#081 The Secret to Teaching Gifted Kids with Learning Differences w/ Dr Victoria Waller

#081 The Secret to Teaching Gifted Kids with Learning Differences w Dr Victoria Waller Podcast Featured Image

In this episode, we’re talking to the vibrant and dynamic Dr Victoria Waller about teaching gifted kids with learning differences. Author, with over 40 years of experience, Dr Waller found the secret to engaging these awesome gifted kids!

Memorable quote… “

“Look at Anderson Cooper, Richard Branson, astronaut Scott Kelly. They call them learning disabilities, but they’re not. They’re learning differences. They learn differently and they use their strengths and passions to learn. And that’s what made them successful.” – Dr Victoria Waller 


For over 40 years, Dr Victoria Waller has been a reading specialist and educational therapist. She helps children ages 5-11 who have trouble reading and writing, can’t sit still in class, don’t feel like they can participate—children whom teachers have all but given up on.

Her book, Yes! Your Child Can – Creating Success for Children with Learning Differences, is #4 in Amazon’s New Releases in Children’s Learning Disorders. Every child can succeed in school and life, but some children need more help than others. She is here to help.

Dr Waller holds a B.S in Education from Wayne State University, an M.Ed., is a certified reading specialist, and an Ed.D. focusing on reading and learning differences from the University of Cincinnati. 

She has been awarded the University of Cincinnati’s Distinguished Alumna College of Education Award, was one of three finalists for the L.A. Music Center’s Bravo Award for Outstanding Teaching.

Her articles on creative reading and writing projects for children have been widely viewed on U.C.L.A.’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior website, and the award-winning Grandparentslink.com. She speaks about learning differences in children to many groups all over the United States.

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Sophia Elliott: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to today’s podcast episodes. The secret to teaching kids with learning differences with Dr. Victoria Wala.

Now as parents of gifted kids, you might be familiar with that sense of sometimes our kids are just racing off in a certain direction and as parents we’re just kind of. Holding on for dear life as they take us on that journey with us. Well, put on your seatbelts. Strap yourself in get ready because Dr. Victoria Waller is about to take us on one of those adventures. She is an absolutely.

Dynamic energetic. Like just guesstimating woman with so much to share. And so many stories and it was such a delight interviewing her for this podcast. She is really just an absolutely extraordinary woman. And I really love. The opportunity of talking to so many of our guests who have just been [00:01:00] working in this space for, for so long and have so much wisdom and grace to offer us all and share with us all.

For over 40 years, Dr. Victoria Waller has been a reading specialist and educational therapist. She helps children ages five to 11 who have trouble reading and writing concepts still in class. Don’t feel like they can participate and children whom teachers have all, but given up on.

Dr. Walla has bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees. And of course, PhD. She’s been awarded the university of Cincinnati is distinguished alumni college of education award and was one of the three finalists of the LA music centers. Bravo award for outstanding teaching. She writes many articles on creative reading and writing projects for children that can be found online.

And she speaks about learning differences in children to many groups all over the United States.

Her book is just lovely. It’s called a yes, your child can. And she shares with [00:02:00] parents, teachers, and therapists have proven techniques to create success for children with learning differences. And draw out that. Particular genius within your child. It’s compassionate. Non-technical easy to understand language. It gives step-by-step guidance on how your child can achieve in school and build that the lifelong intellectual confidence. She draws in the latest science and her own wide ranging experience. And explains why it’s so important to pay attention to your first gut, feeling that your child may need extra help. And shows us how to navigate testing medication and choosing a team to help your child.

Most importantly, and this is what we. This is what this episode is about. And I think it really shows that Dr. Victoria Walla was well ahead of her times when it comes to her approach to helping these students with learning differences. She shows us how to use your [00:03:00] child’s natural strengths and passions to build their academic, social and personal confidence.

And we talk a lot about that on this show. It’s all about that strength based approach. Her big secret. And she really dives into that and gives us lots of beautiful examples. On what that looks like for different children within this episode.

And I think. Most of all Dr. Victoria Wallace shows us the difference we can make. If. We just believe in our kids. Whether they are our kids or student. Uh, grandchild, whoever they are. It’s the difference that can be made to someone’s life when they have someone who believes in them .

And it was an absolute delight to hear. So many of Victoria’s stories about her experience and how much joy she’s had working with this particular cohort of students and how amazing they really are.

Please enjoy the episode. You can subscribe to our gifted kids on our [00:04:00] website. You can find us on Instagram and Facebook, you can become a patron of the podcast. Just check out our gifted kids.com or head to all of the show notes for a whole bunch of links.

Please enjoy the episode and a massive giant thank you to Dr. Victoria Wala. For all of her time and energy and just such a delight to have this conversation with you today, please enjoy.

. [00:05:00] Victoria Waller, it’s an absolute

Dr Victoria Waller: Delight to see you today. , thank

Sophia Elliott: you so much to coming to us from across the season over the planet and uh, through the miracle of technology We got

there in the end.

Thank you so much.

Dr Victoria Waller: I’m so excited to be, to be talking to you and I love Australia so much. I wanna come back.

Yes. Well australia would

Sophia Elliott: be delighted to have you .

Dr Victoria Waller: Listen, you have to have an extra bed. I’m in. Ouch. Absolutely,

absolutely. Anytime. Um, it’s always a pleasure, such a vibrant character.

I’m like, I’m talking to Victoria today. It’s gonna be full of energy and, I’m hopefully that, , tech hiccups haven’t slapped us of all that, but let’s do it anyway. And so, Victoria, tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into

the work that you’re doing now

for a [00:06:00] billion years,

I hate to say how many years, so I say over 40, but I was, I.

Over 40 and

stopped counting. I stopped counting , but I’ve always called, I like the children that I taught. I’m an educator and I liked the children who were different. Mm. And even 40 years ago, they would say they’re disabled. And I go, no, they’re really not. They’re really smart. And the funny thing was I always liked teaching them better because they were always interesting.

They always had some interesting, either a hobby or something that they knew about and would tell me about. And so right away I taught for several, I think three, five years, something like that, in a second grade. And. , there was a reading teacher there and I loved her. Uh, sadly she passed away. I loved her.

And I would always go to her room, what are you doing? What are you doing with these kids? The kids who couldn’t [00:07:00] read. Those were the ones I really liked, and I knew they were really smart, so I didn’t really understand all this, you know, Orton Gillingham and, and Getman, and they’re all disabled and well anyway, so I get married and we moved to Cincinnati.

My husband was making ice cream cones. That’s interesting. And there were no school, there was no jobs. Can you imagine? No jobs. Okay. And so I went to University of Cincinnati and I met this woman and she said, oh, come here. You can get a master’s degree. What are you interested in? I said, well, I’m really interested in kids with learning differences.

And she said, we can give you a scholarship. I mean, I think back to what schools cost now. Oh yeah. I got a full ride for a master’s degree and a doctorate because they had money and nobody was using it. Wow. So they gave it to me and I had fabulous teachers [00:08:00] and I just started learning about kids with learning differences.

Differences. Mm-hmm. And I think one of the classes that I taught, I went into the inner city and they were seventh grade boys. And the man that I was like working with taught them to read by using Motown music. Well, excuse me, I’m from Detroit. I love that. Yeah. Okay. I am from Detroit. Mm-hmm. . And I’m a Motown girl.

Mm-hmm. . So I, I was absolutely. . I couldn’t believe that he was teaching them to read. He had all the music printed out. Do you know to this day, one of the first things I, I’m an ED therapist now. The first things I ask one of my children, what’s your favorite song? And they’ll tell me a song. And some of them, it’s so funny cuz when I tell the parents what I’m doing, they go, oh, I hate that song.

Over and over all of a sudden they wanna read it. Yeah, yeah. I find blends and digs and suffixes and [00:09:00] prefixes in songs. So it’s something I still am doing. Mm-hmm. . And then I taught after that a couple more years. But as a reading teacher, and it was really funny because I had, you won’t believe this, teachers will know this.

They wanted me to teach there. They were very excited. They took a hallway, which would not be allowed. So instead of using it as an exit, they put a wall in . My literally, Two by two room and that was my reading room. Oh wow. And it was just, it was fantastic. And I loved being there and I loved doing it. And then I got my doctorate and I’ve been, I just teach all the time and I’ve always taught children with learning differences because, and I’m telling you, I’ve taught thousands of kids and I always find what they can do.

And it’s very funny, it’s in England, there’s this man called Mr. Doodles and I read about him in the week, junior Magazine, which is the [00:10:00] best magazine you could ever get for children or for me, cuz it’s all the news in a magazine, but it’s all for kids. So we can find kids love. Non-fiction. Non-fiction.

Yeah. This Mr. Doodles has doodled his entire 3000 foot home in England now. You don’t understand. Wow. The toilets every, anything that’s showing is doodled. Okay? Mm-hmm. . I was absolutely. First of all, I’ve dying to know if he had any kinda learning differences. Hmm. I’m gonna find out yet. Well, I wrote them a letter.

I said, my students I’ve read, read everything about you. They sent me a newspaper, huge newspaper on him with pictures of this house. It’s online, you have to go to Google and see it. His name is Mr. Doodles and my students are just, we’re all, so I talked, I sent a letter. I said I’d like my students to interview him.

I do a lot of interviews with famous people if a child likes somebody. [00:11:00] So the man writes me back. He’s head of something for Mr. Doodles, but he was Mr. Doodles art teacher. Isn’t that funny? And he now, I love that. That’s great. He runs his company and he said, when I read your. , it really resonated. And I said, oh, you have to tell me about Mr.

Doodle. Did he, did he read well or was he only doodling and getting in trouble? So my kids wrote questions cuz they can dictate questions to me. And then they read them and everybody goes, how could they be reading these? I said, cuz they wrote them, they know what they wanna say and they know some of the words.

So most of my students are very bright so they could read. So we had to, he’s not doing a Zoom with us, but they, I did videos of them asking him questions, like real TV producers. It was fantastic. Seven year olds reading and they can’t read. They were reading and they asked questions and Thursday, tomorrow in LA he will give us a, a video [00:12:00] back.

So he’s not doing a zoom with him. Mm-hmm. . But I’ve had a lot, lot of zooms once. I don’t wanna do Well let me tell you another story cause I’m so hopped up. Yes, please do. I believe in connecting kids with their heroes. So a student came in and I said, what? You know, what are your interests? I asked the mother goes, well, he plays video games and I’m thinking he’s gotta have something besides the video game.

And he comes in, he says, well, I really do like whales. I said, you do? Yes and sharks. I said, you do? I said, wow, that’s interesting. And he said, I love them. He could tell me every single thing about them. This is not just like, I like a whale. This is telling me things I don’t even know about. Wow. It was this summer that the man who lived in Maine was a fisherman.

A lobster fisherman. He still likes going down in the water. Now they just put those crates down to catch the lobsters. He likes going down. He was caught [00:13:00] in the mouth of a whale. Look it up on the internet. You won’t believe it. He was caught and okay. So I was, I’m like mesmerized. Right. . I said, we have to find out about this.

Like, would a whale eat him? What? You know, he, he’s alive. I asked him if he, I called him up. You know, everybody’s on Google. If you google it enough, you could find anybody’s telephone number. In fact, I love it. I love it. An author said to me, how did you find my number? And I said, well, I looked you up and it said who you were married to.

So I looked her up and I called her phone number. Anyway, this man said, um, he said, I, uh, you can, he can interview me if he wants. We did it on Zoom. This kid, I made the mother stay and watch. She thought this kid was like this dumb kid. The father was really bully, bully, bully, bully. This child interviewed him.

It was unbelievable. He [00:14:00] got caught in the whale’s mouth and he knew he lost the breathing tube and he knew, I can’t believe he knew it. He thought to himself, what’s not a shark? because it’s Bayline. So I know that I’m not gonna be killed, but he’s going to kill me if I can. So he found his, the breathing apparatus in the, the mouth of the whale, he put it back in and the whale spit him out.

Oh, wow. It’s a absolutely phenomenal story. That’s online too. It’s, and his name is, oh, Michael Packard. But it’s those kind of things that I try to find what the child likes, and I used those to teach them. And that’s what I’ve always done. And it started with, I wanted to write a book. I had one student that I, I was seeing him, he loved cooking seven years old, and I mean, cooking.

We went in the kitchen. I can follow a recipe. , [00:15:00] but if it’s missing something, I can’t tell you what it’s missing. Seven years old he’d say there’s a, we need another fourth of a spoon of salt. It doesn’t have any, let’s put a little sugar. I, I have no idea I was seeing him. This is very unusual. Two days a week after school and three hours on Saturday morning.

So we spent some of that time cooking and this child now is 17. He’s getting all A’s in school. And the parents said, you know, it was because you believed in him and you did what he loved. He even made hi, he made his hamster a hamster mitzvah instead of a bar mitzvah and Jewish, they have bar mitzvahs.

He made his hamster hamster mitzvah. He made the food. He planned out games, talk about executive functioning. So I tried to find what the kids love and used that. To help them learn to read. It’s just the way I’ve always done it. I feel, and [00:16:00] I know that these children are the geniuses of our country and our world.

They are. Look at Anderson Cooper, Richard Branson, astronauts, Scott Kelly. They all have, they call them learning disabilities, but they’re not. They’re learning differences. They learn differently and they use their strengths and passions to learn. And that’s what made them successful. Um, Richard Branson had very interesting.

He was in the spaceship and they said, okay, you were up there 10 minutes. What’s one thing you wanna tell us? He said, well, I’m dyslexic. Whatever. I’m dyslexic. So I don’t know my right for my left very well. And they. , undo your seatbelt so you can fly around, you know, on in the spaceship you get become flying around.

But because he’s dyslexic, he did the other one, which was his parachute. Oh no. Yes. But that just that one [00:17:00] thing. What did you think of That’s the one thing. The one thing, yeah. We thought of in space. And too often we talk about what’s wrong with these children and it’s absolutely wrong. We have to be talking about what’s right with them.

And my, what I did was, I wrote this book called, um, yes Your Child Can Creating Success for Children With Learning Differences. Oh, I don’t have a book to show you. Do you have a book to show me? Oh my goodness. I’m supposed to show you. I will

Sophia Elliott: definitely pop a link in of the book. Definitely.

Dr Victoria Waller: Oh, sorry. I’m supposed somebody said you always have to have your book.

Well, I wrote it cause every book that my parents opened. You see a brain, adhd, dyslexia, there’s a brain. Every parent says, I close the book. I can’t read it. Well, I can’t either. I’m not a, I’m not a medical doctor. I can’t read about the brain. I thought I have to help the teach. The parents go through this step by step.

They have to be able [00:18:00] to say, oh, wait a minute. Not gonna snap out it. He’s not lazy. He’s brilliant. And now I have to do what I have to do. So my book is like, you know, there’s a book called What to Expect When You’re Expecting. It’s been in the, on the time, yes. 18 years about exactly what happens when you’re pregnant every month.

And that’s what I said I’ve got to do. I’ve got to do what? They’re not gonna snap out. What is testing about? I had a parent come to the door two o’clock in the afternoon, the doorbell rings. I go over and I thought, uh oh. I opened the door. She’s hysterical. They said, I have to have my child’s brain tested.

I said, what? I said, you mean go to a neuropsychologist? She said, A brain. I mean, come on. You know that. You have to know who are the people that contest a br. You can go to a neurologist, you can go to pediatric, um, specialist [00:19:00] who specializes in learning differences. You know, getting that whole testing thing is frightening.

Getting past the fear of medication. 40 years ago they had Ritalin. That was it. Now there’s so many, and I have a little girl the other day. I said, gee, you’re really focused. She said, you know, I’m taking my, you, you had my mom send me to this doctor. She said, it’s a little tiny pill. and I said, does it help you?

And she said, yes. Because in school when I’m daydreaming, it sort of keeps me, I remember I can listen to what’s going on. It’s not anything to be afraid of anymore. It’s not like one pill or he’s gonna become a drug addict. You know, who’s become drug addicts? The kids who are 15, 16 who’ve never been tested and gotten help, that’s who takes drugs because they wanna self-medicate.

But a little tiny pill. Now, I’m not a doctor, I just can tell you what I see with the kids that do take something and it’s a [00:20:00] very small pill she takes and she’s very happy on it. She doesn’t have any, you know, they check to for side effects. Um, also getting the right person to help your child. That’s another one of my steps.

How do I do that? Who do I go to? A woman called me and said, I just wanna tell you, I have interviewed 26 people and I thought, uh oh, this is gonna be bad. Can you imagine this is gonna be a mother I don’t wanna get near. And meanwhile, of course, I, I work with a child who was brilliant, helped him to read, write.

He’s now getting all eight, is very big private school. So I told her, well, the 27th one was good luck then. Yes. Also, in my book I talk about, you know, and you know, it’s very funny, you don’t have to have somebody with a doctorate work with your child. You don’t. One of my students, once he left me, I don’t do like seventh grade, eighth grade, I can’t do the homework.

It was just a [00:21:00] girl that he really, he liked listening to her and she told him how to help and how to study. She was really good at study skills. You know what, it has to be someone that they get, that it’s somebody they connect with that can teach them. It does not have to be me with the doctorate. It does not have to be some specialist.

It can be, I’m sat at a table with somebody a couple months ago. and she said, oh, I have differences. And she’s 32 dresses, movie stars in Hollywood. Very, very successful. And she said, my second grade teacher loved history and math and all that. She took me all the way through high school and I’ve never heard that.

I could never do the math. I can’t do the new math in the fifth grade. And she said I loved her. She took me all the way through and I had differences and I was able to do it. That’s important. Also, the child’s team. Who are they and who’s like, I would be head of the team or teacher. Could be. And you have [00:22:00] everybody meet maybe twice a year.

How is the child doing? You know, I write a report every single time I see a child, not 20 pages. These are the things we did. This is what I saw she needed. And the teachers all write back to me about this is what we’re doing in class. Otherwise, a lot of the tutors just, they come in and they’re making go kaka kapa.

That that’s not teaching them how to read and write and to do executive functioning. Um, my book also go, goes with activities, books. There’s a whole list of books. Uh, vacation meltdowns, finding your child’s strengths and passions, number one. Number one, number one, number one little girl came in the other day, 20 pages of definitions.

I’m thinking def on geography definitions. What am I gonna do with, she just would have to memorize them. I took her in the garage and then 15 minutes I said, here’s on Amazon [00:23:00] Box and other boxes, and I have lots of stuff in my, oh, this is my garage where you see these books. And then I have all those, those things there have stuff in them for the kids to make stuff.

I said, I want you to make the geography. Make an ocean. Make a forest. She made all the thing, the teacher wrote back, she made her take it to school. She said she got an A on this test because she saw it. Mm-hmm. , it wasn’t, you know, she’d saying, ocean, where is that? And it took 15 minutes and every kid, you can tell a ch, everybody bring an Amazon box to school today.

It wouldn’t have taken the teacher. They don’t like to lose time in class. It wouldn’t have even taken a half hour. And those kids would’ve done the whole thing, stuck it on with garbage, whatever, and they’d all get A’s, mm-hmm. . Everybody either doesn’t have time, doesn’t wanna do it, you know, you have to change.

The teachers have to change what they’re doing too. It’s not all about [00:24:00] reading, writing, and memorizing. I can guarantee you this little girl’s not gonna ever forget that geography. She won’t. because she did it. She saw it, she touched it. Um, I have lots of book lists. I think the book, the book is for teachers, parents, educators, college professors, teaching, reading, because it goes through everything and it goes through lots of activities.

I have a lot of activities that the parents can do or teachers can do, but I’m always into what their strength is and it’s very easy to, you know, it’s funny. I mean, I call everybody like, um, they had a contest, doodle dazzles. Do you know Doodle dazzles? No. Markers? Yeah, the markers. Yeah. Yep. Oh, the, that’s markers in the whole world.

So she had a contest. Mm-hmm. . I get my kids to enter contests and I usually write a little note. They have learning differences. I cheat a little bit [00:25:00] because that makes the person, first of all, I know their artwork or anything is fantastic. I cheat a little because I tell who they are that makes them say, oh, I should give this kid, you know, something.

And they win. They win contests. I always have. I mean, I always say to them, you might not win, but they always win because they’re usually very bright in anything they do. But all of these things, the passions and strengths is what you wanna do. And if your child, you know, you know, I love when I ask a parent, what’s your child good at?

And they’re so scared about what they’re not good at. They don’t think about that. The boy with the, um, that interviewed Michael Packard, he came in the next time I have it over here, I could show you. He made me, now I use plasticine, you know that easy Clay? He used real clay. and he made a whale out of real clay.

And then he had feet, the man’s feet, sticking outta his mouth. But I [00:26:00] mean, he’s, and he drew a picture of my dog. Now, anybody who draws a picture of my dog, you know I love them. I mean, you know, and it’s adorable. I said to the mother, he’s extremely artistic. I mean, I said, what is he good at? She said, video games, that’s not what he’s good at.

So I used what he was good at in art and whales and sharks, and then I did all that. I taught him blends and diagrams and anything he needed to know, and that’s what I do. But parents can be doing that at home, but they have to follow my step by step. They have to take the bull by the horns and not think they’re going to snap out of it.

They’re not.

Sophia Elliott: [00:27:00] So let’s talk about that.

Um, so what is the step-by-step journey? I think you’ve mentioned a few chapter titles there, but what is that sort of journey that you talk

Dr Victoria Waller: about in your book? Well, that’s, that’s exactly what it is. It’s realization. He’s not snapping out of it. Oh, he’s lazy. Do you know?

Now listen to this. This is very sad. Two statistics that just came out. 48% of parents believe their child will snap out of it. They’re totally wrong. They’re not snapping out of it. 33% of teachers think the kids are lazy. That bothered me more than the parents. , but the actual step by step, and you can see it in, um, in the, uh, front of my book because it’s, you know, what is, why will they not step out of it?

What’s testing? [00:28:00] What about medication? Hiring the right person, just what I said before. Mm-hmm. , the reading, the writing technology, finding their strengths and their passions. That’s probably number one. But I think you have to come to the realization your child isn’t lazy and they’re not gonna snap out of, and you’ve got to get some help, whether it’s a tutor or getting them tested.

It was funny, one of my little students said in my room, you can’t see by here, but the room I work in is very small and I do have, do dads all over. They’re, I call ’em do dads, but I do, I have the shark and I have, I have loads of Pokemon and everything like that. and the little girl said to me, oh my God, that doctor that I went to, I said, he’s the most lovely person.

I think he’s a little, has some little issues. Maybe he might be a little Asperger. It’s okay. He’s bright, he’s smart. She said, you should see his room. It’s filled with things. I [00:29:00] said, oh, like my room . And she said, yeah, but I don’t mind it in your room. Maybe when they first come in, maybe they look at everything and then maybe, but it is filled with pictures of kids and Pokemon and little rabbits, , everything in my room.

I think it’s so funny. But that is the big thing, is to read the book and follow along. What do I do? Another thing, child finally gets on medication. Great. They’re going on a vacation. The parents go, we’re gonna not let ’em take the medicine during vacation. It’s a vacation. , what do you think happened? Oh, yeah.

It’s not pretty. It was, it was miserable. It was horrible. Yeah. So why would he said, I said, it’s, we take whatever we take if we’re older. I’ve always had a thyroid thing. I’ve taken a pilsen’s, I’ve been 25. I mean, it’s okay. It makes him not anxious and not doing those things that he does that makes his parents upset and [00:30:00] makes him listen.

The kids are upset with themselves, but it’s a very important, easy book to follow. Like what to expect when you’re expecting. It will tell you who to choose. It’ll, it’ll list all the people should you get. You know, it’s not necessary to get a $7,000 test by a neuropsychologist. A good pediatric, uh, uh, uh, pediatrician who is a developmental pediatrician can do the same thing and it’s paid by insurance.

Mm-hmm. , you know, from a doctor, and they’re fantastic. . Yeah. So, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s finding that thing that what are their passions? What are my child’s strengths? And it’s making them, you know, feel good, find out about it. Um, it was funny, one, one of my students was into Google, this was like seven years ago, and he said, Vicky, why did you do when you didn’t have Google?

And when I went to a place called a library and I opened [00:31:00] these weird things called books, and that’s what I did. The funny thing is not long. We studied Google, not long after I’m in Argentina, in, um, in Argentina, there’s a man with two kids. So I always talk to kids to find out what books they like and I said, oh, where are you from?

And he goes, mountain View California. I said, mountain View, California. I said, Google . I said, well, yeah, yeah. He’s like President of Paris, Google. And he’s vice president of all of Google. And guess where Vicky took her student? Not to Paris, but we went to, we went to um, place here in California with his father.

And we went and we toured and he interviewed this vice president who’s now president. We’re still in contact with him, by the way, which is so good. Brilliant. Well, cuz he says, I wanna work at Google. I said, wow, you’re gonna be going to college in a year. You can work at Google in your summers. And the man is wonderful.[00:32:00]

But it was so funny, when we went to Google, every room had a big bowl of candy. Wrap candy. Well, this seven-year-old was going, oh my gosh. And taking, and his father kept saying, stop eating the candy. So I was putting in, in my purse, of course I was gonna give him the candy and when, and I was so excited about the day and him interviewing and going all over Google and he was eight when we were on our way home.

I said, what was really important to you? And he said, gosh, there was candy in every room and you could have as much candy. I’m gonna work here when I grow up. I said, well, truthfully, big sign. Bring your dog to work. I’m there. I’m there.

Sophia Elliott: Yeah, that’s great.

Dr Victoria Waller: That’s absolutely brilliant. Just finding with, I just, I try to find whatever interest kids, and besides being on the computer, I do think.

Covid has been very difficult. Mm-hmm. , because our kids have, I thought they would love being on the computer. They love doing [00:33:00] games and stuff. They became addicted to the computer, but not teaching. They got addicted to doing things, and you can hardly, I mean, they’re on the computer all the time and they’re playing games and it’s hard to get them off.

I mean, everybody has to make rules. You have to make rules. You know, you do your homework, you have an hour of that, and that’s it. It’s really, it’s been very tough, I think for children, for everybody, teachers.

Sophia Elliott: Very, very challenging, , navigating screen time. But Victoria, you’re, you are clearly ahead of your time in terms of focusing on that strength-based approach to learning.

And you’ve talked a little there about how as parents, we can, dig into, , what our kids’ passions are. Have you got any tips for parents about how do we, how do we, , unpack those strengths and passions and, you know, how do we find the whale beneath all the video games,

Dr Victoria Waller: [00:34:00] so to speak?

Right. Well, usually though, they’ll have something if they’re like, I have found the kids like stuff like an young kids, animals, sports, if they’re a sports nut, get some books about their favorite players. I mean that Now we have Google. I know it sounds dumb, but you can at least go on. Look at Mr. Mr.

Doodles. I read a little tiny squibb about ’em this big, that’s all. And I thought, who is this? I went right to Google and there’s thousands of pictures of him. So used. You can use the computer as a learning base. If they love, I mean, I think the way to get them off of computer as much as you can is get them if they, like many of my students who have learning differences are very creative.

Whether it’s building stuff, whether it’s, it’s just funny to me that it, that tends to be what they’re really good at. Animals. They love building things. They love creating their [00:35:00] storytellers, but they may not be able to write. Then you say to them, listen, let’s go. Let’s go to, uh, the aquarium. Okay. And he loves every animal.

When you get home, what did you love about it? Give me five things. Type it up for them. If they’re little, you can type it up. You go to a museum, get a book on the, the sharks that you can cut out things and write, you know, so they have that little book to read. And your older kids, they all have something.

Most of them have, I have found they like sports and they like, they like interesting stories. All of my students are really smart and they like interesting stories. Like Mr. Doodles, it would, that would be something they go, whoa, like, look at this. I mean, you look at, you can’t even believe it. The funny thing is, one of the questions the kids ask, so you’re having a baby, are you gonna make the baby?

Are you gonna draw on the baby face? You don’t understand. They wear all doodle clothes. Oh wow. No. [00:36:00] Everything is doodles. All right. I will have to,

Sophia Elliott: definitely a couple. Mr. Doodles. I’ll definitely put Mr. Doodles in the show notes. , I feel like we all need to see

Dr Victoria Waller: this , right? But I think what you have to do is try to find what their strengths and passions are.

I’ve never met a child that didn’t like cook. It’s very funny. I would think it would be a girl. A lot of my boys like cooking. Mm-hmm. . Now your therapist that you choose may not be as crazy as me and you know, do cook with them, but they’re fun things. You can cook, you can make, you know, baby sushi, whatever I made it with, she made it with, um, oh, I can’t remember.

It wasn’t real sushi, but she may, she, they come up with whatever they wanna make. One that had the, the. bar mitzvah for the the hamster mitzvah. Have them have a party, have a readathon. You know, your three friends come over and they get a sleepover in a half hour. You read and then a half hour you do an art [00:37:00] project.

If they, like a lot of the kids like art, art sports, that’s what they like a lot. And using just anything that’s creative. These are kids that are interested in so many things. They’ll come in, they’ll say, I’m interested in, you know, just, I mean anything. You know, one kid was interested in Mattel cars. I just got a letter from him.

He’s in his third year, N Y U, and he’s going, I think business. And he loved Mattel, their little cars. Okay. But they’re old. I read an article in the newspaper about the man who’s head of Matchbox cars at Mattel. What did he have? He said, well, I didn’t focus much in school. I knew what he had. Okay. I called Mattel.

I said, may I speak to whatever his name was? And I said, I told him about this kid. I said, what you wrote about that you really have to focus and care about what you do? Will you let us come there? He said, sure. [00:38:00] So the kid walks in third grade and his teacher thought he was stupid, which I love that she used that word.

I was ready to, I mean, I have to be careful what I say to her, but I really was very upset. And we go to Mattel, we walk in the door. That was it. Two hours. I didn’t know what they were talking about. They were talking about the color, and when it came out, little tiny, those cars, the little Mitch box. Yeah, yeah.

When did it come out and what’s it worth? Because old ones are worth, and the outside of the Mattel building, this is weird. It’s not. There’s no name. because it’s so, making those cars is like a secret. Oh, wow. . And he had questions. He had to interview him and then we had to go back. He had to write the answers and we took a video and everything, but I tried whatever they’re interested in.

I just tried to find that person or what they’re interested in, and I just try to, you know, take them there or [00:39:00] do something with them. The one who like to cook, we have a chef here in la, Nancy Silverton. She’s been around for 30 years. I’ve known her since before she was a cook, and she, he was allowed to follow her a whole night.

And I said to him after, I said, what did that mean to you? You know that she’s such a good chef? He said, no, it was the way she worked. He said, Vicky, she was such a hard worker. I said, well, but look what she’s produced. You want fun? Funny. He still likes. . He’s like 12th grade now. He’s, I won’t, I won’t be surprised if he goes into something with cooking still.

He had it, he had a knack for it. Unusual for a little kid. You know, they like to make cookies. Yeah. But they don’t, he wanted to make all kinds of stuff. Um, and then I had, it’s an interesting story. I bumped into a mom. So you talked to Dr. Waller. We and my kids say, if we have to hear that one. My, my gr adult children.

Yeah. How many times do we walk by somewhere and [00:40:00] somebody goes, are you Dr. Waller? She says he is now at, um, Harvard in his second year. And I’m like so shocked. Okay. He was a child who, English was a second language. He was in my reading center and everybody thought he was stupid. The teacher too thought he was stupid.

Okay. Cuz he didn’t talk much. But I think it was because he didn’t, he could speak English, but it was sort of broken a little bit. So that I think he felt funny about it. And we were having a big play on Nina Laden’s. I love her. Nina Laden’s book. The Night I Follow My Dog, we’re in Hollywood. So the parents made me a backdrop.

They made dog costumes and we sang songs from Mama Mia. But they changed the words and made to this. And he came up to me one day and he said, may I play the music with my guitar during the play? I said, I think that would be fantastic. And my partner at school goes, [00:41:00] you’re letting him do what? I said, he doesn’t speak okay, whatever with language.

But he said he can play the guitar. He said, well, does he? Do you think he plays it well? I said, you think I care? I don’t care if he strums one note. He’s a kid who appears. Can I tell you something? He was the most fantastic guitar player you’ve ever heard. And at the end, Nita Elda got up and she said Thank you to the kids and how great a play it was.

And thank you. To the, I’m gonna cry to the guitar player who made it fantastic. This mother said to me that letting him do that and him getting that from Nina Laden, she said, he is at Harvard now. She said it changed his whole view. It was beautiful, beautiful. So if you find, and I think everybody just has to do, I think you have to re if you have a child, you know, it doesn’t even have to have, they have to have differences.

Maybe they’re just different and they walk to a beat of a different drummer. You know, my book will help you. And it’s [00:42:00] all written. And it’s so funny, the woman who edited it said, I wanna put a blue box at the end of every, every chapter with a summary. and went, I said, fine, I don’t care. And when it came out, I thought that was genius because if you look up executive functioning, you think, I don’t wanna read that whole chapter.

You look up the blue box and it tells you the 10 important points. So I said that was probably the best. Well, that’s why I’m an editor , and you’re a writer. But that’s what I did. And that’s, you know, I, it is just, I’ve never, I’ve only found a child fail, but I don’t know if they failed. When one of the parents is saying he doesn’t need anybody.

He’ll be fine. She’ll be fine. And they never either. Never were they weren’t because you didn’t help them. You need to get them help early. You see it, you can see it early by five six if your child has speak. Oh, it’s another [00:43:00] thing. I’m sitting in a classroom and I said to the parents, you know, he’s seven and he has a lisp, and it makes it hard for him to spell.

because that is d a t. The words are all, and the parents looked at me and said, you must be thinking of a different child. And this is a really big, big Hollywood producer. And they leave and I think I’m gonna be fired at this job, that’s for sure. I open my mouth, so I go running to see the kid. I’m right.

I was right. I didn’t write it down for nothing. Yes, of course. And the parents went and got him help. But they don’t realize things like that, that that’s spelling, that’s reading, that’s listening. I mean, anything like that you want, it’s just like with attention issues. You want to help the child so that they do attend.

It’s funny, I had one child and in my room there’s a, a, a window and I have a big tree. I can’t remember the name of it. It’s just huge. [00:44:00] Okay. And he was with me three years and one day he said, you know, you have an alligator in your tree. . I said, what an alligator in my tree. And I look outside and the way the bark goes, it’s an alligator.

He hasn’t been with me in 12 years and every time I look out my window, I see an alligator in the tree. But he was, he wasn’t focused. He was looking at an alligator in the tree. You know, they don’t have, kids don’t have to be hyperactive. I find the kids that the parents aren’t sure what’s wrong are the kids who are inattentive.

Yeah, yeah. Calling them 10 times and they’re not coming. Although that everybody’s doing that now. Cuz the computers, mm, you call ’em 10 times and they don’t pay attention to you. But it’s just, we too often, we talk about what’s wrong with these children. We have to start talking about what’s right with them.

I can guarantee you I’ve taught thousands and I’m right about all of them. All of them. It sounds to me,

Sophia Elliott: Victoria, what you really give these kids, um, [00:45:00] you know, above everything else is

Dr Victoria Waller: you believe in them. Yes.

Sophia Elliott: Yeah. You help them find that thing that, , lets them thrive and shine and just give them that space to shine in whatever way they’re going to shine.

And, uh, uh, I have, I, I didn’t, correct me if I’ve asked this question already, maybe I have, maybe haven’t. But, um, what I was thinking of as we’re talking is, and wondering how much has changed over the years. How much have you seen change in this space of learning differences? And these particular

Dr Victoria Waller: kids who,

Sophia Elliott: you know, people think aren’t particularly bright, but actually are really bright, but they’re just having this learning difference and struggling to shine, find that place to shine.

And so, yeah. I’m curious that, have you seen a shift to change? [00:46:00] Yes. No. You know, like hopefully. But um, yeah, like just over the, over the, over the years. What do, what’s, are we getting better? No. Okay. Darn it.

Dr Victoria Waller: Darn. Um, because they’re still calling it dyslexia. Horrible word. Dyslexia means inability to read that would, you know, I know children who are severely disabled, severely, I don’t even know what you, and they might not be able to learn to read because something is wrong with their brain.

Mm-hmm. , I don’t like that word. I don’t like disabilities because they have abilities. I mean, I’ve, how many? I’ve seen thousands of kids. I think there’s not enough teaching in college. . Um, I sent my book to my friend who’s a president of a college, and I said, please get the books for your teachers. And it’s not, you have to understand, it’s not that the teachers don’t wanna do it.

You go to college, you [00:47:00] get one class in reading and you read about how to teach reading. You have a book, you have this, you have that writing. You hear about phonics. They say there’s the big fight between phonics and whole language bologna. It’s all of it. I mean, I don’t sit there going, ah, ah, ah, I would do it like the song.

Okay. And it’s a song that has a lot of s st. Words that I’m gonna be doing blends, I’m gonna be, but I take it whole to part. Yes, they have to do phonics, but they don’t do it in isolation going, ah, ah, ah, which they’re still doing. A lot of these programs have been around since the seventies, and I think they need to start.

Thinking about the passions and strengths and teaching in a way that involves these passions and strengths, but they have to learn to teach. And I, I think you’re just not getting it in college. You’re gonna get one class on reading, maybe one book. [00:48:00] And even now a young, you know, a young teacher will say, oh, he must be dyslexic.

I go, no. He probably has yes, learning differences and maybe this is a good time to talk to the parents, but they, they look at them differently. Parents still go, do you think my kid is that word? Do you think he’s, no, he’s not that word. Does he have differences? Yes. Can it be helped? Yes. Take my book. Look at how to go the step by step and what to do.

A parent just wrote me a letter, beautiful letter, and I made her do the step by step and she wrote a letter and said she just. Can’t get over the difference in the child in one year, how I’ve made them see what they should do. Mm-hmm. . Now they went for the big test that cost a lot of money and, and I have to tell you something, it was 50 pages long.

It took me hours to read it, even though I’ve read them all the time. Parents didn’t know what, and you [00:49:00] know what? They made a mistake. They put the wrong child’s name in the report. And do you know why? Well, because a lot of it is Boiler point. She didn’t do that. He didn’t do that. So then it’s this, so they have basic things to fill a 50 page report.

I mean, who writes a 50 page report with words a parent doesn’t understand? Yes. Um, I think that’s, I think a lot of people are going towards pediatric, um, uh, pediatricians, developmental pediatricians versus the $7,000. And then, and at the end of the, this big report, this woman did. The parent went, so what do I do now?

And this woman who is a wonderful, um, neuropsychologist, really brilliant. She says, I don’t know how to teach him. I can tell you what’s wrong. You have to ask Vicky what to do, Vicky, I’ll tell you. So I think, you know, you have to find the school. Listen, schools have very good testing. I have to [00:50:00] tell you that.

Very good testing. It doesn’t cost anything. Mm-hmm. , they have very good testing and you have to get somebody good to work with your child. Yeah. And it could just be a teacher that they really like. My student the other day said, I can’t stand this reading teacher, my school. I said, why? You’re, you know, learning to reach.

She says, she makes me, if the word is catchy, makes me go. I went, oh dear. You know, it’s old fashioned or it’s, they don’t know how to do any better. And they think that’s the way you do it. . I think you have to be eclectic and do it all. Cat. I would teach with this at Sound, cat, rat, sat, you know, and then make, oh, let’s make up a poem about that.

And they’ll remember it. If you sit there going a a, ah, they’re not gonna remember. A child with learning differences will have difficulty. Maybe a regular, a child who can read easily won’t. But I have found once I work with a child, they learn to read the hard They I’m now, they, they comprehend [00:51:00] way above.

They’ll comprehend what I love as a child will read it a chapter in a book and they will pick out things that I didn’t think about when I was, cuz I read fast now. Okay. And I think it’s so funny they pick out the really things that are interesting to them. You know, it’s interesting. It’s very interesting the way, the way.

Kids read and the way teachers are teaching, you know, they want them to sound out, they want them to do these things. And I think it’s not whole language verses there’s no verses. It’s all of it put together in a way. And we teach a child. It’s not I’m for this, I’m for the, no, it’s all in a circle. My child, one of the kids, my students, the mother said, I’m taking him to Linda mood bell.

Now I have to tell you, Vicki Waller did Linda Mood bell in 1975. That’s how old I am. The New York Times had it called, um, it was called teaching resources. [00:52:00] And it was called Lynn Mood Bell, but whatever. But it was the New York Times. So I, I go to conferences and they always give you, they used to give teachers freebies and they sent me the whole box.

It was so boring. And so I, I I, and I’m going what I wanna do, stuff that the children read a story about, you know, about Mr. Doodles and who is that and what’s he like and tell me about him and make a picture about him doodle something. I was so shocked. And so I, I, I used it for a little while and it just, it was not my thing.

Fast forward 10 years ago, they now have Linda Mood Bell centers all over. I personally think that Linda Bell is a genius cuz she took the New York Times teaching resources. She bought it from them, which cost nothing, I’m sure. Then because they didn’t really care about it. She has these all over the world and the mother says to me, Well, the problem is it’s so boring.

He hates it. And he learned to read, but he [00:53:00] hates reading. I said, well, that’s a good outcome. Learn to read. But he hates reading. Hmm. You wanna get with somebody that he’ll like reading, you know, your child to great literature. Read to your child every, even, you know what, fourth and fifth graders get a good book and read to them.

Hey, they love to be read to. And plus the fact if you can get ’em off the computer, but you know, that’s a nice thing to do. Um, I think my son is still finding good books for my sixth grader, seventh graders. Still reading to them. Yeah. Just as an enjoyable time. Oh, listen, I, now, I do that by reading articles and I’ll say, I found a great article and I’ll read an article to them.

Listen, we’re living in, I don’t know. I’m worried because a lot after Covid, we’re losing a lot of teachers. They don’t wanna do it anymore. It’s really sad. , I worry about that. And they’re not really being taught, they’re doing, just like the teacher, I’m telling you, this teacher is such a good [00:54:00] teacher and she just gave this 20 pages of definitions, 20 pages of definitions on geography and all she had to do, let’s just put together, just let them take a half hour out.

You know? Or just let them make something. Then they, and they’re not that, they’re bad teachers. I’m dealing with some very good teachers and the kids love them, but I look at them and I think, whoa, you know, the kids that are having difficulties, this is not an easy class to be in. Yeah,

Sophia Elliott: absolutely. Very challenging.

So what would be the last thing you would wanna tell parents and educators about the children? We’ve been talking about those children with learning differences, uh, and like you said, the. , you know, the dyslexia, the A D H D, all the, the learning challenges that many of our, um, very [00:55:00] gifted kids,

Dr Victoria Waller: uh,

Sophia Elliott: struggle with.

Um, you know, what can we kind of walk away from this conversation with? And I think especially as parents, it’s

Dr Victoria Waller: like, well, they’re scared. Yeah. Yeah. They’re scared. Yeah. Yeah. And they’re worried. And probably the mother father have differences. That’s what’s funny. One of my fathers went, I have a company for 20 million, and I’m just, and he’s just like me.

I said, right, but right now, maybe he needs a different kind of learning. And he didn’t. This child was so sensitive. The father was a tough, tough guy. And he said, tough it up. And the kid was sweet and sensitive, and the father was really bashing him when the father had the same problems. , you have the same problems.

But if, you know, I said, get him help, and he’ll be just like he’ll, he’ll be able to be successful. I don’t know if he’ll do it. You do, but he’ll be successful. But [00:56:00] you have to help him. But my thing is, you buy my book first because it takes you on that journey and you choose, okay, I’m gonna do this now. It takes you, it’s readable.

There’s no brains in it that you have to look at a brain , and it takes you on a successful journey with your child who has passions and strengths. And yes, they will succeed. They will. I promise you. Yeah. I never, no, I love that. But if the parents follow what I’m saying, and they don’t have to use me, but they got a good tutor for them that the child liked.

You know, if a child hates a tutor, it’s really not gonna help. You know? There’s one mother who said, you know, I took him to Linda Mundell every day, and he cried and screamed and yelled. I said, did he learn to read? She says, yeah, but now he won’t touch a book. Good. That’s great. Yeah. So you have to accept it and think to yourself, you know, don’t think the child’s lazy.

Cuz they’re not lazy. They want to do it and they want to succeed. And I [00:57:00] know they have strengths and passions. I know they do. Mm-hmm. . I know they do. Yeah. Yeah.

Sophia Elliott: Absolutely. Okay, so Victoria, how can people find you in your book? What’s the best

Dr Victoria Waller: places to look? Well, my book is on Amazon. Is it? Is it where you live?

Is it in any stores there? I don’t know. You’d have to check, but I know it’s on Amazon. I’ll put

Sophia Elliott: the links in the show notes. Yes.

Dr Victoria Waller: Amazon. And you know what have them. They’ll get a lot of good ideas on my Instagram. I think, I can’t remember, I think it’s Dr. Victoria Waller. I don’t know, something like that.

If you put that in Google, Dr. Victoria Waller, Instagram. Go to the Instagram. Mm-hmm. , because I’m posting like ideas and different things my students have done so they can also get ideas and get feelings for, you know, what is this all about? What should I do? But my book really is, yes, your child can, and it really.

It’s creating success for children with learning differences. And that’s what you want. If you, truthfully, when somebody says their child is a learning difference, I go, what’s he good at? Because I know there’s something really [00:58:00] good there. . Yeah. No, I love that. You have, you know, even if it’s after school, you get them into whatever they’re into, whatever they love.

If they, they’re not getting it at school. Mm-hmm. a lot, a lot of the problems too. I find that my students will learn to read. They pretty much learn to read pretty fast. I do lots of things that they’re inv, they like, whether it’s whatever they like, I work on that, songs, whatever that, but I find that the writing spelling is the hardest.

That’s the hardest. I do a lot of phonograms, like a t e is eight rate. May I do that? So they see a hole and then you put a letter to it. I try to pick them out of things they like, but um, . I think that’s probably writing and executive functioning, doing step by step to do something. How do you do it? What do you start with?

Okay. And parents can help. That’s in my book. It’ll [00:59:00] teach you

Sophia Elliott: Uh, Victoria, thank you so much for being on the podcast today. It was so fun. You’re such a delight. Thank you for

Dr Victoria Waller: your energy, . We’ll see you soon.

 Thank you so much.

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