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Diverse Thinking Different Learning

Nov 24, 2020

As with many other facets of our lives, COVID-19 has had a drastic impact on education. What we have found out about our education system may be surprising to you, but it has not been a surprise to our guest today, Dr. Bibi Pirayesh.

Dr. Bibi Pirayesh is a Learning Specialist and an Educational Therapist who has been in private practice for over a decade. While the emphasis of Dr. Pirayesh’s work is on remediating learning disabilities in a one-on-one setting, she is also a sought after speaker and community advocate for children and families around learning rights.

Today, we discuss how educational therapists help students develop the skills they need in order to be successful. You will also learn what can be done now to make a difference in the life of a child who is struggling in school. How can we address learning loss in a child who is remote learning during these challenging times? Listen on to hear Dr. Pirayesh’s riveting statements on how learning differences and disorders can be viewed as a social justice issue.


Show Notes:

[1:56] - Dr. Wilson assesses kids to find out the underlying cause of learning difficulties and then refers them to professionals like Dr. Pirayesh.

[2:16] - Dr. Pirayesh began her career in education by accident and shares her story on how she started on this path with observing children and families as a researcher.

[3:46] - After beginning to work with children and families, Dr. Pirayesh felt so much fulfillment and it “awakened the teacher” in her.

[4:50] - Bibi started with a Science degree and learned to be an educator by doing.

[6:59] - Using a processing lens, Dr. Pirayesh helps students with remediation by first knowing what the issues are and provides targeted intervention.

[7:52] - There are several clusters of issues a student may have because different parts of the brain develop simultaneously.

[9:19] - Educational therapists are important as they will be able to bring in speech pathologists, occupational therapists, psychologists, etc. as they discover the needs of the student.

[10:01] - Bibi says that her work is about 60/40, with 60% of her work being one-on-one remediation with students and the remaining 40% helping students navigate through their school experience.

[11:35] - There are certain types of progress that are really easy to measure. Bibi uses phonics and phonemic awareness as an example. 

[12:17] - So much of the work is about helping kids own their learning and demystifying the learning process. There are a lot of emotions for parents and students to manage.

[14:12] - All brains are equipped to learn, grow, and expand. When we are able to help a child find what is getting in the way of that natural flow and find the ways we can work around it, the hardest part is done.

[15:15] - We live in a world where there is a lot of pressure on both students and parents. Bibi feels like our expectations have gotten so high and nothing we do feels like enough.

[16:34] - When kids struggle, they lose the motivation for learning. With high expectations placed on them, remediation is a therapeutic time for students to love learning and to know that they can learn.

[17:21] - Kids always love to learn, but unfortunately through the man-made constructs of our schooling, we erode their love of learning.

[18:26] - Bibi feels that the way our formal education system works is a very linear and limited way of thinking and it is a social injustice.

[19:24] - So much of the work Dr. Pirayesh does is to help kids understand that they may be struggling because of very limited measuring sticks.

[20:05] - What we know from research is that 10-15% of children struggle with learning difficulties.

[21:09] - There is a constant demand for higher and better production and that is what our education system has become. 

[22:04] - Due to the higher demand beginning earlier, childhood is diminished and people everywhere are feeling burnt out. Kids are feeling like they aren’t good enough and don’t have enough time.

[23:09] - These issues are large scale cultural issues and so much of the work we need to do is to undo the damage.

[24:21] - Due to COVID, we are seeing a step back to the basics and a lot more social emotional learning. But we are also seeing the disparities in the experience of distance learning for students.

[26:09] - Dr. Pirayesh says that COVID has lifted this veil and we can see the social injustice in some aspects of our education system.

[27:12] - If you follow the history of Special Education law, you will see that parents who are highly educated, who have resources, and are able to fight take advantage of the laws in place. Many parents who do not fit this mold have trouble accessing the very resources that protect them.

[28:42] - Due to the way these laws are designed, we see the overrepresentation of minorities and students from a low socio-economic background.

[30:01] - Over the years, Bibi noticed that the same people were coming through her private practice. She noticed the divide and how she contributed to it.

[31:52] - Dr. Pirayesh discusses how some people negatively view public schools where she lives in Los Angeles. 

[33:01] - When kids with learning difficulties pass through school, are they ready to navigate the real world? Bibi says that some groups of students will get the support and resources they need and some will not.

[34:31] - Unless you are willing to go deep to the roots of the problem and understand what’s going on to remediate it and rebuild step by step, all you are doing is putting a band-aid on the problem.

[36:08] - Communities are organically designed to be able to figure out and solve their own problems including issues surrounding learning for children in their communities, but we don’t allow for that to happen because of a narrow education system.

[36:58] - In some ways, COVID has been a gift, because it has opened our eyes to a lot of these systemic problems within education.

[38:02] - Are we going to harness this gift and make changes to solve these problems? Or, are we going to wait till this passes and go back to business as usual?

[39:38] - Some believe that the system is broken for many kids and needs to change. The system needs to work in a way that increases access to services in an equitable way no matter where you attend school. There is an opportunity to change the system.

[40:58] - Change happens very slowly and we need to recognize that the system wasn’t designed for everybody.

[43:04] - We’ve limited ourselves by seeing the world through a very tiny lens.

[44:15] - Having this conversation and acknowledging the problem is an important first step.

[46:05] - “Regardless of what is going on, if you move forward with the idea of connecting, empathizing, and understanding, somehow miraculously it will work.” Dr. Pirayesh gives some tips for distance learning and taking the opportunity to work for change.

[47:16] - We view our education system and teachers as this place where we go to get assessed. We go there to find out if we’re good enough. The truth is the relationship you have with your child’s teacher is very important because you are working together to provide for your child.

[48:30] - Take a moment to build a relationship with your child’s teacher and start a meaningful conversation.

[49:32] - When you reach out to the teacher, you are modeling to your child that it is the right thing to do to make yourself vulnerable and ask for help.

[50:55] - Remember that we are raising human beings and you can’t do that in a factory system.


About Our Guest:

Dr. Bibi Pirayesh holds a Bachelor's degree in Neuroscience and Education from the University of Pittsburgh and a Master's degree in Developmental Psychology from Columbia University where her work focused primarily on children’s development of mathematical thinking and cognitive neuroscience.  While the emphasis of Dr. Pirayesh’s work is on remediating learning disabilities in a one-on-one setting, she is also a sought after speaker and community advocate for children and families around learning rights. Bibi works with children grades 1-12 and covers a wide range of learning difficulties including dyslexia, ADHD, and spectrum disorders. Dr. Pirayesh completed her doctoral work at Loyola Marymount University where she is also Faculty and is involved with a number of service organizations including The Association of Educational Therapists.


Connect with Dr. Bibi Pirayesh:


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