabilities, it is always better to inquire with the teacher about the difficulties of the student. Try to look for the facts. You would also want to remind yourself that managing your emotions during the meetings with the school’s representative will help you stay focused and ask the right questions. In addition, taking notes on the conversation will help you remember the key points when you follow up with the grade advisor or the school psychologist for further inquiry. Some of your questions should include trying to understand in which classes your child misbehaves or does not meet class expectations. Ask about the learning activities and the work environment. Find out about the activities your child performs rather well. Finally, ask what you can do at home to support the teacher’s endeavors and your child’s learning.

Showing curiosity and empathy with the teachers have proven to be very helpful. You do not have to agree with them, but mutual respect will surely enhance effective communication and progress. Understanding the differences between accommodation and remediation should change the way you encounter your child’s learning endeavors in school and home as well. Maintaining frequent communication with your child’s teachers by asking relevant questions will help you focus your efforts and resources effectively.

I wish you and your children a happy and successful first semester! Please remember that you can contact me with questions at contact@mrmizrahi.com.

Thank you,

Benjamin Mizrahi

Focus Music

Music has a profound effect on our mood, blood pressure, and heart rate.

Research indicates that music strengthens areas of the brain (that, in a child with ADHD, are weak.) Music strengthens the auditory, visual/spatial, and motor cortices of the brain. These areas are tied to speech and language skills, reading, reading comprehension, math, problem-solving, brain organization, focus, and attention challenges.

Parents of children with ADHD should know that there are methods beyond medication and counseling to treat ADHD. One of them is music. Confirmed by multiple research studies to play a significant role in cognitive development, music can be used to help children organize their thoughts.

But not any music will do. Only certain classical music builds a bigger, better brain. Listening to jazz or pop doesn’t have the same beneficial effects. A study conducted by Donald Shetler, Ed.D., of the Eastman School of Music, found that kids who listened to classical music for 20 minutes a day had improved speech and language skills, a stronger memory, and greater organization of the brain.

Classical music is peaceful and harmonious making it one of the best options to listen to when studying. It seems that there is evidence that Mozart improves mental performance. They call it the “Mozart Effect.”

It is said that to study it’s necessary to have a quiet environment without distractions. However, for some, studying in a quiet environment can backfire. This ‘quiet environment’ can make you end up fighting boredom and succumbing to the allure of sleeping at your desk! This is why the importance of choosing the right music for studying can’t be underestimated.

Although some studies say that listening to music while you study isn’t good, for many people it’s vital. It’s calms them down, which can lead to productive studying. Music can also help elevate your mood and motivate you to study longer.

It helps you focus, reduce distractions, maintain your productivity and retain information when working, studying, writing and reading.

Music stimulates the brain

‘Nothing activates the brain so extensively as music’. So says Oliver Sacks, a doctor and researcher at Columbia University, who has used music as a complementary treatment for many of his patients.

Research backs up his claim. Pleasurable music is known to increase dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is responsible for regulating motivation, working memory and attention ( which is often found in lower levels in people with ADHD.)

This is one of the main reasons why there are benefits of music for kids to train their brains and achieve higher levels of self-control and focus – both at home and in the classroom.

Music provides organization

Children may struggle to focus and regulate their thoughts and behaviors to maintain a linear path. Music has a defined structure and can help regain a sense of organization. It can also guide them – many kids with attention issues have trouble following directions, and music can help them to stay attentive and interpret the rhythm and melody as direction.

Music therapist, Kirsten Hutchison, claims that the structure of music has a positive impact on kids’ ability to structure their activities in a timeline, as well as strategize their responses to the things around them. ‘The structure helps a child plan, anticipate and react,’ she says.

Music has a soothing effect

Music has the power to change our moods and influence our emotions. That’s why it’s only natural that certain types of music, mostly slow and tranquil, present a great opportunity for reducing the impulsiveness and restlessness that children with attention issues often suffer from.

But that’s not all. Music can also help to alleviate the symptoms of stress and anxiety.

Music is social

Writing, practicing and performing music are all social activities. That’s why music therapists are eager to use these forms of social practice in order to help children with ADD to learn appropriate behaviors in social situations.

Children can learn how to listen to others with attention, recognize how to anticipate changes, get to know the social rules of taking turns in performance and generally follow cues that might not be as effective when generated outside a music therapy session.

Music therapy means many things – it can be listening to music, creating it or playing together with recorded music. It can even be composing music or writing song lyrics. All of this helps children to communicate their moods and feelings, while simultaneously reducing their level of anxiety and restlessness. Music therapy is versatile and readily available – a great option for complementing traditional treatments of ADD in children.

Feel free to use my Youtube Playlist on music proven to help focus:

 

Conference in Morroco

Last week, I gave a conference at @mazaganbeachresort about Executive Functions.
By popular demand, I gave a second lecture on the next day. Both lectures provided parents with the understanding of Executive Functions and its impact on our daily experience as parents. I also presented various strategies to enhance its development by using the ABC approach (Antecedent, Behavior and Consequences).

It was a pleasure to visit such a beautiful country. I want to thank @sarahtours_koshertrip for inviting me to speak.

I will give a private conference next week in Englewood, NJ.

Stay tuned for more dates. .

What are Executive Functions?

 

Executive function is like the CEO of the brain. It’s in charge of making sure things get done. When kids have issues with executive functioning, any task that requires planning, organization, memory, time management and flexible thinking becomes a challenge. The more you know about the challenges, the better you’ll be able to help your child build her executive skills and manage the difficulties.

Divergent Thinking

The goal of divergent thinking is to generate many different ideas about a topic in a short period of time. It involves breaking a topic down into its various component parts in order to gain insight about the various aspects of the topic. Divergent thinking typically occurs in a spontaneous, free-flowing manner, such that the ideas are generated in a random, unorganized fashion. Following divergent thinking, the ideas and information will be organized using convergent thinking; i.e., putting the various ideas back together in some organized, structured way.

To begin brainstorming potential topics, it is often helpful to engage in self analysis and topic analysis.

Self Analysis

Ask the following questions to help brainstorm a list of potential topics.

  1. How do I spend my time? What are my activities during a normal day?
  2. What do I know about them? What are my areas of expertise? What am I studying in school?
  3. What do I like? What are my hobbies? What are my interests?
  4. What bothers me? What would I like to change in my world or life?
  5. What are my strongest beliefs, values and philosophies?

Topic Analysis

Ask the following questions to help narrow and refine a broad topic into a specific, focused one. Substitute your topic for the word “something.”

  1. How would you describe something?
  2. What are the causes of something?
  3. What are the effects of something?
  4. What is important about something?
  5. What are the smaller parts that comprise something?
  6. How has something changed? Why are those changes important?
  7. What is known and unknown about something?
  8. What category of ideas or objects does something belong to?
  9. Is something good or bad? Why?
  10. What suggestions or recommendations would you make about something?
  11. What are the different aspects of something you can think of?

Techniques to Stimulate Divergent Thinking

1. Brainstorming. Brainstorming is a technique which involves generating a list of ideas in a creative, unstructured manner. The goal of brainstorming is to generate as many ideas as possible in a short period of time. The key tool in brainstorming is “piggybacking,” or using one idea to stimulate other ideas. During the brainstorming process, ALL ideas are recorded, and no idea is disregarded or criticized. After a long list of ideas is generated, one can go back and review the ideas to critique their value or merit.

2. Keeping a Journal. Journals are an effective way to record ideas that one thinks of spontaneously. By carrying a journal, one can create a collection of thoughts on various subjects that later become a source book of ideas. People often have insights at unusual times and places. By keeping a journal, one can capture these ideas and use them later when developing and organizing materials in the prewriting stage.

3. Freewriting. When free-writing, a person will focus on one particular topic and write non-stop about it for a short period of time. The idea is to write down whatever comes to mind about the topic, without stopping to proofread or revise the writing. This can help generate a variety of thoughts about a topic in a short period of time, which can later be restructured or organized following some pattern of arrangement.

4. Mind or Subject Mapping. Mind or subject mapping involves putting brainstormed ideas in the form of a visual map or picture that that shows the relationships among these ideas. One starts with a central idea or topic, then draws branches off the main topic which represent different parts or aspects of the main topic. This creates a visual image or “map” of the topic which the writer can use to develop the topic further. For example, a topic may have four different branches (sub-topics), and each of those four branches may have two branches of its own (sub-topics of the sub-topic) *Note* this includes both divergent and convergent thinking.

Source: Faculty of Washington