Make sure your child receives appropriate support. If your child is struggling in school, proactively ask the teacher for feedback, observations or an evaluation, if needed. Thereafter, make sure your child receives the appropriate support — whether it is specialized tutoring, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and so on.
School is really not easy these days. Many students have been out of school for a long time because of the pandemic, and the continued disruptions and anxieties are still breaking the flow of normal learning. What can parents do to help their children thrive and excel in school, particularly during these challenging and anxiety-provoking times?
To address this, we started a new series called ‘5 Things Parents Can Do To Help Their Children Thrive and Excel In School.” In this interview series, we are talking to teachers, principals, education experts, and successful parents to learn from their insights and experience.
As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure to interview Dr. Emily Levy.
Dr. Emily Levy is the founder and director of EBL Coaching, a specialized tutoring program that offers individualized one-on-one home, virtual, and on-site instruction using research-based, multi-sensory techniques. She is also the author of Strategies for Study Success, a 17-part student workbook series that teaches students strategies for test taking, note taking, reading comprehension, writing, summarizing, and executive functioning, along with the Flags and Stars Orton Gillingham student workbook series, which helps students develop their fundamental decoding and spelling skills. Additionally, she is the author of Flags and Stars Multi-Sensory Math, a multi-sensory math program that helps students develop a stronger understanding of core math concepts, including addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and fractions. These workbooks are currently used at schools nationwide.
Dr. Levy graduated from Brown University and received her Master’s Degree in Special Education from Nova University in Florida. She also completed her Doctorate Degree in Education from Nova University. She performed a five-year research study developing an alternative strategy for teaching reading comprehension and won a fifth place Westinghouse Science and Talent Award for this research. She has spoken at national and international conferences on research-based teaching methods.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us a bit about your “backstory”?
Sure! I actually grew up in the field of special education. My mother was the founder of a school for students with learning disabilities in Florida, so I like to think that being in the field of education is “in my blood.” Formally, though, I received my undergraduate degree from Brown University. I then obtained my Master’s Degree in Special Education, as well as my Doctorate Degree in Education. I started EBL Coaching nineteen years ago, which is a one-on-one tutoring program for special education students. We use research-based, multi-sensory techniques catered to the needs of each student. I am also the author of Strategies for Study Success, a seventeen-part student workbook series that teaches students strategies for reading comprehension, writing, test taking, note taking and executive functioning skills. Additionally, I am the author of the Flags and Stars Orton Gillingham and Multi-Sensory Math Student Workbook programs.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
One of my very first students was a first grade boy with ADHD and dyslexia who struggled tremendously with reading. I worked with him for many years, providing one-on-one Orton Gillingham instruction to build his reading skills. School was a real struggle for him, and he had to work much harder than most of his peers. His mother recently let me know that he is now thriving as an engineer! I could not have been more proud.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Success is not how high you have climbed, but how you make a positive difference in the world.”
I love this quote, as it really defines the work that I do and my life mission. While I love being a successful business woman and a great role model for my daughters, I truly feel that I have made an enormous difference in the lives of so many children with specialized learning needs. It brings me so much happiness to know that I am making a positive difference in the world.
You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
1. Listening. I find that listening — and truly listening without distractions — is a key element of my success. Many parents pour their hearts out to me and are often crying, telling me about the struggles of their child. I listen to them with compassion and understanding. I realize how hard it can be to watch these struggles and not know how to help. I speak and share my thoughts and suggestions only after they are done, and feel they have shared enough with me to give a full picture of their child.
2. Perseverance. There have been many instances in my career when I did not succeed at my first try. When I started out as a special education tutor, I essentially went from school to school, telling them about my services and background — hoping they would refer clients to me. Some welcomed me with open arms, but others completely shut me out. Some families (in the beginning of my career) would choose to find another tutor or go in another direction for whatever reason. It was crushing at first, but with every failure, my motto was to analyze what happened, think about what went wrong, and decide what I could do differently going forward to have a better outcome. That has helped me succeed and overcome many obstacles in work and in life.
3. Decisiveness. In my work, I literally make decisions all day long. Some are small and insignificant, such as when to send a certain email or schedule a meeting. Others are deeper and involve more thought, like what instructional plan would be best for a student with Autism and ADHD who also struggles with reading comprehension and writing — or how to guide a tutor towards helping a child who exhibits newfound challenges.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes! I am now working on expanding my COINS student workbook series, which teaches students how to break down math word problems and move from language to arithmetic, and then back to language.
For the benefit of our readers, can you tell us a bit about why you are an authority on how to help children succeed in school?
Sure. I have been working as an expert in the field of special education for over twenty years. Through EBL Coaching, I have been able to help thousands of students build their reading, writing, math, and executive functioning skills, and improve their self-confidence along the way.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. Can you help articulate the main challenges that students face today that make it difficult to succeed in school?
Many children with learning challenges are not receiving the appropriate support they need in school. Some are not identified as having a challenge early enough and continue to struggle in school. Others never get evaluated, or do so far down the road once they have already missed most academic foundations. Others receive some support in school, but either it is not appropriate or not enough support. For instance, students with dyslexia really need instruction using the Orton Gillingham technique — but unfortunately, most schools are not able to provide this support.
Can you suggest a few reforms that you think schools should make to help students to thrive and excel?
Sure. More teachers should be trained in research-based techniques for reading, writing, and math. In particular, using a multi-sensory approach for students who have learning challenges is key. When students are pulled out for support, it should be specific and individualized to their needs, using the research-based, multi-sensory techniques that are most appropriate for their specific challenges.
Here is our primary question. Can you please share your “5 Things Parents Can Do To Help Their Children Thrive and Excel In School?” Please share a story or example for each.
1. Be your child’s best advocate. I hear time and again that parents noticed their child struggling with homework, but their teacher never said anything to them; it was not until the end of the school year that the teacher told them their child struggled and may be held back. It is always important to be proactive, check in with your child’s teacher to see how he or she is doing, and not sit back and wait for the teacher to reach out to you.
2. Make sure your child receives appropriate support. If your child is struggling in school, proactively ask the teacher for feedback, observations or an evaluation, if needed. Thereafter, make sure your child receives the appropriate support — whether it is specialized tutoring, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and so on.
3. Help your child build self-confidence and independence. There are some parents who like to sit next to their child when they work on their homework until every part of it is complete, and correct them along the way. Let your child take a stab at it first; then you can check it afterwards or wait to see if he or she comes to you with questions. Praise them for their effort of working independently and know that by doing so, they will not only improve their academic skills, but will also build their self-confidence and independence.
4. Seek outside support. If your child is struggling, even with the support he or she is receiving in school, seek outside support. That may mean counseling, speech therapy, occupational therapy, tutoring, and so on. Specifically with tutoring, receiving the right one-on-one research-based, multi-sensory tutoring can be life changing for a child.
5. Learn effective ways you can help your child at home. If your child has ADHD, for instance, and struggles with organizational skills, help your child set up systems for cleaning out and filing papers he or she does not need. Help create lists and daily schedules, and aid your child in gaining an accurate understanding for how long tasks can take to complete. If your child has dyslexia and receives Orton Gillingham tutoring, ask the tutor what you can do in between sessions to reinforce what is covered.
As you know, teachers play such a huge role in shaping young lives. What would you suggest needs to be done to attract top talent to the education field?
I think that if teachers were trained in cutting-edge, research-based multi-sensory techniques that truly make a difference in the lives of kids, they will be motivated to enter the field and feel like they are making a real difference in the world.
We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
I have always admired Sheryl Sandburg for the incredible work she has done to motivate women, seize opportunities and to “lean in.” It would be amazing to share a meal with her :). She also grew up in North Miami Beach, Florida, which is where I am from!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
They can read more about EBL Coaching and myself at the links below.
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!