Expert Interviews

Dr. Kari Miller, PhD
“Welcome to the most comprehensive collection of expert advice in the field of parenting, education, advocacy, and straightforward information about special kids, their education, and their future that you will find anywhere on the web!”




Dear Parent,

I’m pleased to have put together a powerful collection of expert interviews for you. You can easily access these very special recordings by clicking on the link below.

Access the interviews here.

Here’s to your child’s SUCCESS!

Dr. Kari Miller


Understanding the Mental Skills Affected by ADD and ADHD

Understanding the Mental Skills Affected by ADD and ADHDIt can be tough having ADD/ ADHD, especially if you are a child.  ADD and ADHD are actually two names for the same condition.

This article discusses the types of mental abilities affected by ADHD, give examples of academic tasks that use these mental abilities, and provide examples of strategies to improve each of the skills.  If you know how your child’s mental abilities are affected by ADHD, you can predict what kind of tasks he will have difficulty with and provide support in those areas.

The key to understanding ADHD is realizing that the symptoms go far beyond “difficulty paying attention” and often affect many aspects of a person’s life.  Each person’s symptoms are different and each person is affected to a greater or lesser degree.  One thing is certain, however, ADHD affects learning, relationships, self-esteem and, ultimately, your child’s career.

What do kids with ADHD experience in school?

Students with ADHD can have a very hard time with academics.  They may have difficulty managing their thoughts, emotions, memory, motivation, and attention.  For example, they may find it very hard to listen and remember what the teacher says.  They may have trouble getting the ideas organized in their mind and understanding how all of the pieces fit together.  They may have trouble with sequences; young children may have trouble learning the alphabet, or the order of the months.

Executive Skills Are Affected by ADHD

Psychologists refer to the mental abilities affected by ADHD as executive skills because we use these abilities to manage and direct our lives.  Executive skills allow us to plan and organize our behavior, make well-thought-out decisions, overrule immediate desires in favor of longer-term goals, take conscious control of emotions, and monitor our thoughts in order to work more efficiently and effectively.  The following listing and brief description of executive skills illustrates the range of abilities needed to effectively manage our lives.  Following each skill description are suggestions for improving that skill.

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Helping Kids with Learning Disabilities Build Listening Skills

build listening skillsStudents who have strong listening skills do much better in school than students who do not have this ability.  Good listening skills also help adults succeed in relationships and in careers.  Because of the emphasis placed on listening skills, school can be very frustrating even if your child does not have an auditory processing problem, ADHD, or language processing problem.  What can parents do at home to improve listening skills?

Listening is not hearing

Our brains can process an astonishing 20,000 bits of auditory information every second!  Hearing is a very “passive” activity.  Think about the last time you were in a crowded room and were aware that there was a lot of talking, but didn’t know what each person was saying.  The conversations are just “background noise,” not really registering with you, even though you could hear them.  Listening on the other hand, is a conscious process of getting meaning from what we hear.  It involves attention and a decision to participate intellectually with the speaker and the message.  Skillful listening requires the ability to stay focused on the message, resist other distractions, and make a meaningful connection with the content of the message.  Good listening requires practice because it involves effort to do it well.

Don’t inadvertently erode your child’s motivation and self-confidence about listening

We have so much pressure in raising our families, earning a living, and caring for ourselves that we often don’t realize how our behavior is affecting our children.  We fall into the trap of calling out directions from another room without knowing whether our kids are able to give us their attention.  We need to get our children’s attention before expecting them to listen.  Try this strategy:  stand in the doorway or near your child without saying anything and wait for him to notice you.  Then make a positive comment about your child’s activity before launching in to your directions.

Give your child a reason to listen to what you have to say by developing mutual interests and discussing them together

Encourage your child to describe his thoughts.  Keep the focus on actively listening to what he is saying.  Show through your example what good, thoughtful listening looks like by being attentive, asking good follow-up questions, and interacting with what your child has to say.

Auditory processing strategies

If your child has a great deal of difficulty understanding speech sounds due to an auditory processing problem, speak slowly and distinctly.  Let your child see your mouth as you speak.  Teach your child to feel what the sounds feel like when she speaks by having her put her hand on her mouth or throat as she says a difficult word.  Let her look in a mirror when she pronounces a difficult word to give her visual feedback.

Reduce distractions

During learning periods, reduce distracting noise such as that coming from artificial lighting, TV sets, or washing machines.  If outside noise is a problem, hang drapes or wall hangings to absorb sound.  Use “white noise” to soothe and focus your child.  Good sources of masking noise are fish tanks; upbeat, instrumental music; and desktop waterfalls.

Take movement breaks to revitalize

The body and brain need movement to function properly.  A few minutes of movement exercises during homework time will re-energize the nervous system for better attention and learning.  Read more ideas.

Read to your child every day for at least ten minutes

One of the most powerful strategies a parent can use to build their child’s skills is to read stories that your child finds interesting.  Choose materials in areas of mutual interest or stories that go along with the topics your child’s class is studying.  Stop regularly and ask your child to predict what will happen next or express an opinion.  Listen to stories together at libraries and bookstores.  Books on tape are great.

Help your child develop “inner language” skills

Inner language is the little voice inside our heads that guides and directs our actions.  Develop these skills by teaching your child to repeat back what is said to him.  Ask him to explain what he is thinking as he works.  Teach him to describe to you what he is going to do before he does it and while he’s doing it.  All of these strategies will help him learn to focus on the steps in a process and make it easier for him to work through the specific steps the teacher gives him in the classroom.


Make this a game!  Read to your child in phrases short enough for her to repeat them back to you.  Poems are excellent sources because they contain rhythm and rhyme and are lots of fun!  The next step in this method is to have your child tap out the syllables as she repeats back to you.  Now, for the third phase, have your child listen to you read, but instead of repeating back to you what you said, she will only tap out the syllables.  This is going to develop her inner language skills.  If this is hard, give her shorter phrases to tap or let her whisper while she taps, gradually phasing out the whispering.  Be sure at each stage that after you finish reading, your child can tell you in her own words what you have read.

Build your child’s vocabulary skills

Help your child learn new words by developing mutual interests, such as going to museums, learning a sport, or investigating interesting animals.  As you and your child engage in interesting activities, take the opportunity to increase her vocabulary.   Vocabulary words learned in interactive, fun activities are better learned and remembered.

Teach your child to visualize on the classroom walls what he hears

Start by using a piece of paper and dividing it into four sections.  Read a story to your child and discuss it with him so he remembers it.  Then have him draw four pictures that illustrate the story—beginning, middle and end.  When you have done this a number of times, read a story, discuss it, and then have him look at one of the walls in the room and imagine that his picture is drawn on the wall.  Continue with three other walls.  Now practice by pointing to a wall and asking your child what he is imagining on the wall.  Discuss how to use this technique in the classroom to increase his interest and attention during class discussions.

Fun games for preschool and early elementary children

Clapping Patterns. Clap your hands in a rhythmic pattern, and have your child repeat it.  Increase the number of claps and build in a memory aspect to the activity.

Talk with the Animals.  Collect your child’s favorite stuffed animals; sit your child facing away from you.  Each animal knocks and gives clues to its identity using a funny voice.

Word Shout. Read a book with a word or phrase that is repeated frequently.  Have your child shout out the word or phrase whenever he or she hears it.

Fun games for older elementary children

Then. The first person makes a statement that ends with the word “then.” The next person adds a statement that goes along with the story.  For example:  First person: “The doorbell rang, then…” Second child: “….the dog started to bark, then…”

Who’s Talking. Watch one of your child’s favorite movies or television shows together. Have her close her eyes.  Now and then say “Who’s talking.” Your child identifies who is speaking.

Cook Together. Find a recipe, and read the directions out loud to your child.

Your child’s success in school is dependent upon many things, but strong listening abilities are one of the most important.  Remember to connect with your child in activities that truly interest him or her and she will be eager to listen to what you have to say!

Educational services for pediatric cancer survivors – Foundation ThinkAgain makes learning possible!

educational services for pediatric cancer survivorsImagine that you are six years old and you’ve had a fever for days that your doctor can’t seem to bring under control with typical antibiotics. Then one day, when you get out of bed, your legs collapse…

Now you are in a hospital waiting for chemotherapy (you have been diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia).  Your mother and father are in the room with you, as the nurses get you ready to have a needle inserted into your arm…

You spend most of the time at home.  You feel tired pretty much all of the time.  You throw up sometimes and you can’t get rid of the persistent nausea.  You don’t have any hair…

When you finally return to school and try to take up where you left off, you’re so far behind, you get overwhelmed (the last thing you need now if you are going to completely recover from acute lymphoblastic leukemia) …

You can’t remember everything.  Sometimes it’s hard to pay attention.  It’s getting harder and harder to read.  Your teachers feel sorry for you, but they don’t know what to do… Read more

Early screening for hearing loss can prevent academic failure

Fetal Heart SurgeryHearing loss is the most prevalent childhood birth defect. Each year 12,000 babies are born with some degree of hearing difficulty. Rough estimates of the percentage of children under the age of 18 who have a mild to severe hearing trouble range from 8 to 15 percent.

All babies should be screened for hearing loss before leaving their birth hospital. The test is easy, safe, and completely painless.

The Center for Disease Control advocates an approach for identifying and treating hearing loss called the “1-3-6 Plan.” Babies should be screened before they are one month of age, preferably before they leave the hospital. If a child does not pass the hearing screening, a full hearing test should be performed before the age of three months. If this testing reveals a hearing problem, it is critical to obtain appropriate services before the child is six months old.

Children can develop hearing problems after birth, so it’s a good idea to have your child’s hearing tested at each doctor’s appointment. Hearing loss is easy to overlook, so it is important for parents to be aware of the subtle signs of hearing problems.

There is a critical period for speech and language development that begins at birth and continues through early childhood. Children who have untreated hearing loss find it much more difficult to learn to communicate, speak, read, and write.

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What’d You Say? Strategies To Build Attention During Listening

strategies to build attentionIt was a hot, sticky afternoon in Mrs. Hall’s 5th grade classroom.  The students were sleepy and Mrs. Hall was convinced they weren’t paying attention.  Mrs. Hall knew that listening is an active, conscious process that has a huge impact on learning.  She realized there were strategies she could use to wake up the students’ brains, interest and ability to listen.

She had them listen to classical music.  Classical music by composers such as Mozart and Tchaikovsky encourages the brain to enter a relaxed, focused state which is highly conducive to learning.  This has been termed “The Mozart Effect.”

She had them take movement breaks.  A few minutes of movement exercises at transition times can re-energize the nervous system for better listening, attention, and learning.  A great source of powerful movement techniques is Hands On:  How to use Brain Gym in the Classroom available at
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