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The Shut-Down Learner: Helping Your Academically Discouraged Child Paperback – November 24, 2008

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Editorial Reviews


Dr. Selznick has a keen eye for professional observation and extraordinary empathy for the children and parents that are fortunate enough to cross his path. Without resorting to professional jargon, Dr. Selznick has created a resource for parents and teachers that promotes insight and understanding, relieves guilt, and provides strategies for intervention. --G. Emerson Dickman, J.D., President of the International Dyslexia Association

If your child has a reading disability, like dyslexia, if he feels defeated, hates school, and comes home sullen and miserable and angry, Dr. Richard Selznick’s The Shut-Down Learner: Helping Your Academically Discouraged Child can be of tremendous help. It can help you better understand why he’s miserable or angry. It can help you to better understand dyslexia and its emotional effects. More importantly, it gives you simple, sound, and practical advice on how to help him. Here are a few samples: 1. Identify the “cracks in the foundation” as early as possible. Find a professional who knows the “red flags” to identify for early learning problems. So much heart-ache can be avoided if you address the skills weaknesses early. 2. If the cracks are widening, seek outside help if possible. Don’t be passive and wait for the schools to intervene. They may, but it’s often a long process. Many of the children I see are not bad enough to warrant the school’s intervention. It’s a negative snowballing effect. Use word of mouth in your community to find people who can intervene 3. Know the kind of reading problem you’re targeting. There are essentially two types. In the first type the child has trouble decoding the words and reading fluently. This type is the largest majority of the struggling kids. In the second type, the child can read fluently, but has great trouble understanding what he/she has read. Get clear on what you are targeting!!!! Don’t scattershot your remediation. 4. Take the heat out of the interaction. For most of the struggling kids, the daily ritual of yelling about school is a constant. Households are tense. Lots of blame goes around. Pecking at your child, nagging and yelling are not working. Why continue? 5. Find the child’s true strength and help kid embrace it. The shut down learners that I know do not feel very good about themselves and they do not see their strengths. Most of these kids are very solid in the visual spatial dimension of ability. This is often not valued in school. The kids need to learn to value this trait and see it as a potential. 6. Find someone to connect and mentor your child in school. If your child is older, push the kid to have one adult in the building as child’s mentor. It should be someone that your kid can form a relationship with. Too often shut-down learners go through school not bonded to anyone. This is tragic. 7. Keep your humor. Try not to let school problems become all consuming. Go out for an ice cream sundae with your kid even if he hasn’t done his homework! School problems can be so all consuming - don’t lose touch with your kid’s good qualities. Fortunately, the value of The Shut-Down Learner doesn’t end with advice. Dr. Selznick shows you how to apply this advice. With great sensitivity, he writes about several of the shut-down learners he has known. He shares their conversations and insights and shows how they didn’t let their learning problems and the rigidity of schools destroy their lives. In 160 well-written, easily understood pages, Richard Selznick has given parents of discouraged, defeated, and demoralized learners, a simple but powerful set of ideas for helping them help their children. --Howard Margolis, Reading Disabilities: Beating the Odds

Your teenager is struggling in school, and you’re convinced it’s because he’s just not applying himself. He barely does his homework, there’s a constant struggle at home, and the more you push, the more he retreats. This is the classic case of a shut-down learner, says Dr. Richard Selznick. Selznick, who serves as director of the Cooper Learning Center, a division of the Department of Pediatrics of Cooper University Hospital in New Jersey, assesses and treats a broad range of learning and school-based academic and behavioral problems. Over the years, Selznick has consulted with thousands of families and has discovered that, unfortunately, shut-down learners are a fairly common group of learners. “The prototype shutdown learner is a teenager who feels pretty beaten down by the time he comes to me,” Selznick says. “He has an emotional block, and his battery is depleted. He’s got his parents coming at him, the teacher. It’s too much.” Selznick’s recent book, The Shut-Down Learner: Helping Your Academically Discouraged Child, is written for parents of just this kind of kid. “I try to present things to parents in a very down-to-earth way, without any jargon, so that it’s digestible and not threatening,” Selznick says. “The message is this: parents need to understand these kids. Yelling at the kids, telling them they’re not trying hard enough—this doesn’t work.” Selznick explains that in many cases, parents just need to back off, be less aggressive about the homework, and find a way to relate to their child’s struggles. “These kids may have a range of learning disorders,” Selznick says, “but I want to stay away from the labeling because in the end, these kids have a great number of strengths that they need to key into.” As Selznick explains it, the shut-down learner tends to be a problem-solver, someone who learns spatially and thrives with hands-on tasks that load on visual and spatial abilities. On the downside, they often lack the core skills necessary for success in school. “These kids often get all the way through the system, getting more and more disconnected because they simply can’t learn the way teachers want to teach,” Selznick says. “But when you say to the kid, ‘Look, you’re really good at this stuff—if I put you in a room with a hundred kids, you’re better than ninety of them’—then the kid feels okay, like ‘I’m good at a lot of things. I’m smart.’” Selznick says the key is that these children learn differently; they need patience and understanding from parents, and they also need their parents to believe in their strengths and to empower them. “They can be a hard group to work with. They’re giving their parents a hard time, they look bored in class, they’re disconnected,” Selznick says. “Or, the second type I see is the ones who are more pleasant in the social area, but they’re masking their insecurities. Either way, they need to understand that they’re really smart kids and they’re good at things, too.” In fact, Selznick says, if these kids can survive school without losing too much self-esteem, they have a good chance at being highly successful. Lloyd Stone, a classic shut-down learner growing up, has turned out to be successful despite his earlier challenges in school. Today, at 53, Stone is president of Manny Stone Decorators in New Jersey, a company that designs and builds trade show exhibits for clients on a national and international scale. I’ve overcome this and adapted to it and have actually been able to assimilate into society by creating a different path,” Stone says. “It’s almost like a mutation … I branched out in other directions that got me to the same place.” Stone’s experiences in school have also given him a very specific take on best practices in business: “I hire B students. A students, things come too easily to them,” Stone says. “I want the B student, the guy who has met with defeat and has been able to learn from defeat.” This should be music to many parents’ ears. However, Selznick urges parents to trust their instincts when their kids are young and to spot the learning problems early. “Some people will say, ‘Oh, you know how boys are. He’ll grow out of it.’ But if your gut tells you something’s wrong, get it checked out,” Selznick says. “Save your kid the trouble later.” If you think your young child might fit the mold of the shut down learner later on, here are a few things to look for: Tuning out in circle time Highly spatial and visual learners Active or over-active Difficulty with language-based activities such as reading and writing Shut-down learners don’t develop overnight, and early intervention is key. Selznick suggests that if the problems persist into 1st or 2nd grade, a visit to a child or school psychologist is probably a good idea. --Anna Weinstein,

Livia McCoy, Richmond Parenting & Education Examiner Dr. Selznick is a nationally certified school psychologist and the Director of the Cooper Learning Center at Cooper University Hospital in Voorhees, NJ. The Shut-Down Learner (SDL) is based on his experience working with parents and students who are not doing well in school. According to Dr. Selznick, the term shut-down-learner means “children who thrive with hands-on tasks requiring visual and spatial abilities, but who become discouraged by their difficulty mastering core academic skills such as reading and writing.” Dr. Selznick wrote this book to give hope to families of these children. So often, school failure has set up a pattern of negative interactions between the school, child, and parents that wind up leading to a child who just quits trying. Depending on the situation, the child can become completely shut down. --Livia McCoy, Richmond Parenting & Education Examiner

About the Author

Dr. Selznick is a psychologist, a nationally certified school psychologist, and a graduate school professor. As the Director of the Cooper Learning Center at Cooper University Hospital, he oversees a program that assesses and treats a broad range of learning and behavioral problems in children. The Cooper Learning Center is the leading program in its region, offering not only assistance with children, but also parent and teacher training programs.

Dr. Selznick also functions as a school consultant, and throughout the year he speaks to numerous parent groups, schools, and regional conferences on topics such as dyslexia, bullying, and ADHD. He strives to offer parents and teachers practical strategies to help children with academic problems. A native of New York, Dr. Selznick lives in Haddonfield, New Jersey.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Sentient Publications (November 24, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591810787
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591810780
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.5 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #377,861 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dr. Richard Selznick ("Dr. Selz") is a psychologist, nationally certified school psychologist, graduate school professor and university professor of pediatrics. He is author of the "The Shut-Down Learner: Helping Your Academically Discouraged Child" and the soon to be released "School Struggles." You can learn more about Dr. Selz on and on Twitter: @DrSelz.

As Director of the Cooper Learning Center in Voorhees, Dr. Selznick oversees a program that assesses and treats a broad range of learning and school-based academic and behavioral problems. The Cooper Learning Center is a Division of the Department of Pediatrics, of Cooper University Hospital. Dr. Selznick presents nationally and internationally to parents and educators on a variety of topics related to school struggling.

A down-to-earth presenter who looks to discuss difficult topics in non-jargon terms, Dr. Selznick recently presented to educators in Dubai and Abu Dhabi on issues related to struggling children. Among the topics that he presents include "Relationship: The Key Variable in School Struggling," "Myths & Realities of Dyslexia," "Understanding the Shut-Down Learner Formula," "Stages of Reading Development: Signposts That Guide Instruction," "We Keep Telling Him You Have to Get Organized: Executive Function Deficits."

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The Shut-Down Learner is a "must read" for parents, teachers at all levels, and for shut-down learners themselves. It offers great examples of shut-down learners who have overcome hurdles and become quite successful. The Shut-Down Learner is inspirational and, in my book, required reading for all who have a heart and care about others.

This book is groundbreaking and will be exceptionally helpful to the parents of and children who are shut-down learners. It offers new hope for struggling readers who show signs of dyslexia and children with ADD, who can't pay attention. Selznick offers a resource for parents and teachers that promotes insight and understanding, relieves guilt, and provides strategies for intervention. Many times a visually spatially oriented child is one of the kids who become discouraged in school. Dr. Selznick has identified shut-down learners and offered great insight into their challenges and accomplishments.

As a Shut-Down Learner myself, I am enlightened and encouraged. I now know that I am not alone. My challenges are actually shared by, and are the norm for so many others like me, who Dr. Selznick has described in detail. I wish I was aware of Dr. Selznick's findings and innovative approach to "me being me", when I was a kid!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Linda Levitsky on December 18, 2008
Format: Paperback
I read this book in one sitting and thought it was wonderful. I can imagine so many other parents feeling like they finally understand why their child is struggling in school after reading this book. The style is very down to earth and in plain English, easy to comprehend. Dr. Selznick provides straight-forward guidance in helping both parents and children cope and get back on track in school. The illustrations add a lot too. This book should be required reading for all teachers in the early grades.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Joe Burros on January 7, 2009
Format: Paperback
Reading this book has helped me understand the children, friends, and even old girlfriends that have been in my life throughout the years. The Shut Down Learner uses plain, down to earth, non-technical language, to describe, and relate to people who are more spatial and creative thinkers, but have problems with reading and writing. As I read this book, the judgments and prejudices I have had toward certain adults and children in my life started to fall away.

Our society praises book smarts and conceptual learning over street smarts and hands on, experiential learning. In almost all schools there is really no place for the type of kids Dr. Selznick writes about. This book starts to make room for these kids. Every parent, teacher, and school administrator should read this book. Every person studying to become a teacher should read this book. The Shut Down Learner will help parents and teachers identify and successfully teach these types of kids before major problems develop. And, finally any person who feels that they are or once was a Shut Down Learner should read this book.

The layout of the book is progressive, starting with a thorough description of the Shut Down Learner, then going on to describe approaches of how to relate and connect with Shut Down Learners. Finally, there are strategies and suggestions about how to successfully proceed with improving the school and family life of the Shut Down Learner and his or her parents. In particular, I really liked the profiles of actual people. I would have liked to read even more of these type of profiles, because they really bring alive the topic of the book. Also, the resources at the end of the book are very helpful.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Karen K. Lowry on January 21, 2009
Format: Paperback
The Shut-Down Learner takes the "disability" out of the phrase, learning disability. Dr. Selznic shows how not every child learns the same, but unfortunately is forced to be taught with methodologies that don't work for the spatial learner. Self-esteem falls when a child sees his friends "getting it". So these bright gifted children are left to feel stupid, not only because they can't learn the way others are learning, but because the expectations of the teachers are that they should be learning. A great book to understand your child..and to begin advocating for his educational needs.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Karina Richland on August 26, 2010
Format: Paperback
The Shut-Down Learner by Richard Selznick, PhD, is a very parent friendly book written for parents and teachers of children and students with learning disabilities, primarily dyslexia.

The Shut down learner is a visual-spatial child that has a unique set of strengths and weaknesses. Dr. Selznick refers to these children as "the Lego kid." The Lego kid does not succeed in school because others do not understand and value his strengths and everyone focuses too much on his weaknesses.

The weaknesses of these children are very low linguistic-verbal intelligence. They struggle considerably with reading, spelling and writing. Despite attempts from special educators and remedial teachers to help these children fail in these areas of weakness, the progress for these children is slow and often even unrecognizable.

The strengths of the Shut-Down Learner are excellent spatial and visual perceptual organization skills. This attribute is his most defining indicator and the author stresses this strength throughout the entire book. The SDL child can visualize things well. They learn through visualization and not through language.

The High-Spatial Characteristics include:

* Lego kid
* Loves puzzles
* Engages for hours with hands-on-activities
* Likes taking things apart to see how they work
* Enjoys hooking things up, such as entertainment systems
* Good awareness of visual detail
* Excellent visual recall
* Does well with psychological assessment tasks that involve spatial analysis
* Enjoys doing tasks and is movement-based

The curriculum is a major obstacle for these students. They will not thrive under the regular curriculum because of their severe language acquisition deficiencies. Dr.
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