Nov 102020
 

How to be safe and still receive services?

LazarSpeech transitioned to an entirely virtual platform on March 20, 2020. All sessions have been held on Zoom, occasionally on Skype or FaceTime if clients need a different online application. With a randomly generated meeting ID and embedded password, clients have a secure link — they simply click on the Zoom link they have received by email in advance.

Everyone remains safe and comfortable in their own homes.

How long Covid 19 will continue and we need to interact virtually is anyone’s guess, but for the time being, everyone can be safe and still have the services they need. 

LazarSpeech is accepting new clients for speech-language therapy, communications coaching, speechwriting and executive function skills development.

Email: info@lazarspeech.com/Phone: 914-631-5082

 

Dec 042017
 
  • Are you frequently late for meetings or appointments in spite of your best intentions?

  • Have you ever waited for someone who never seems to be on time?

  • Whether you spend time waiting for someone who is always late or you’re the person who can’t be on time, the result is frustration on both sides.

People who can never manage to be on time rarely plan to be late.  Most people who are chronically late have difficulty in time management: one could say their clocks are broken.

Children rely on parents and teachers to keep them on time.  This scaffolding sometimes extends into the teenage years.  As adults, personal management of one’s time is an assumed skill.  However, as with organization and prioritization, time management for some individuals remains a struggle, sometimes a lifetime challenge.
 
Time management is an important skill within the larger domain of executive function skills.  Executive functioning represents a set of processes that govern how one manages oneself and one’s resources to achieve a goal. These cognitive, behavioral skills impact on mental control and self-regulation. 
 
Individuals who find it hard to organize themselves often have trouble managing their time.  From small things, forgetting keys or a wallet, paying bills on time, to completing a task like finishing a report, these behaviors fall into the larger skill set of executive functioning.  For some people, the difficulty of managing one’s time is closely linked to other important skills like prioritization and self regulation.
 
The person who has a problem with timeliness may often be challenged by predicting the amount of time he or she needs, usually underestimating or failing to anticipate obstacles that will make them late.  Lack of focusing and remaining on task can further sabotage the goal of being on time.
 
To further complicate matters, prioritizing, the ability to evaluate goals or tasks and decide on the order to accomplish these tasks can also make someone misjudge time.  The person who gets side-tracked because of poor prioritizing may find it necessary to spend more time finishing a task, underestimate the time he or she needs, and arrive late.  If this scenario sounds like a domino effect, in many cases, that’s the way it happens.
  •  Is this a hopeless chain of events?

The “broken clock,” effective time management, can be improved by developing a set of executive function skills that include: organization and planning, prioritization, focus, and self regulation.  While these skills are closely linked, fortunately some people have difficulties in some areas, but not all.  

Working with a professional who can unravel your problems in executive functioning and develop the necessary skills can lead to better time management and self regulation: fixing the broken clock.

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Check back soon for more articles on executive functioning, communications, speech pathology and writing.

 
Oct 252017
 
  • How many adults say they don’t enjoy reading?

  • How many kids say they don’t enjoy reading?

Isn’t it curious that few adults will admit to not enjoying reading, yet more than 50% of the students I see from elementary through college age will acknowledge that they don’t read for pleasure.  What accounts for the difference?

In the adult world reading is acknowledged as a skill that “smart” people possess, a tool for success in many areas.  As an adult, to say that you don’t like to read may diminish the respect you receive from other people.  Adults are expected to read newspapers, magazines, books, whether in paper form or in recent years, online.

But how many adults who claim to enjoy reading are embarrassed to admit that they only read by necessity, deriving little pleasure in the process?  More people than will admit gain their news information from TV or online browsing and only read — in the sense of books — in limited amounts, perhaps a beach read on vacation.

I suspect that all those children and adolescents who say they don’t enjoy reading will not become readers in adulthood.  As adults it becomes the little secret they keep hidden because “smart” people,  of course, find pleasure in reading, in being lost in a book of fiction or non-fiction.

  • Why do some children and adolescents find little enjoyment in reading?

The process of reading, understanding the code of letters representing sounds, is a complex, difficult skill that takes years to master.  At the word level, a lack of word attack skills and diminished vocabulary impede comprehension.  At the sentence level, the more sophisticated and complex the writing, the more difficult comprehension becomes.  

Becoming a fluent reader requires patience and practice, two features that students may not possess. Some schools do not emphasize guided reading in class and independent reading at home after the first few grades, at least not enough to create a habit of reading.  In some households, parents don’t read much at home so the critical models of reading as a pleasurable activity are missing.

  • Do electronics interfere with the development of reading as a pleasurable habit?

I’m sorry to say that the internet, video games and social media take up so much attention during students’ waking hours that settling down with a book seems like a waste of time.  The immediacy of social interaction with a computer or smart phone trumps the patience required to focus on a book — and the pleasure derived from losing oneself in a book seems to have little value.

But baby boomers had TV to divert them away from reading!  Yes, a TV in nearly every home may have taken time away from reading, but with less than a dozen channels, the diversionary value of television was limited.  Now five hundred or more channels on TV, unlimited videos and social media right on the phone in your hand all provide stiff competition for the printed word in book form.

  • Is there a solution?

Yes, turn off the electronics, walk away from the computer and the television and open a book — hardcover, paperback or e-reader.  What can result?  You can find the lost pleasure you might have forgotten as a child or, gain the reading skills you may not have truly developed in your earlier years.  Even more, you can pass on your pleasure of reading to your children by serving as a role model.

Patience and practice can generate a surprising payoff — finding the lost pleasure of reading even in the electronic age.

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Check back soon for more articles on communications, writing, speech pathology and executive function.

 

Sep 122017
 

literate

[lit-er-it]

adjective
1. able to read and write
2. having or showing knowledge of literature, writing, etc.; literary; well-read
3. characterized by skill, lucidity, polish, or the like
4. having knowledge or skill in a specified field
5. having an education; educated; learned
  
Fundamentally, the literate person is a “learned person.”

Computer literate, social media literate, etc.  What does it mean to be “learned” these days?

We live in a constantly changing world. Technology has altered our society in ways as profound as the industrial revolution and the invention of the printing press in previous centuries.  To be literate these days means to have skills that allow for cognitive flexibility, to be able to acquire knowledge in order to change professions at any point in a person’s life.  It also means being able to learn new methods or applications in your field since change will happen in so many areas that formerly were static.

How do we educate our students, as well as our adult selves to deal with this fluid world?

The process begins in the early years of education where critical skills of literacy should be developed. Becoming a fluid reader, thoroughly mastering written and verbal communication and acquiring fundamental math skills should be the basics of education throughout the first 12 years of a student’s life. From the springboard of these skills a student can continue a lifetime of learning in the sciences and humanities.

Despite the trend toward specialized learning, commitment to a career path should not be emphasized in high school.  The curriculum at this point should be developing those skills that will allow a student to continue learning and adapting to a changing environment.  

While the definition of “literacy” includes “having knowledge or skill in a specified field,” the ability to learn and maintain that specialized knowledge requires prerequisites that will foster lifetime learning. Since the technological revolution of computers and the internet, few people will continue to work using the same methods or even engage in the same careers they expect to pursue.

How can adult learners keep up with the changing times?

Maintaining or developing the skills necessary to keep up with innovations in your field or taking a new career path remain essential.  In these changing times the executive function skills of organization, time management, mental flexibility and memory have become necessary tools to maintain “literacy” in our society.

Perhaps the key to this goal of lifetime literacy is fostering and pursuing curiosity about the world and the initiative to explore new areas of knowledge and innovation.  

The cognitive flexibility to continue learning requires a basis: the prerequisites of “literacy” as we now know it so it we can grow with the times and continue to be “literate” in the future.

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Check back soon for more articles on executive function skills, communication, writing and speech pathology.

 

 

Jun 012017
 
  • Isn’t listening easier than speaking?

  • Aren’t listening and paying attention the same?

Most people will answer “yes” to these two questions.  But listening is actually more complicated than most people realize and in some ways, as difficult a process as expressing yourself.

While you must be paying attention in order to “listen” there are actually two types of listening: active vs. passive listening.

  • What is the difference between active and passive listening?

Passive listening involves acknowledging that another person is talking and following the speaker’s line of reasoning.  What’s missing are two critical steps that transform “passive” listening to “active” listening: assimilation and accommodation.

Assimilation is the process of hearing information and comparing it to your own knowledge, the first key to making the transition to active listening.  The next critical step is accommodation acting on the information by responding to it in some way, which might be finding an example from your own experience that illustrates what is being presented.

For the student in class this can mean listening to the teacher, copying notes from the slide or blackboard, acknowledging an understanding (assimilation), then adding a personal observation to the teacher’s idea, either by jotting it to his/her notes or sharing in the discussion (accommodation.)  The process of accommodation extends the student’s thinking beyond what has already been written or spoken.

In an interview this can be illustrated by listening to the interviewer’s question, understanding the question (assimilation), then taking into account the other person’s point of view and deviating from the response you had prepared to answer a specific question (accommodation.)  The prepared, personal “elevator” speech that does not address the topic or question posed can destroy your chances of being hired, making a sale or achieving a promotion. 

If you answered “yes” to the two questions at the beginning of this article you may be practicing “passive” rather than “active” listening.  If your interactions with others involves more of your own speaking, you may be employing only assimilation by following your own line of thought rather than going to the next step, accommodation.  Transforming what you expect to say to actually responding to the other speaker’s words or questions requires “active” listening.

Consider how much this can affect you in your personal as well as your professional life.  Problems of miscommunication between individuals frequently occurs because one person is employing “passive” listening only, not thoroughly engaging with what someone else has said.  This can be illustrated with the famous words, “I thought you said…” The problem of not assimilating and accommodating another speaker’s words and ideas often lies at the bottom of misunderstanding between individuals.  “Active” listening opens up stronger lines of understanding and communicating.

Being an “active” listener can be the key to success in school, business and personal life.

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Check back soon for more articles on communications, speech pathology, writing and executive function skills

 

Dec 152016
 
  • Do children outgrow difficulties with inattention, focus & hyperactivity?
  • Is medication the cure for these problems in childhood?

When a child is diagnosed with inattention, distractibility, with or without hyperactivity,  parents are often faced with a series of concerns.  Will these problems interfere with academic performance?  Will medication help?  Is another treatment needed besides medicine?

The answer to all 3 questions is yes, but in differing degrees.  

Attention Deficit Disorder, with or without hyperactivity, is documented to interfere with learning.  Children who suffer from ADD but exhibit no hyperactivity may go undiagnosed for several years because they suffer quietly and often “fall off the radar” in a classroom where behavior problems claim more of the teacher’s attention.  Well-behaved students may look as if they’re focusing but may have problems following directions, making transitions in activities and switching between topics.

Medication to treat these problems needs to be a parental decision after consultation with professionals and often includes examination of a student’s cognitive functioning and language skills.  Many students have been helped by medication that reduces their distractibility.  However, in my experience medication alone is not the panacea that parents and students would like to believe.

The most effective way to treat ADD & ADHD is to raise the child or adolescent’s awareness of his thinking and focus, and provide strategies to re-direct attention to the task of the moment.  Becoming aware of one’s thinking is called “metacognition” and provides a critical tool for self regulation and self modification.  Metacognition remains a cornerstone to developing executive function skills, which are essential for organization, planning, prioritization and focus.  The current practice of “mindfulness” intersects with metacognition in the goal of “being in the moment” and reducing distractions.  Even young children can be taught to become aware of their distracting thoughts and refocus their thinking.  

Poor executive function skills resulting from ADD and ADHD can affect academic performance throughout formal schooling, including college and graduate school.  Unfortunately most children and teenagers don’t “grow” out of their problems with cognitive functioning.  The most successful ones either receive support services or therapy to develop the skills to keep themselves on task and focused.

Adults, whether diagnosed or not, can find these problems impacting on their careers throughout their lives, often resulting in unfilled potential and goals.  Medication can assist adults in focus and attention, but does not “cure” problems that result in poor organization, time management and distractibility.  At the adult level it remains essential (as for younger individuals) to develop metacognitive strategies and effective executive function skills.  Speech pathologists trained in this area are frequently the professionals who provide therapy to assist children and adults with ADD and ADHD.  Intervention at any age can make a profound change in a person’s life.

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Check back soon for more articles on executive function, speech pathology, effective speaking skills and writing.

 

 

May 102016
 

“Take a look at your child’s room, are there books, papers and electronics strewn across the desk?
And are there clothes on the floor, shoes strewn all about and the general makings of a danger zone. If so, what does this mean? If your middle school or high school student lives in a state of disarray, frequently forgetting papers or textbooks in the school locker, or the finished assignment on the kitchen table, disorganization might be indicative of a problem…”

[read more here: The Scattered Student (pdf): Healthy Family, Spring/Summer 2016]

Dec 052013
 

“I never seem to finish what I start.”

“I run out of time so often.”

“Everyone gets there early or on time, but I’m usually late.”

These are a few of the concerns I’ve heard from clients who have difficulty managing their time, who may be stressed because they can’t accomplish what’s expected of them.  Being able to organize one’s work, prioritize tasks and budget time are the cornerstone of cognitive processes called “executive function.”  As one develops through childhood, adolescence and into the adult years, mastery of these skills becomes a necessary ingredient for success in school and work.  Not being able to complete tasks, missing appointments or arriving late often sidetracks individuals who are otherwise intelligent, talented people.  What lies underneath these functions that makes it so hard for some people?

I’ve written about these skills in some of my previous blog articles: “Why Is My ‘To Do’ List Like Chasing The Impossible Dream?” and “It Seems Everyone Can Multitask, Why Can’t I?”  I invite you to read these articles as well.  But there are some key points I’d like to explore  further in this entry.

As we mature, the direct instruction we receive in terms of managing our time fades out:  we don’t have parents or teachers who tell us where to be and when to have things completed.  However, we have social, personal and employment guidelines that govern our behavior, sometimes rules more unspoken than those of earlier years but nevertheless important, even more critical in our lives.

Why do some people have so much trouble with time management?  Underlying the ability to manage one’s time are important skills: being able to prioritize tasks, set realistic time frames, and make predictions based on past experience.   The person who has difficulty with executive functioning falters on planning and using the skills I’ve just mentioned.   Too many times poor skills in this area leads family, friends and bosses to think that an individual is lazy or inconsiderate, which is often the exact opposite of reality.  The person who doesn’t manage his/her time well usually wants to be successful but doesn’t have the tools to do so.

On a positive note, these skills can be developed at any age and need to be part of every successful individual’s life.  The “broken clock” can be fixed by cognitive therapy that focuses on prioritization, realistic predictability of time required for tasks, and organizational skills.  Murphy’s Law, “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong,” holds true for issues of time.  Sometimes it’s not so bad being early, not cutting so close to the clock — when the unpredictable happens.  But knowing how to function in order to survive Murphy’s Law remains a challenge for people with executive function difficulties.  The first step is recognizing the problem, then acquiring strategies to solve it.

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Check back next week for more thoughts on executive function, speech and language and communication skills.

Oct 252013
 

Another program update, another software update on your phone, your computer… it’s endless, this learning of new things.  It gets annoying, even more, it’s hard.  Just when you’ve figured out how to use a new gadget, or navigate the current operating system, some manufacturer comes out with something new and the learning starts all over again.  In our busy lives, who has the time to keep up with every innovation?

As annoying as it may seem, there’s actually a good reason to  learn how to use a new device or new procedure.  Every time we engage in a learning process we stimulate our brains and develop stronger cognitive abilities.  In other words, we’re helping ourselves get smarter.  Or, in the case of older individuals, we’re keeping up our thinking skills.

What’s really going on when we learn something new?

Our brain has the ability to change and adapt to new experiences, as well as repair itself by compensating from illness and injury.  This is called “brain plasticity.”  While a great deal of learning goes on from childhood through adolescence and the young adult period, we never lose the ability to keep learning, keep developing our thinking, our cognitive functioning.

By engaging ourselves in challenging, new tasks we take advantage of our lifelong capacity for strengthening our thinking skills, using our brain’s plasticity.  Learning new procedures, stretching our memory to remember information, following new patterns of sequencing —  what’s required in using many technological devices — helps maintain our thinking ability.

So is all this technology really making me smarter?

Any new experience that stretches our minds not only adds information to what we know but actually strengthens our ability to learn new procedures, to adapt to new systems.  Yes, to become smarter.

So all these annoying updates that require learning and adjusting to new procedures really do stimulate the brain’s ability to keep on learning.  If we don’t challenge our minds, we reduce the ability to learn new things.  The adage, “use it or lose it” isn’t simply a catchy phrase.  By stretching our thinking we not only add to what we know but also help insure that we can remember new procedures and  learn new information in the future.

We can still grumble and complain about how much time we have to spend learning to use new updates and procedures, but they’re really good for our minds and making us smarter.

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Check back next week for more thoughts on cognition, communications and executive function.

 

Aug 082013
 

Books, papers, electronics strewn across the desk, clothes on the floor, room like a danger zone…  Does it mean anything?

If your middle school or high school student lives in a state of disarray, frequently forgetting papers or textbooks in the school locker, or the finished assignment on the kitchen table, disorganization might be indicative of a problem that’s more than adolescent carelessness.

Executive functioning involves the management of oneself or one’s resources to achieve a goal.  It consists of behavioral skills that impact on mental control and self regulation.  To some degree the external organization of our possessions can reflect the internal management of our thinking.

When a student has difficulty keeping track of his or her belongings — books, papers, clothes, money, keys, cell phone, clothing — the cause may not be solely adolescent sloppiness.   For some students, just getting through the day may be a reflection of a larger problem of self monitoring and self regulation.

Is this always the case?  Not necessarily.  Some students, some adults for that matter, aren’t neat and organized.  But when a student has difficulty in planning tasks, allocating sufficient time for assignments, organizing his or her life to achieve required goals, the external disorganization might be a clue to what’s going on mentally.

Dealing effectively with deadlines, time requirements, and mental transitions requires a set of skills that must begin during childhood and mature with age.  The development of strong executive functioning carries over for success later in life.

Can a parent fix the problem?  Assisting with organization and planning skills can be valuable but parents often end up doing too much and the student may not develop the skills required for independent thinking.   Intervention with a professional skilled in cognitive training may be a more effective way to help your student develop a set of critical life skills.

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Check back next week for more thoughts on executive function skills, speech and communications