Tag Archives: NACD International

The Foundation of Education - Scissors? NACD Blog

The Foundation of Education—Scissors?

I just conducted a Skype evaluation with a parent who has a developmentally delayed, ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) child from our Beijing chapter, one of NACD’s international hubs. This mom made a remark that I have heard probably thousands of times through the years, but realizing that the issue she brought up is international and not just a US issue has compelled me to comment.

This mother of a three-year-old who cannot not dress or undress himself, one of the foundational representations of independence and fine motor skills, commented that she was concerned her child may have a fine motor problem, not because her child couldn’t remove his sock, but because the preschool he attended was waving a red flag since this little three-year-old was not yet cutting with scissors. Really!

I have long wanted to ban scissors from preschools, but if we were to do that what would they do all day? Children can only eat so much paste. What criteria could they use for success, what would they use to validate their existence?

In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that I am a bit biased on this subject. In 1951 I flunked cutting with scissors. Yes, I confess I flunked. It was my first and actually not my last academic disaster. I was shamed and humiliated. I never should have flunked cutting with scissors even though I was five, I really shouldn’t have been encouraged to use scissors. But beyond that, there was actually a reason why I flunked cutting with scissors. I was left-handed and back then they didn’t make left-handed or uni-hand scissors—which don’t really work with either hand.

Cutting with scissors can actually be used as a metaphor for a number of issues with education, that being just because we/they have been using it forever doesn’t make it right, smart or neuro-developmentally correct.

I am genetically predisposed to be left-handed and left-sided and as with many of us lefties, we do not clearly demonstrate which is our dominant hand as early as right-sided children. From the get-go the world encourages us to use our right hand like the majority of the population. Back when I was starting school everyone wrote with their right hand. Right was right and left was wrong. Even though we lefties know that only left-sided people are in their right minds. In countries like China that is still the case—everyone is taught to write with the right hand.

Children typically do not strongly and conclusively demonstrate a dominant hand until they are globally, neuro-developmentally about a 5*. For children with a developmental issue, that point is often not reached until years later than their chronological peers. So, should we really be encouraging and pushing one-hand, dominant-hand activities like writing and cutting before we even know which hand the child should be using?

If children must go to preschool, how about teaching them how to actually start becoming independent. Dressing and undressing themselves might be a good start, making their bed, or even cleaning up after themselves. Montessori schools often do a good job of teaching children how to manage self-help skills and household tasks. But cutting with scissors? I can often go from Christmas to Christmas without ever touching a pair of scissors. Since when was cutting a four-year-old’s survival skill or foundational fine motor function? Perhaps its a four- or five-year-old rite of passage that they need to cut their hair just that one time to see how they look with that bald spot in front.

Ranking right up there with “cutting with scissors” is writing and we really shouldn’t just blame preschool and kindergarten teachers, we need to throw in some occupational therapists as well. Teachers and therapists—please stop trying to make little children develop one-hand dominant skills like writing and cutting before they are neuro-developmentally ready. Not until most children are neuro-developmentally about a 5* can we accurately and safely determine which is their dominant hand. Prior to that time, they can swing back and forth. Besides, what is the rush? You are often not only teaching a child a one-handed skill and pushing them toward that hand, but you are probably doing it before their working memory, attention and motor planning are up to the task. The result being that you are only succeeding in teaching them that they can’t do it properly. Congratulations, they have learned to hate it! Our NACD cardinal rule of education is that step number one is teaching the child to love whatever it is you are trying to teach. Failure doesn’t teach them to love writing or cutting with scissors.

So much of education is based on perpetuating a list of things to teach children in different grades, regardless of whether or not it is meaningful, relevant, neuro-developmentally appropriate or if anyone really expects the student to understand, assimilate or remember it. We often take little children who prior to beginning their “education” love learning anything and spend the next twelve or more years teaching them to hate learning anything—brilliant!

Part of this tragedy is that there is so much that could be and should be done with all children, not the least of which is building a neuro-developmental foundation that actually gives them access to their innate intelligence and really affects not only their education, but their ability to learn, think and communicate—their futures. It’s the 21st Century and it’s about time that the educational system understood that children have these things they carry around between their ears that we call brains and that we have the ability to develop them all, not just try to push things into them. We can build a foundation of auditory and visual processing, short-term memory, working memory, executive function, visualization, and conceptualization and overall neurological efficiency. I would love to see our classrooms and schools receive report cards based on how well they are creating children’s foundations for learning, turning children onto learning and actually educating them. And please, let’s stop making a big deal about little children cutting with scissors.

 – Bob Doman

*We will generally acknowledge a child as being neuro-developmentally 5 when they have short-term and working memory that is commensurate with where we like to see five-year-olds. Specifically having short-term memory (auditory and visual digit spans of 5) and working memory (reverse auditory and visual digit spans of 4). Working memory is the foundation of executive function and determines complexity of thought and relates to global maturity.

Related Blog Articles:

Mila and Avery


Making Kids Smart Isn’t Tough

To learn more about how you can work on you or your child’s short-term and working memory, check out the following links:

The Simply Smarter System (Windows/Mac)

NACD Cognition Coach – Toddler to 3 (iPad)

NACD Cognition Coach – Ages 3 to 5 (iPad)

Note From Aliya

Today I’m in London—actually in Eton—next door to the magnificent and spectacular Windsor Castle. Eton is the home of the very historic and very famous Eton College, which is a vibrant, progressive, and exceptional school even today. My very wonderful and gracious hosts here gave me a tour of the school yesterday, and it was truly an amazing, profound, and rather humbling experience. Eton was established in 1440 by King Henry the VI, a teenager, and today’s students are not only learning in the same classrooms, but sitting on the very same benches as the first students who were here in 1440! I actually saw Shelley’s name carved into a wall, along with the names of centuries of past students. How cool it is that the students can carve their names into the buildings to mark their passage throughout history! An incredible school and an amazing historic and beautiful town.

Today was a day full of new families and new children. As always, it’s wonderful meeting new kids and starting them along a road to hopefully a bright future. As I meet with new families, they all to some degree feel like they are stepping off a cliff, and they hope they are going to float up on a cloud into new and wonderful futures with their children and are not falling into a great black hole—scary! For the parents of our NACD kids, the journey is often difficult, and working day in and day out they are often trusting that their efforts are going to pay off and their children will progress. But the day to day task of doing program with children who would often rather not is difficult, and the faith can wear a little thin at times.

As I was finishing up my evaluations for the day and was taking a moment to reflect on the day’s new batch of parents and children, I received an email from one of our moms with an attached note that her daughter, Aliya, had written last night and taped to her mom’s bathroom mirror.

As her mom said, “If you had told me a few years ago that I would have received a note like this, I would never have believed it! To initiate this on her own is amazing! School days are so pleasant around here now! Just so thrilled!” At the end she asked if I had noticed all the exclamation points. I not only noticed them, I felt every one of them!

Aliya’s mom gave me permission to share her note. I trust it will bring some of you hope and bring a smile to your faces and perhaps even a little tear to your eye as it did mine.

– Bob

Hi there,

This is the note I found taped to my bathroom mirror last night. Aliya is thanking me for chores and is thankful for this family!! Yesterday she told me, “You know the day goes much better when I obey.” Feeling blessed today!!

Thanks to your work and support—I’m receiving these nuggets!


Official International Program Day Off

Thursday, November 27, 2014—NACD Worldwide Blessing and Day Off

Happy Thanksgiving!

NACD Logo White on BlueThanksgiving is the one day a year when we in the United States pause to come together as family and friends to give thanks for the blessings of the preceding year and to reunite.

All of us at NACD see all of you from around the world as part of our family, and we would like not only to thank you for letting us into your family, but also invite you to take Thursday off of program and join us in a universal day of Thanksgiving. You folks have worked hard to help your children and family members to have a better life, and like you, I feel blessed and privileged to have been able to help and participate.

Please take tomorrow, Thursday, off program to give thanks, but also to focus on yourselves and your immediate family and your extended NACD family. Most of us have seen changes over the past year, some life-altering fantastic changes, while others are still clawing their way forward; but we all have a chance and opportunity, and for that we can all be thankful.

We at NACD are privileged to know you and to serve you. Please, each and every one of you, congratulate yourselves on your successes and your efforts and try to appreciate the huge collective advances we, the global NACD family, have made over the past year. Next year we will all strive to be more and do better; but tomorrow please take the day off to give thanks, hopefully smile, and share in the collective NACD glow.


At Least We Know How to Stand in Line

Hello from Paris! It’s 12:30 a.m. and I’m out enjoying the wild nightlife.

photo-13Not really. I’m sitting in a very hot, very humid, very closed Charles de Gaulle airport. It has been one of those very wonderful travel days. (Up at 3 a.m. to get to the airport in Bucharest, get on a flight to Paris, sit on the very hot, very humid plane for three hours before they decide it’s broken and they can’t fix it, wait around until after 8 p.m. to catch another flight. My connection left many hours ago. Eventually I will get on a plane to Salt Lake City, which I think is about another 12 hours or something. Oh, the joys of international travel. And let’s not talk about the endless lines, or if there is not a narrow corridor, generally masses of people converging on a target location.

Forgetting the mess of trying to get home, I have had a very good trip, seeing kids and families in London, Rome, and Bucharest. Got to discover “Old Bucharest” last night with one of our families and earlier in the week to visit their home outside of the city with another of our NACD families. I was really impressed by these folks. They are a lovely bright couple with a beautiful little boy named Tudor, who will be having his first birthday this weekend.

Happy Birthday, Tudor!

As always when I travel in Europe, I am impressed with how tuned in and informed many of the folks are to the rest of the world in comparison to many in the States; and I’m always so impressed by how bi- and multilingual so many of the people are. The wonderful young couple that I was privileged to get to know speak their native Romanian, French, English, and Greek. Perhaps more, but at least those, and they are economists not linguists. Most of the families I met with in Romania spoke very acceptable English.

Historically in the States we do a terrible job of not only teaching other languages, but also of perceiving that we really should do so. Growing up outside of Philadelphia, I had Italian friends whose parents or grandparents spoke Italian, but not one of them learned Italian. And that was often true of others who had family in their homes using their native languages. It would seem to be part of American/English language arrogance.

Languages as they are generally taught in our schools are really pretend, not designed with the intention of teaching you to actually be functional let alone fluent in the language. Typically schools start way too late and the curriculum constructed poorly. After my first year of Spanish in 9th grade, I had learned only one phrase, “Roberto es stupido.” It wasn’t just Roberto who was stupido; so was the teacher and the instruction. I had two years of Spanish in high school and another two years in college, but I think I learned more in a month in Spain than in four years at school. How many people do you know who took languages in school starting in junior or senior high who can actually speak the language? Fortunately many schools, particularly charter and private schools, are doing a much better job now of teaching other languages, starting in Kindergarten and, if possible, earlier and incorporating immersion as a significant focus, if not the focus, of the program.

Beyond the societal issues, research is showing that being bilingual helps build cognitive function and even can slow down Alzheimer’s. We as individuals in the US need to perceive the need to join and understand the rest of the world, to help our children understand that they live in a big world that they need to appreciate, understand, learn from, and join.

We in the US may not teach our children to pay attention to the rest of the world or to speak more than one language, read, or do math very well; but there is something our schools are good at, and evidently better at from my observations, than most of the European countries, and that is how to stand in line. Perhaps really teaching our children to speak another language or two from an early age might be a better focus. Reading would be nice too.

I hate standing in lines, any lines. Perhaps if more people were lousy at it we would find a way to minimize them—a better way. We need lots of better ways. Let’s keep creating them.