I have worked with special needs children, their families, teachers, IEP teams, and psychologists for many decades. Ever since I was both a master’s and doctoral student, I studied Early Childhood Development, Cognitive Learning, and Children with Learning Disabilities.
As a school psychologist, children diagnosed with ADD/ADHD were in every classroom and every school in which I worked. These children typically exhibit the behavioral characteristics of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.
When I worked in the corporate sector, I wrote and lectured about this disorder, as well as dyslexia, autism, and aspergers throughout North America.
As a tutor, many of my students who have this diagnosis cannot sit still for an entire hour and concentrate on their work. Therefore, I allow them to stand to do some written work, walk around the room while answering questions, jump rope or cartwheel around the room while reciting their multiplication tables, or just take a break and do jumping jacks to release their energy! I also allow them to engage in conversation with me to build a trusting relationship in which they are willing to perform.
I have a PhD. in Educational Psychology, and an M.S. in Counseling. Throughout my educational and psychological career, I have worked with special needs children, their families, teachers, IEP teams, and psychologists.
Those diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome are sometimes characterized as having high functioning autism. At this time, it is a diagnosis that is considered to be on the Autism Spectrum, although there is ongoing discussion about separating it completely from Autism. Discovered in Europe in 1944, it became an official diagnosis in the U.S. in 1994. Students with this diagnosis typically have less severe autistic symptoms, and above average intelligence.
Some of their observable characteristics that cause academic difficulty include a lack of organizational skills, poor concentration skills, inflexibility, a lack of social skills, and poor conceptual and abstract thinking skills.
I try to provide my students who have Asperger’s Syndrome with praise, organization, routine, and a predictable environment. Additionally, I emphasize the skills in which they are proficient.
I have worked with special needs children, their families, teachers, IEP teams, and psychologists for many decades. Ever since I was both a master’s and a doctoral student, I studied early childhood development, cognitive learning, and children with learning disabilities and disorders.
My first introduction to Autism was from a doctoral student I mentored. She had set up the first preschool for children who were diagnosed with Autism in the San Diego area. Through her and my continued studies on the topic over the decades, I increased my knowledge significantly.
Typically, these children are diagnosed by the age of three. The hallmark symptoms of Autism include poor social interactions, weak communication skills, self-stimulating behaviors, and restricted interests.
When I worked in the corporate sector, I wrote and lectured throughout North America about Autism, as well as Dyslexia, ADHD, and Asperger’s. As a tutor, I have worked with students who have been diagnosed with Autism, as well as with their families and schools. Frequently, these students have other disabilities and, when I work with them, I attempt to address all their issues.
In the past, I have tutored students to take the the COOP and HSPT to be admitted to private schools. More recently in my private practice, I have tutored elementary students to take the NJASK and the Terra Nova. With each student, I evaluate their strengths and weaknesses, provide review of key concepts, practical strategies for test-taking, and administer practice tests. In addition to preparing students academically, I focus on reducing their test anxiety and building their self-confidence.
Please read my subject description for the subject Special Needs. This included information about my creating a pre-reading program for 4 to 6 yr. olds to teach them the skills they needed, such as phoenemic awareness and the alphabetic principle, before they can learn to read. Also, I have had training in the Orton-Gillingham approach to reading, which is frequently used with students who have dyslexia. I have written articles about dyslexia for Kumon Instructors who saw many reading students with this reading disability, and I have had much experience working with students who are struggling readers or who have been diagnosed with dyslexia in my tutoring practice.
After receiving my Ph.D. and three credentials from the state of California, I held various positions in both K-6 and K-8 school districts. I worked as an Educational Consultant, Educational Psychologist, School Psychologist, and Testing Specialist for students with Special Needs. In the schools, I worked closely with reading specialists and classroom teachers. I administered and evaluated a wide variety of tests to students, participated in their I.E.P.'s, and conferred with parents and school personnel on a regular basis.
When I moved from the schools to the corporate sector, I continued to focus my attention on elementary students. I worked on the reading curriculum for an after school supplemental math and reading program, wrote and spoke about topics of concern to parents and instructors of elementary school students, especially in the area of Reading.
For several years, I have been tutoring elementary school students on an individual basis. Although I focus on Reading, Writing, and Language Arts, I currently assist students with their homework and prepare them for classroom tests in all subjects. In addition, I mentor parents and prepare students for standardized tests such as the NJASK and Terra Nova. My expertise, sensitivity, and empathy allow me to establish trusting and meaningful relationships with my students and their families.
Recently, I have tutored elementary students in all subjects, including math. With my background in education and psychology, I understand math phobia and test-taking anxiety and have worked with many students who have these issues. By filling in gaps in their math knowledge, assisting with their math homework assignments, preparing for classroom and standardized math tests, practicing to the point of “over learning,” and doing some deep breathing and visualization exercises, I am usually able to help students remain calm during math test-taking experiences.
In the recent past, I was asked to explain the difference between the linear math curriculum that most parents are familiar with, and the spiral math curriculum that is used in schools today. Spiral math textbooks include topics such as the following: numeration, number theory, mental math and estimation, computing with whole numbers and decimals, computing fractions, ratio and percent, basic ideas of pre-algebra, graphing, statistics and probability, measurement, basic ideas of geometry, and problem solving. In the spiral math curriculum, these topics are repeated each year throughout the elementary grade levels.
I began my undergraduate education as a math major and returned to my love for math during my doctoral studies. In my Educational Psychology program, I specialized in statistics and psychometric testing. During those graduate years, I tutored students in statistics and tests and measurements. I also co-authored articles and monographs about math achievement. When I worked at Kumon North America, I co-created a program for 4 to 6 year olds that included Number Sense, and wrote articles about math entitled “Two Secrets Behind Math Word Problems” and “The Many Faces of the Language of Numbers.” I also collaborated with Michigan State University on a scientific research study of Kumon Math for elementary students.
I teach grammar through the writing process and by assisting private students with their daily homework in Language Arts. Nouns, verbs, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions, capitalization, punctuation, proper sentence construction, and subject-verb agreement are some of the grammar topics I emphasize with beginning or struggling writers. I encourage students to write stories after making a story map, to keep journals about the books they’ve read, to rewrite first drafts making all spelling and grammatical corrections, and I praise them as they improve their stories and compositions. With upper elementary and middle school students, we tackle topics such as clauses, sentence variety, and types of paragraphs. Once students master paragraph writing, I help them expand their ideas into an essay.
Although many students write the way they talk, I introduce Standard Written English with proper grammar and spelling at all levels of writing. Good readers make good writers, and I encourage my students to read and write on a daily basis. My enthusiasm for reading and writing is contagious!
I was the co-creator of a pre-reading program for 4-6 year olds at Kumon North America, the goal of which was to teach young children the pre-literacy skills needed before they can learn to read. In addition, I have had Orton-Gillingham training, which is a multisensory, alphabetic-phonetic approach to teaching reading, writing, and spelling.
Words are made up of sounds. I teach young students to recognize the sounds in words through exercises such as rhyming, syllable counting, whole word discrimination, syllable segmentation, blending letters to make a single speech sound, identifying sounds at the beginning, middle, and ending of words, identifying words by deleting beginning or ending sounds, and substituting sounds to make new words. Additionally, the onset and rime of words are taught, along with word-families. Emphasis is also placed on long and short vowels, silent consonants, compound words, prefixes and suffixes. Rules, such as “A word that ends with a /k/ sound is spelled with a ck after a short vowel (e.g. sock, brick, black) and “Silent e at the end of a word makes the vowel say its name (e.g. like, cane,) are also introduced. I use the Orton-Gillingham approach especially for pre-readers, early readers, and struggling readers.
With a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology, Orton-Gillingham training in reading, and extensive experience working with thousands of children in public and private schools, I have worked with a broad range of students including pre-readers, struggling readers, and those with Special Needs (from the Gifted to those on the Autism Spectrum.)
I have written numerous articles for parents with titles that include, "Good Readers Make Good Writers," "Breaking the Reading Code," "Is Your Child at Risk of Becoming a Struggling Reader?" Additionally, I have delivered presentations across North America on topics entitled "Struggling Readers," "Understanding Reading Comprehension," and "Building the Foundation for Reading Success."
My proficiency in the area of pre-literacy skills permits me to evaluate young children, and assist them in their acquisition of the necessary pre-reading skills required before they can become skilled readers. All children can learn to read, but unlike speech, which happens naturally, reading must be taught. To break the reading code, young children must be able to recognize that words are composed of sounds and be able to link those sounds with letters of the alphabet. While I was employed at a large educational corporation, I co-created a reading readiness program for 4 to 6 years olds.
For students to comprehend what they read, they must read a great deal and develop fluency in reading. Whether I am working with pre-readers or struggling readers, I employ systematic and explicit instruction to help students improve their reading skills. Letter-sound recognition, oral reading, predicting outcomes, retelling and writing stories, and shared reading are all techniques that I use when interacting with my students. By providing and recommending books at their reading and interest level, I encourage students to read for pleasure while demonstrating the joy of reading.
Throughout my career, I have had extensive experience with a wide range of children with Special Needs. These include students in the gifted and talented programs, underachievers, struggling readers, and those with a variety of learning disabilities and disorders. Some students were diagnosed with ADD/ADHD, Aspergers Syndrome, Autism, Dyslexia, and Auditory Processing Disability. A diagnosis of a disability or disorder may make learning difficult, but it is not a life sentence. With patience, understanding, and a firm belief that all students can learn, I am able to provide services to a diverse group of individuals.
During my many years in California, I worked with students, parents, and school personnel in the Beverly Hills, Goleta, Santa Barbara, and Santa Maria School Districts. I administered and evaluated ability, achievement, and psychological tests to thousands of students, and participated in some of their I.E.P. team meetings. When I worked for the corporate sector, I delivered presentations across North America on topics such as Special Needs Students, Learning Disabilities, and Struggling Readers. Additionally, as the Educational Specialist and Academic Spokesperson for Kumon North America, I wrote numerous articles for their parents, staff, and Instructors, and was frequently interviewed by the media. Special Needs Students, Struggling Readers, and Learning Disabilities were often the topics of discussion.
My goal is to help students improve their spelling. I use the multisensory Orton-Gillingham approach with my students who have dyslexia or are struggling readers. Although I introduce some of the most common spelling rules (Silent-e, Doubling, and Y rule,) I keep the rules to a minimum and believe that mastering a few principles is more important than half-learning several. My students keep a record of their commonly misspelled words in a notebook or on index cards, and review them regularly. Understanding the meanings of prefixes and suffixes also helps students sharpen their spelling skills. I use proofreading and some use of the dictionary to help students find and correct their own spelling errors.
Successful students possess good study skills. These include organizational, time management, and motivational skills. Although some students appear to acquire them naturally, others need help developing and practicing such skills. Students need clear expectations, structure and routine. In past presentations to parents and educators, I have discussed the importance of organizing information, reading directions, recording assignments, setting up a study area at home where all supplies are kept in one place, and using a weekly planner. The homework area needs to be comfortable, equipped with necessary supplies, free from distractions, and well lit. Students who lack study skills frequently do their assignments in several different areas and constantly get up to sharpen pencils or get supplies. This interrupts their concentration. Regaining it takes time, which often turns short assignments into needlessly long ones.
I have encouraged parents to set up study areas in their homes to provide routine and consistency for students. Because my sessions with students are tailored to meet their individual needs and learning styles, I use visual aids with some students, mnemonic devices with others, and I help break down large assignments into smaller manageable pieces. As a homework and study facilitator, I do not do the work for students. Instead, I use praise, encouragement, and incentives to boost their motivation and help them learn how to study and successfully complete assignments in a timely manner.
Vocabulary is the cornerstone of good reading. The more students read, the more their vocabularies improve. Extensive and specialized vocabulary is an essential tool for students in school and throughout their lives. To build one’s vocabulary, the study of word meanings is fundamental. I encourage the use of a dictionary and thesaurus, which are indispensable resources for vocabulary expansion.
With pre-readers, I practice rhyming and clapping syllables of long words. We discuss word meanings and I encourage them to use their new words in story telling. When I read to them, I choose books with rich vocabulary. With early readers, I continue to use these practices, and I concentrate on high frequency words, compound words, sentence writing, and paired-reading. Additionally, I read books to them that are above their grade level as a means of introducing new vocabulary. Throughout elementary school, students need to grow their sight word vocabulary because it is critical to a successful reading experience. When students accomplish this, they are able to concentrate on the meaning of the text and not break their attentiveness by having to decode unfamiliar words.
Vocabulary instruction is part of Language Arts. Some of its components include synonyms, antonyms, homophones, roots, prefixes, suffixes, and words with multiple meanings. By assisting students with their Language Arts assignments, listening to them read, reading to them, discussing what we read, and encouraging them to use newly acquired vocabulary words in their writing assignments, I reinforce their vocabulary development. Some students also benefit from keeping vocabulary index cards or a vocabulary notebook.