Student and Parent Pages or The Learning Archive

The Learning Archive is a password protected communication and file storage area. Communication strands with student and the parent are preserved. Also Smartboard notes from each session are available as a reference for students and parents.

Diablo Valley Educational Therapy offers students and parents a Learning Archive for what transpired during the learning session and between sessions. This is a private and secure location for the communication strand between the student and the learning coach/ET. This conversational strand is viewable by the parents. In addition, there is an additional private and secure loaction for the communication strand between the parents and the learning coach/ET.  Also, parents can authorize guest viewers from their child’s professional support team to view one or both the student site and parent site.

Smartboard notes viewable by students after session

Smartboard notes viewable by students after session

Features of Student Site –

  • Student and parent access to all Smartboard notes from each student session
  • Current goals for educational therapy
  • Session goals (located in Smartboard notes)
  • Progress  towards goals (located in Smartboard notes
  • Student deliverables for next session (located in Smartboard notes)
  • Student and learning coach/ET generated Smartboard notes are available for any session
  • Review skills worked on during any session (located in Smartboard notes)
  • Maintenance of conversational strand between student and learning coach/ET
  • All features viewable by parents or invited guests (members of child’s professional support team)
  • Platform for students to contact learning coach/ET for on-line support between sessions


Notes from session viewable from parent site.

Notes from session viewable from parent site.

Features of Parent Site –

  • Follow student progress toward reaching goals set up in Learning Agreement Letter
  • Follow student progress towards reaching goals set up for any session
  • View student deliverable for the next session
  • View student and Learning Coach/ET on-line conversational strand
  • Invite members of child’s professional support team to view parent and/or student page
  • Maintains the conversational strand between the parent and the learning coach/ET

Student and parent pages are maintained for all students with a Learning Agreement Letter. Email Allan at or call 925-683-7677 for more information.

A Learning Model for Skill Acquisition

Typically a student is shown a skill or new concept in a lecture environment as a teacher demonstration or explanation. Sophisticated models in science or economics are introduced in a generalized way with details incrementally layered into the model. This general process occurs in the 2nd grade, the 12th grade, and in college.

From a teacher’s perspective, it typically follows the “I do, we do, you do format.” In 2nd grade the teacher follows the process carefully to ensure that students understand the skill or the concept. As students become more self aware the majority of students will implicitly absorb this process and its subtleties. For most self aware students their understanding of the learning process means that they will be able to judge their own level of understanding of a concept or their progress in the acquisition of a skill. In the upper grades, teachers become less involved with their students individual progress in learning concepts and skills. This is certainly the case in high school and college. High school and college students are expected to be self aware and seek help or support in learning concepts or skills when needed. For ADHD and NLD students the implicit understanding of the learning process does not occur frequently. As a result of their lack of self awareness, they are not able to judge their own level of understanding of a concept or their progress in the acquisition of a skill.

iStock_000000698570XSmallThe process of learning new skills should be explicitly taught to Aspergers and ADD students. Students move from being introduced to a skill, to practicing a skill with support, to demonstrating a skill without support. A NLD or ADD student should be explicitly told the process of first the teacher does it, then student and teacher do it, and finally the student does it without any support. They also learn this model is used over and over. Many students sit in class and understand a skill or concept the teacher demonstrates for the class but the student cannot repeat the process at home when asked to use the skill or concept to complete a homework assignment without any support. Students need to be aware of the prompts from a teacher that help a student through a process. Students that are aware of teacher prompting realize they are not independent if teacher prompting is required for them to demonstrate a skill or concept.

iStock_000020386766XSmallAs a result, the leaning process is sequential. You begin the learning of a specific skill or concept dependent on your teacher. As you learn the skill or concept you begin to become less dependent on the teacher. Subtleties that were not evident initially begin to manifest themselves. If the concept is a model for some phenomena, the student begins to ask questions that test the limits of the model to explain the phenomena. Likewise, if the student is learning a skill they begin to perform the skill with fewer prompts from the teacher. In each situation described above, the student is becoming more independent. Complete independence translates as no input from the teacher, notes, peers, parents or the textbook. Also, it means using their long term memory (see Tip on Going Long) to initiate the application of skill or concept with nominal context or scaffolding offered by the teacher or assessment tool.

During my coaching sessions, I track the number of prompts necessary to help a student through their demonstration of a skill or use of a concept. After their demonstration of the skill or concept we will discuss the types and number of prompts they needed from me to demonstrate the skill or concept. This discussion with a student leads to an opportunity for the student to judge themselves on where they are in reaching mastery. Student mastery is when a student demonstrates a skill without prompting at least one hour after any studying or supported practice. Waiting one hour requires the student to use their long term memory to demonstrate the skill.

iStock_000019565235XSmallStudents need to be aware of where they are in the process of skill acquisition. Through their own self awareness they have to discern if they are novices, practicing, or masters of a skill or concept. This self awareness will help to bring integrity to the learning process. If a student recognizes that they are at the practicing level, then they will be able to participate collaboratively in becoming an expert or master of a skill. When a student recognizes they are at the early stages of the practicing level, they will realize that a test administered at this particular stage in their learning process would result in a less than ideal outcome. Recognition of their progress toward mastery and independence helps students realize that it takes time to convert a process to their long term memory. Also, once they begin to realize they are close to getting the process consolidated in their long term memory it takes time for memory to be completely reliable. This self awareness of their level of mastery will be used at some point to help students predict their score on tests at school.

A self aware student of the learning process will learn to be patient with the process, engage the process as an incremental endeavor and ultimately recognize their own mastery. At this point the student truly has a powerful gift. This self awareness can then be generalized to all subjects. It helps students to evaluate how close they are to demonstrating their mastery on a given subject or skill. For ADD students this is an incredible milestone. Typically, ADD students are caught red handed at test time either cramming or flying be the seat of their pants (or taking a test prior to mastery). ADD students will likely cram and fly by the seat of their pants at times but at least all parties (teacher, learning coach or parents) can acknowledge this behavior and have an honest discussion about the event. This acknowledgement and discussion leads to another topic critical to success and that is planning. Understanding the learning process and being able to plan the learning process will eventually lead to independent learning.

Homework Routine

The homework cycle is the series of events that must occur when a homework assignment is given to a student with the expectation that the student hands in the assignment the next day. This seemingly simple idea can cause some households to tremble at the very mention of homework. Many students with ADD or NLD have executive functioning issues. Executive functioning includes the ability to plan, prioritize, manage time, organize, sustain attention, persist to goals, and initiate work. These brain skills help students get things done. Three other important areas of executive functioning are controlling emotions, working memory and metacognition. These are possibly the most important because controlling emotions, working memory and metacognition affect all the other areas of executive functioning. Students that are experiencing emotional issues such as anxiety, anger or depression are going exhibit executive functioning challenges. If any emotional issues are present they need to be addressed before or concurrently with executive functioning issues. Working memory issues require additional strategies that mitigate the impact of a limited working memory. Metacognition is thinking about thinking. This requires students to be self aware enough to recognize when they are sustaining attention, persisting toward goals, initiating their work, and planning, organizing or prioritizing their work. As a result, metacognition is a gate opener for dealing with executive functioning issues. Therefore, students need to be explicitly told about the brain skills that help them get things done.

HiRes (3)A discussion about the homework cycle needs to begin at some point in the cycle and then follow a path back to that same point. For this discussion the homework cycle begins with the student using their planner to log the homework assignment. Students need to write the homework assignment down if they are to reliably begin the cycle. Teacher managed blogs are great but they tend to have enough gaps and variation to make most of them too buggy to provide a reliable source for homework assignments. For most school situations the homework needs to be written down. The planner needs to be incorporated into the student’s paper management system. That means the separate planner is not a dependable place to put homework assignments. A separate planner can be in a back pack, at home, in a locker, or roaming around in the back seat of your neighbor’s minivan that is in your carpool. The separate planner becomes so problematic for many students that they must either figure out their own work around (usually not a dependable work around) or they don’t bother with writing down the assignment. For many students with Aspergers or ADHD the separate planner is not an effective start to managing the homework cycle. The most effective planner for students with Executive Functioning issues is one that is incorporated into their paper management system. This paper management system is frequently a single binder. Multiple binders increase the possibility that a binder will be lost, left in a locker or at home. Also, multiple binders that have papers randomly put into them will create breaks in the paper trail for students. These paper breaks are not solvable in class if the binder is located at home or in their locker. Having one binder with the planner incorporated eliminates many of the insurmountable logistical problems that a multiple binder system creates on a daily basis.

iStock_000013251434XSmallThe planner is located in the front of the single binder. Putting the planner and the single binder in the same place means that the student is managing less. The student locates their planner by using their binder tab for planner in their single binder. Each calendar month is located on two pages. When the student is looking at a calendar month the student is looking at the pages on the left and right of their binder. For younger students the two pages can correspond to one week because longer assignments are not frequently given. This gives younger students lots of room to write down their assignments. Customizing the planning/calendar page should incorporate the age of the student and their handwriting abilities. Along with each assignment the student needs to record the due date and the materials needed to complete the assignment. This could be a worksheet or a textbook. If there is no homework the student needs to write no homework. As part of the takeoff routine, the student checks the planner to see if there was homework that needs to be handed in, if they have written down their current homework assignment and if they written down the materials necessary to complete the homework in their planner. In addition, if a worksheet is required, the takeoff routine needs to include a step that checks their binder to be sure it contains the materials necessary to complete the assignment. Finally the student needs to check around their desk and make sure that all materials brought to class, such as the single binder, are in their back pack. The student is now ready to takeoff for their next class. As a side note, parents need to appreciate the number of steps involved in managing daily homework assignments. This appreciation should temper unrealistic expectations for rapid acquisition of executive functioning skills. In other words, being ready to takeoff for their next class is huge step in homework routine and may not be acquired easily.

In their next class students need to check their planner to see if there is homework due. If so, they need to go to the proper location in their single binder to get the assignment and place it on their desk to hand in to their teacher. To prepare for takeoff, the student repeats the homework routine described above for getting an assignment in their planner. If there is no homework the student writes no homework in their planner for that subject. Your child’s ability to repeat this process depends a great deal on the support they receive in the classroom.

Getting homework from each class is problematic if the teacher is so flummoxed that they are giving the assignments verbally as the students walk out the door. This teacher is the antithesis of the teacher needed by a student with executive functioning issues. Hopefully, the teacher writes down the assignment in a visible location in the classroom. It would also be helpful if the teacher wrote the assignment down on the board at the same time each day as part of their routine. Sadly, this is not the case in most classrooms and the student must adapt to multiple methods of delivery and to receiving homework assignment at different times during the class. As a result, your child with executive skills challenges is not always supported by teachers capable or caring enough to adopt a homework assignment routine. As a result, you need to be aware of the classroom environment and offer your child patience, guidance and support in overcoming a chaotic classroom environment. Given these real life classroom challenges, parents and students need to work on backup plans for getting homework assignments. This can be useful but is limited in value if your child does not have the worksheet or textbook required to do the homework. A backup plan would include using the teacher blog (not always updated or accurate) or calling another reliable student in the class. Getting a complete duplicate set of textbooks at home is a great way to eliminate the need to have your child hefting books around and eliminates the problem of leaving books at school or at home. Often you can find used duplicate books on Amazon for a very reasonable price.

Students repeat their takeoff and landing routines for each class throughout the day. The rate of student progress in acquiring takeoff and landing routines can seem glacial at times. It may be helpful to remember that the establishment of routines can take more time than anticipated. Parents tend to underestimate the time it takes to establish routines and as a result they are often disappointed by their child’s progress. The end of the school has its own special takeoff routine.

Red button labeled with the word GO.The takeoff routine for leaving school campus needs to be rationalized. At the end of each day, the student needs to refer to their planner to accumulate all the materials needed for their homework. To do this the planner in their single binder needs to be opened and reviewed. All the materials required for homework on that day needs to be in their backpack. Once they confirm they have all the materials for their homework, they are able to liftoff from school. As routines become internalized and practiced, students can reliably include other steps in their routine like bringing home jackets or lunch boxes. Students need a landing routine. Their routine would include putting their back pack in the same place every day when they come home. After they do any after school activities and/or get their snack, students are ready to start their homework. Homework time should be as regimented as possible. The family needs to endeavor to make certain times of each day homework time. During homework time the backpack is placed in the location where homework gets done. The planner is opened and all assignments are listed in an abbreviated manner on a small white board or on a piece of paper. Next to each assignment the student places a time estimate to complete each homework assignment. Next, the list of assignments is prioritized. An assignment agenda is completed that uses the student prepared time estimates. Breaks are inserted in the agenda. Typically, students should not work longer than 20 minutes without a break. The time interval between breaks could be shorter or longer depending on their age, and the student’s ability to sustain attention. Now the student is ready to go to work. As they finish their homework assignments they can check off each assignment. Next to each estimated time they can put the actual time. This routine will need significant support from parents in the beginning. For each step listed above the parent needs to model the process for their child. Next, the child and parent work together in performing each step. As your child begins to take on bigger roles in managing this process, they will be working towards independence and acquisition of the routine.

Getting the homework complete is not the final step in the agenda for the evening. Additional steps in your child’s agenda include putting homework into the correct location in their single binder, returning all materials used to complete the homework to the proper place in the binder (if it is a teacher handout) or to the back pack (if it is a book). The final step is putting the backpack in a set location for takeoff the next morning. Homework is not done until the homework is placed in proper locations in the binder, the binder and other materials are returned to the backpack, and the backpack is located in its established takeoff location.

iStock_000000732611SmallThe next morning your child grabs the backpack and leaves for school. When they get to school they put all books in their locker that they will not need until their next locker visit. Along with their single binder and their necessary books they are off to their first class. In their first class they open their planner to see if there is homework due that day. If there is homework, they remove the homework from their binder and place it on their desk ready to hand in. The homework cycle has now come full circle. The cycle repeats about 180 times a year. Students need support in learning their homework routine. In private schools your child may get more support than in a public school. Parents, tutors, teachers and learning coaches all collaborate on getting a homework routine established. In elementary school the homework routine or process is more important than the outputs of homework. In other words, having a student show progress in managing the homework cycle is more important than any homework assignment. A reward system can help drive the acquisition of a routine for the homework cycle. For young children, playing games on a computer or spending an afternoon at the park with mom or dad can be a reward for demonstrating a skill level with the homework cycle. Goals demonstrating acquisition of homework routines need to be realistic and attainable. Parents need to set goals so that there is incremental progress and not a sudden leap to perfection. A rush to perfection will defeat this process resulting in a negative experience for the child. Tutors, learning coaches and hopefully teachers will participate in giving feedback on your child’s progress toward developing a homework cycle routine.

By the end of the 8th grade students need to be able to do daily homework assignments for classes like math and foreign language. Other classes like literature, history and science often have assignments due at the end of the week. Assignments longer than one evening need to be partitioned into doable segments and spread out over each day until they are to be handed in. An eighth grade student should be able plan and complete homework assignments that are one week or less in duration. Assignments longer than one week will need support from parents in the planning and partitioning process. If an eighth grade student is not able to plan, partition and complete assignments one week or less in the future, the student will have a most likely have a difficult adjustment in the ninth grade. Ninth grade teachers are typically more content driven than middle school teachers. The push through the curriculum will put more responsibility on the student to manage short term projects of a week or less. This means that ninth grade students will need support on projects or assignments that span a timeframe longer than one week. You and your child need to judge their ability to manage the homework cycle when they enter the ninth grade. For projects or assignments that take longer than a week to complete, students should be operating with support from parents, teachers, tutors or learning coaches. Following the learning process of I do, we do and then you do by yourself, a ninth grader should be doing about half of the planning process for projects.

iStock_000017511821SmallIn the beginning of the ninth grade school year, your child may benefit from having a discussion on a high school homework routine for assignments of one week or less. Your support in setting up the homework cycle routine is hopefully welcomed. On the other hand, the implementation and management of the homework cycle routine should be the ninth graders responsibility. As a result, you should plan to help you ninth grader plan projects that take longer than one week. The planning should be collaborative with the child taking more of the lead in project planning as the ninth grade year progresses. After each project the child and the parent should discuss the planning process and highlight what went well and what could have gone better. Planning for the next project should include repeating portions that worked and potential choices for improvement to the process for the next project. By the junior year in high school, your child should be planning projects independently and striving towards planning mastery. Project planning needs to be an independent process by the time a student is taking advanced placement classes or is in their 2nd semester of their junior year of high school. Unless you are planning on going with your student to college or providing professional planning support in college your child needs to be an independent project planner by the time they graduate from high school. In college students will need to work together (collaborate) on projects. Hopefully, your child has had some exposure to collaborative projects before they go to college.

Transition Routines for NLD and ADD Support Executive Functioning

Students need routines to help with landings and taking offs.These routines will help them to successfully navigate the transitions that take place throughout the school day.

girls starting to sprintEvery student needs to learn how to land and how to takeoff to be an effective student. No one joins a flight in midair but many NLD and ADD students join their classes as if Scotty had randomly beamed them there. Every day with almost every transition students without a flight routine will get into the middle of a class and realize they are missing something from their home or they didn’t know that there was an assignment and that it was due today. Aspergers and ADHD kids are prone to forget things or not pay attention to critical transitions in class. How do NLD and ADD kids mitigate this innate tendency to miss place items or forget things? The answer for kids that lose and forget their things is to help them develop routines. These routines are over learned. Over learned information would be facts like your multiplication tables. By over learning something it becomes automatic. Over learned routines help students to keep track of their things and bring the things they need to class or home. A routine or checklist helps students to takeoff from home to school, from their locker to the classroom or from school to home. Routines can help typically unprepared NLD and ADHD students to more effectively transition from school to home and from class to class.

Routines need to be over learned to the point of automaticity. Takeoff and landing routines are a rationalized process for arriving and leaving. These critical transitions are facilitated if there is a mental checklist (written down for training and reference) that is followed. Students need an environment at home and at school that supports the implementation of a routine. Home life routines that vary greatly are not supportive. Teachers that have no set class routine for the beginning or ending of classes are also difficult environments for an ADD or Aspergers student. The implementation of routines should also incorporate the “I do, we do, and then you do” learning model (see Tip on the “I do, we do, and then you do” learning model). In addition, parents and teachers should realize that installing a routine into the long term memory takes time. Also, any testing of routines should be mindful of the differences in long term memory and short term memory (see the Tip on Going Long or the Conversion of Short Term Memory into Long Term Memory). Students that have mastered (installed information into long term memory) a routine will be able to site components of the routing without referring to notes or receiving any prompts from parents or teachers after at least one hour break. Mastering a routine without a reference list may not be worth the effort. In that case, students will have the list available for reference.

Schoolboy With His Bag - IsolatedParents need to modify the home environment to accommodate a landing and takeoff routine. Getting involved in establishing routines for their child gives parents an opportunity to model a repeatable process that occurs when entering or leaving a place. Teachers that follow a routine at the beginning and end of class allow students to examine and ultimately appreciate the impact a routine has on their organization and executive functioning. Over time, a teacher can begin to incorporate student input and involvement in maintaining class routines to help students to engage and learn routines. A transition routine for teachers does not mean that their lessons between the transitions need to be dull and mechanical. Transition routines are student centric. They enable a student to effectively move from class to class and from school to home. Teachers with effective routines will ultimately improve their student performances with respect to assignments handed in on time and assignments meeting teacher expectations. Hopefully, the teacher benefit of maintaining transition routines outweighs any perceived tradeoff to lost time spent on supporting executive functioning instead of delivering more content.