Katrina's Blog

Planner Recommendation ​

Finding a good planner is a challenge, especially for students with ADHD or executive function issues. Many go through several different types of planners from the office supply store, trying to find one that is a good fit. I highly recommend the 360 Thinking Academic Planner. I’ve never seen another planner like it. What makes it special?  A “homework to do” section, including prompts to fill out what the student needs to accomplish the task, when the assignment is due, an estimate of how long it will take, and what the student needs to do to turn it in.A “commitments” section for things like tutoring, music lessons, or sports practice.Fully customizable date and day, so it can be used when needed. No wasted space.A “chill” section so students can plan their down time as well.Room for notes.A section that looks like a typical planner with hours marked off from 7 am until 10 pm (a much bigger time range than most planners!) If you click the link above, you can see what a sample page looks like. This kind of planner works well with the kind of coaching my team does with students to help them not only record their assignments, but also plan ahead with all the details needed to be successful. By the way, this is not an affiliate post or an advertisement; it’s a genuine endorsement for an excellent planner. Give it a look.  Photo by Emma Matthews Digital Content Production on Unsplash​

A Quick Technique for Relaxation​

Here is a short, easy breathing technique that can help students calm down, ease their anxiety, and come back to the present moment. It's called window breathing. The idea is to breathe and focus to soothe the nervous system. It works like this: 1. Find a door or window in the room.2. Look at the top left corner. Start taking a breath in, and as you do so, trace your eyes along the top of the door or window.3. When you reach the top right corner, start to slowly breathe out, tracing your eyes down the right side.4. When you reach the bottom right corner, start to breathe in, and trace your eyes along the bottom of the door or window.5. When you reach the bottom left corner, slowly breathe out until you are back at the top left corner.6. Do a few rounds until your breathing slows, you feel calmer, or you feel more present on your body. Keep the movements and breath slow, and connect the eye movements and the breath. It may take several rounds before reaching a calmer space; don't rush it. This works well when students reach an overwhelm point and need to find a calmer, clearer mindset. It would be good to practice it a few times when the student is calm so they understand how it works. Photo by Rob Wingate on Unsplash​

What is Twice Exceptional?​

Something that doesn't get as much attention as either gifted ability or learning disabilities in students is the fact that some students exhibit both traits. According to the book Twice Exceptional by Scott Barry Kaufman, "twice exceptional individuals demonstrate exceptional levels of capacity, competence, commitment, or creativity in one or more domains coupled with one or more learning difficulties." This can have many permutations, and will look differently for each twice exceptional, or 2e, student. For instance, one 2e student might have dyslexia but be an accomplished dancer, while another 2e student is gifted in math and also has dysgraphia. Part of what can be difficult in discovering if a student is 2e is that their high abilities may mask their disability, and conversely, their disability can hide their exceptional potential. Another road block is that not all educators are trained to watch for 2e students. In fact, Kaufman notes that those that work successfully with this population require special training and ongoing professional development. The National Association for Gifted Children has information about what teachers and parents might see in relation to gifted students and tips about what parents can do to help. Understood.org has a great list of myths about 2e students. One I would like to address here is the idea that students can't be gifted and also lack basic skills. There are highly gifted students who are also dyslexic and struggle with phonemic and phonological awareness. But that doesn't mean that they can't succeed in school; rather, they need instruction that will help them close those gaps so they can read and write well. Another good resource is this article in . This is an area in which I hope to continue my learning, as I believe I've already worked with a number of students who would be considered 2e. If you think your child may be 2e, I would be happy to point you toward additional resources.  Photo by IIONA VIRGIN on Unsplash.​

Fan Fiction Encourages Writing​

I have had success with reluctant writers time and again when I ask them to write fan fiction. Fan fiction is generally defined as fiction written in worlds already created by other authors. An entire culture has been built online around fan fiction (the Harry Potter and Marvel universes are two examples), and if they choose, students can join these online communities to share their work and build community. But many students write fan fiction just for themselves. Something about being able to immerse themselves in the world of their favorite characters helps them step back from their usual dislike of writing. They don't have to build everything from scratch, and they can use worlds and characters they already know and love to craft their own story. Students of mine have written fan fiction based on Minecraft, Monster High, their favorite anime characters, and the Hatchet series. Another popular favorite is for students to write their own Choose Your Own Adventure style story. Writing their own fan fiction can also inspire a love of reading others' fan fiction, which can be helpful for reluctant readers who would shun other types of reading materials. If you have a reluctant writer (or reader) in your house, try introducing them to fan fiction.  Photo by Les Anderson on Unsplash​

What Are Processing Disorders?​

Some students struggle with processing disorders, and these are lesser-known learning disabilities that can show up in conjunction with dyslexia and ADHD, or even be missed because they are improperly diagnosed as other learning disabilities. The most common types of processing disorders are visual and auditory processing disorders. Visual processing disorders affect a student's ability to process information through their eyes, and can cause issues with seeing an object's position in space. This can impact reading and math because both subjects rely heavily on being able to understand symbols (numbers and letters, for example). One way this might manifest is when a student has trouble distinguishing between the letters p and q when reading or writing. Auditory processing disorders affect a student's ability to understand and analyze what they hear. It is not a hearing disorder, but rather a problem with the way the information is processed in the brain. This can affect phonological awareness: isolating the sounds of letters and then understanding how they work together in words. Students may also have trouble understanding the differences between the sounds of letters. This article from LDOnline explains visual and auditory processing disorder in much more depth, and provides information about common interventions. Another type of processing disorder is language processing disorder. Students may exhibit difficulty putting their thoughts into words, or may have a hard time understanding what people are saying. Issues here include social issues (for instance, when students do not understand their peers or have trouble expressing themselves), written expression problems, or struggles understanding lectures. This article in ADDitude Magazine outlines language processing disorder in greater detail. If you suspect your child might have an auditory or visual processing disorder, ask your school for an assessment, or reach out to a private evaluator. Speech therapists are a good place to begin for suspected language processing disorder. You can also begin intervention right away with a tutor. The Orton-Gillingham approach I use can help students with visual and auditory processing disorders, and writing and study skills help can assist students with language processing disorders. Please reach out to me if you think your child might have a processing disorder so they can begin to Photo by Hermes Rivera on Unsplash.​