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Curious Incident Podcast Episode 4 Part 2: Raising Emotionally Complex Children

Updated: Oct 10, 2022

You can listen to our discussion on your favorite podcast player. Below is a summary of the podcast along with the entire podcast transcript.

The Curious Incident Podcast: Episode 4 Part 2 - Raising Emotionally Complex Children

You can also listen to the podcast here;

About this episode:

In this 2-part episode, Jerry Pavlon-Blum, Director of External Affairs and Program Innovation at the Robert Louis Stevenson School, a school in New York City for emotionally complex students, joins Adam Dayan, NYC Special Education Attorney. This discussion ranges from talking about the complexity of mental health in schools, how it fits into the student's whole health and what services could be offered to children and families by a school to meet the needs of emotionally complex children.

Listen to part 1 here.

If you have questions about special needs children and their education that were not covered in the podcast or need guidance about how you should move forward, please contact the Law Office of Adam Dayan, PLLC at 646-866-7157 to discuss your particular circumstances.

About the Law Offices of Adam Dayan, PLLC

Adam Dayan Esq. is a New York special needs attorney. Established in 2009, the Law Offices of Adam Dayan, PLLC has the primary purpose of making sure children with special needs receive a quality education and long-term financial security.


Transcript - Episode 4, Part 2 Raising Emotionally Complex Children

Speaker 1 (00:00):

You're listening to Curious Incident a podcast for special needs families with your host, Adam Dayan.

Adam Dayan (00:14):

Hello, this is Adam Dayan. Last month I spoke with Jerry Pavlon-Blum. We had such a great conversation. We had even more, we wanted to discuss. So we are continuing our conversation here. There's so many great things we want to cover. Let's dive right in. Jerry, if you had to sum up your mission and vision, I'm talking about yours, not Stevenson's, but yours. How would you describe it in a nutshell?

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (00:42):

Ha well, I've made, I've sewn them so together that there is no separation between me and Stevenson. Everything I want for myself, I want for them. Everything. There actually isn't anything I don't want for Stevenson. So I would just answer you and say that my mission is to preserve students' options and to open pathways for them to have a series of options. That's what happens for typically developing kids. There's a kind of expected, back to assumptions and expectations, it's just expected that as your child grows, there are more and more and more options. In my community, in my population of parents, that is the opposite.

Adam Dayan (01:31):


Jerry Pavlon-Blum (01:32):

Their options dwindle, just like their children.

Adam Dayan (01:36):

When we've spoken in the past, you've commented on a particular theme. That theme is everyone is late. Be less reactive, more strategic. What does that mean to you? Can you discuss that a bit further?

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (01:49):

Yes. It's beautiful that you asked me right now in this conversation after talking about professionalized parenting. So the idea of being strategic is part of professionalized parenting. That is in fact what you could say, overarchingly it is, by definition. It is a strategic ability, that's what you've mastered. Being strategic has other dimensions in other categories of education and we're not there. We're not there as a city and we're not there as a state and we're not there as a country.

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (02:28):

What do I mean by that? When people are not prepared, they can't be as strategic. They just react. If, and we can talk about this psychodynamically, if you can be encouraged to anticipate a problem, when the problem comes, you are much more likely to solve the problem and say, "Oh yeah, here it is. I thought about that," than if you didn't. And so what do you do if you don't have that readiness? You react. And so we've had lots of different kinds of conversation today around reactivity and how teachers, because they're not professionally developed in the manner they need help to be skillful in the classroom, around complex issues of emotion, they are left out of that story and all they have is their reactivity.

Adam Dayan (03:26):

Yeah. I'll echo that thought because in my world, in my firm's world, it's very true. A lot of what we do is strategic. We're working with clients, with parents, planning it out, mapping it out. What are you trying to achieve? How can we accomplish that for you? And it takes time and it takes thought and planning. And if they come early, we can do it very successfully. If they come late, we might still be able to handle it successfully, we very likely will, but it's going to look very different and it's going to feel different to the family and be more stressful. And like you say, they're in reactive mode more than strategic planning mode. So I think that's important to capture here.

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (04:14):

And Adam, if I may, what you're saying about this from your mantle of education law is true in schools. So if schools are stuck in reactivity, what happens in action is that they are bending over backwards, trying everything from areas of older thinking that don't connect to the needs of the child. What happens as a result, everybody's holding on, including the parents. The parents are holding on longer than they should to the school that doesn't match the needs of their child. And the school because they love the family, and they love this kid, and they've done so much for this kid in their limited capacity, they ultimately then can wait a very long time. I mean, literally sometimes years. And when they finally do come to the admissions office of Stevenson, sometimes it's too late. There's too much onset of a level of severity that a day school environment cannot hold.

Adam Dayan (05:23):

I'm glad you added that. Jerry you've told me that you believe parents need to learn what to ask for. Can you tell parents who are listening to this podcast how should they go about learning what to ask for? How do they shop for services?

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (05:38):

Yes. I love that you said shop. I say that all the time with parents. Learn to shop, let me help you learn to shop. What does it mean to shop for a school? Let's start by just a simple reminder that schools are like people. They have very distinct personalities, a particular history of culture. They have their strengths and they also have their blind spots and their weaknesses like people. Why do I bring that up? Because it is a relationship you are looking for. And so when parents need to learn to shop, my first answer to how is service. Because we've all grown up with teachers who love us and also are very tough with us when we have difficulties and we don't know why, and we don't have them explained, and I want to add something here.

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (06:39):

There are many, many, many families in New York who don't have the access to mental health services that everyone deserves, everyone should have access to. And the result is that in the environment then, there isn't a way to hear about services that you could have for your child. There isn't a way to hear from your next door neighbor that Sally had a whatever, because the environment of the neighborhood is not subject to higher levels of access. That needs more correction. That's partly stigma. It's partly socioeconomic. It's a lot of things.

Adam Dayan (07:22):


Jerry Pavlon-Blum (07:22):

The reason I bring that up in this context is that it matters how people shop and many, many parents don't have the first clue what a service looks like or is when it comes to mental health and wellness in a school environment.

Adam Dayan (07:40):

That's a good point. It's true.

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (07:43):

What are examples? I think first of all, we are taught especially in the private school system, across the country, as parents, we don't want to say the wrong thing. Because if we say the wrong thing, maybe they won't take our kid. We want to put the best face we can on everything and leave out as much information as could be damaging to the chances of getting an offer. Well, what happens, Adam? Children then get into schools that don't fit them, where the, we talked about the relationship aspect of school-child and the match. They don't match from the beginning. And that's because a lot of information was left out.

Adam Dayan (08:26):


Jerry Pavlon-Blum (08:27):

So at Stevenson, we start with paperwork. We start by reading about the child. We start by asking ourselves for community input from higher levels of care. So those are clinicians and it may be a psychiatrist letter, it may be a neuropsych or a psychoed. It might be reports from the school, maybe a Connors. This is a kind of descriptive of the child that's checkbox-like by the parents, just to get a sense of who this child is and what the capacities are. We were just talking about how to shop. You certainly have to be honest and that's where we have to really kind of underscore this.

Adam Dayan (09:18):

Absolutely. How do you view the interplay between emotional regulation and academic progress?

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (09:26):

I think that it's very clear that people and I mean, students who have a lived experience with emotional complexity and it is a matter of record and that's lucky, need to be understood as having a learning disability. They need to be accepted as having learning disabilities like anyone else with a language based learning disability. We don't think twice about going to the CSE, the committee on special education in New York and talking about our child as a reader. Maybe there are receptive delays. Maybe there are retrieval issues, et cetera. But if you talk about depression, how is that a learning disability? And very typically our parents who are not ready for this answer from the DOE will hear, "He's very bright. He doesn't need services. I mean, look, he's got 121 IQ." That's a mistake. It's a...

Adam Dayan (10:24):

That availability for learning is key.

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (10:27):

It's key. And it's critical. It's critical that we go back to not what's wrong with you, but what happened...

Adam Dayan (10:35):


Jerry Pavlon-Blum (10:35):

To you.

Adam Dayan (10:35):

Yeah, very true. And I think what you mentioned before about the student who scores superior on the neuropsych but is flunking every class and what you've discussed about biopsychosocial and the enrichment examples that you've given, that all comes under this heading as well. Doesn't it?

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (10:56):

Yes, it does. And very often again, if you're looking for services. So let's just take Stevenson as an example of a day therapeutic environment. So that's the level of therapeutic intervention we're talking about. It cannot handle everything and we know that. So every school in the therapeutic environment needs to know not just who they are, but who they're not.

Adam Dayan (11:19):

Sure. Certainly.

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (11:20):

And in that every parent needs to be able to ask questions about the services they give. At Stevenson for example, we have a kind of unique advisory. If you look at the high school system of New York City, everybody has advisory. Very typically advisory is a few minutes in the morning to say hello and off you go. At Stevenson, it's three times a day. Advisory starts first thing when the child arrives in the morning and it's tone setting for our faculty, we are educated to know, we are looking for particular kinds of information around assessing how this child is doing emotionally and how available this child is to learn today.

Adam Dayan (12:08):


Jerry Pavlon-Blum (12:08):


Adam Dayan (12:09):


Jerry Pavlon-Blum (12:09):

And so it's, "How'd you sleep?" And, "How'd your homework go?" And, "Do you have your planner? Can I see it? And where are you going next? And on a percentage basis, how much energy would you say you have today?"

Adam Dayan (12:23):


Jerry Pavlon-Blum (12:24):

That's the morning. They meet again, so this is a small cohort with the same advisor throughout the year who stick together. This is a service, Adam. That's why we're bringing it up. They meet in the afternoon and again, it is a touchstone. They are touching base with the child now, it's a half an hour and it's mostly from the academic environment, it's mostly executive functioning, task oriented help.

Adam Dayan (12:52):


Jerry Pavlon-Blum (12:53):


Adam Dayan (12:53):


Jerry Pavlon-Blum (12:54):

And then at the end of the day, it's again, "How are you since I last saw you? Where are you going? Who you going with? What's happening tonight?" So three times in every day you are with your advisor, resetting, rethinking how things can go, setting a goal weekly, which is not typical. You have a weekly goal and then how do you create how you'll get there to achieve the objective. That's executive functioning, of course. So this is an example of a service that you can expect. The service of on demand therapeutic help. Going up to the counseling center as needed is a service. We have student prep four days a week, which is a time when all students in the school at the same time can call on a teacher for more help with whatever.

Speaker 1 (13:54):

You're listening to Curious Incident, a podcast for special needs families with your host,

Adam Dayan.

Adam Dayan (14:06):

So, we've been talking about some of the services at Stevenson. Tell me how you define success for the students you work with at Stevenson.

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (14:18):

I guess I would ask, what do you mean by success?

Adam Dayan (14:21):

That's my question for you.

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (14:24):

How anyone defines success has to get small. It needs to be individualized. It needs to be understood within the context of what the child's challenges are, where the child is currently and has been, and where the child would like to go next. And that doesn't mean that a student has to decide that by him, her, or themselves. For example, a student who's achieved something might want to go further but not know how. And so it may be for the teacher in his relationship with the student to say, "Well, here's where you got," and let's say it's a paper. Let's say he's writing a novel.

Adam Dayan (15:12):


Jerry Pavlon-Blum (15:12):

He's decided to write a longer extended piece. And the teacher might helpfully say, "Well, you wrote 10 pages here. What would be a reasonable next step for you in the next week? Let's say in the next five days." So what is he doing? The teacher is being the executive functioning control for the moment of the child and helping create a sense of time sequence and priority and a mark for achievement.

Adam Dayan (15:45):

In an individualized way based on that particular student. Right?

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (15:48):

Yes. And I would also say service, service, service. Here's another crazy thing that Stevenson does. I really, I went in, when I first got there, I thought, are you kidding me? I really thought you have to be kidding me.

Adam Dayan (16:01):

Let's hear it.

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (16:02):

Every single year, they completely redo their curriculum to match the needs of children who are at the school and who are then coming in. That's so inconvenient. I'm telling you that is like, the reason we have canned curriculum and teachers of longstanding say, "This is what I do. I've been doing it for 10 years. It's foolproof. But this kid isn't really paying attention." We do it the other way and say curriculum is Play-Doh...

Adam Dayan (16:40):

They have that expression, get comfortable being uncomfortable.

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (16:43):


Adam Dayan (16:43):

This is like, get comfortable with the inconvenience.

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (16:47):

Yes. And it is, and how to professionalize inconvenience. How do we take the position philosophically that we don't know everything, we can't be everything. And we will use our skill base through dialectical behavior, therapy module, skills building, through a common language. It is a common core of the whole building that we all speak the same language, including children and parents. That's like, where do you get that in a day school?

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (17:20):

And so again, service. That flexibility of the curriculum is very important for children because by the way, and we talked about this earlier, there are kids who are on a college level in calculus and they don't need to wait for college, and we don't need to wait with them. We can actually take them further. And so when we talk about learning disabilities and when we talk about emotional complexity as a disability, we can never forget that there is the other side of opportunity, of talent, of sensitivity that can be used and focused by adults with a guiding hand, so that the child has a way to move forward.

Adam Dayan (18:11):

Sure. So let's talk about moving forward. You talked about Stevenson as a college prep school. Talk a little bit more about what Stevenson students go on to do and what role the school plays in that transition.

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (18:25):

Yes. And you're asking me in New York. And so what do we really think about a lot as parents in New York, especially in the high school environment, getting in. He's got to get in to this college or he's got to get into any college or it's the focus is getting in and applying. Our focus is different because a hundred percent of the students who graduate from Stevenson every year are accepted to multiple colleges and universities, period.

Adam Dayan (19:01):

That's an amazing statistic.

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (19:03):

So who cares that that focus stay intact just because it's typically your focus. We take a different focus and the focus is how can we get students ready to plant their feet in the soil of the campus of their choice and retain themselves over four years or five years, whatever it may be. Or three years.

Adam Dayan (19:28):

To stay there, to go the distance.

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (19:29):

To really go the distance. I would say statistically, getting through your first year of college increases the likelihood that you will retain and continue. And when you don't make it in that first year, the statistics just show it's harder to go back. It's harder to continue. It's a demoralizing experience for many, many students, et cetera. And so if you look at those stats, Adam, we could certainly have a conversation about how these are very bright kids. Being able is not the issue so then why can't they, or don't they make it? At Stevenson we just back that up. That's a kind of way in education. You can design your curriculum, you backward design it. And so you start with the end result and then you back it up sometimes two years, sometimes one month, depending on what you're doing.

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (20:21):

If it's a paper a month from now, you backward design it so that on the day that it's due, you're way ready. Similarly, how do we as a school environment, back up and backward design children in their first year of college, and I'm going to paint this for you, know what they need when they need it.

Adam Dayan (20:46):


Jerry Pavlon-Blum (20:47):

Know how to find services that's helped them solve the problems they're having so that they are available both to learn and to show up. In college I think by and large, you can miss three classes if it's a flexible environment, and then you fail. You were talking about school refusal. At Stevenson, we have a very clinical approach to that. Our clinicians work with students through exposure therapy, is what it's called. And they will start very, very, very simply and very specifically, child by child, case by case, personality by personality.

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (21:34):

And that means that sometimes a clinician might get a phone call saying, "I'm at the corner. I'm at the corner..." She took the subway. She made it to 74th street and she's having a lot of anxiety and fear. And our clinician will go out and say, "I'll be right there," and walk her in. Another personality who may have been out. We had a student who had been out for months with school refusal and all he had to do was come in and sign in for the day, say hello to one of our therapists and have a little talk like, "So what are you doing the rest of the day? I'm so proud of you for being here. I'm glad you got here. I'll see you tomorrow."

Adam Dayan (22:23):

So is this part of it? To the extent we're talking about helping students transition to college and remain in college, to set them up for success so they can graduate from college. Is this part of that? What else is Stevenson doing to accomplish that?

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (22:39):

That story built until that child could be with us all day long. Not only did it become a wonderful story of consistency and continuity, his availability to his talents came out. In this case, it happened to be film. He was making tiny little film clips, very clever, but they didn't go anywhere necessarily. They were just for a little class or a little comment to appear. And we put him together with a professional filmmaker in New York. He actually made a film. He wrote it, he directed it and he directed it by the way, he cast it with professional actors from New York. He shot it on location and we helped him put it into the worldwide film festival circuit, and it was marvelous. For years. I mean, for three years into his college environment. He also became the president of our student council.

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (23:36):

So how do you have a student who comes in after months out of school, demoralized, lots of the medical model attenuated to his name and you build his strengths, his capacities in an environment that feels safe, allows him to be open and available to his learning, and to act on his worries as he needs? This is exactly Adam, what you're, this is the answer to your question. For a student to practice and practice, how to make a decision to take care of oneself when it's very small. It's so small, there is no drama. In the mainstream they came to us because there was big drama and drama means everybody's late. Back to that statement. How do you not be late to the game? The first answer is abiding by and dignifying the intelligence that children have that something's wrong when it's very small and not actually pushing it aside for later. That is an answer to college readiness. Do you see that?

Adam Dayan (24:46):

I think I do. Nipping things in the bud in a sense, knowing how to identify when something is boiling to the surface and where to go to get the immediate attention that you need so that it doesn't morph into something larger. Is that it?

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (25:01):

Yes. And also remember we had that conversation about the invisibility of physical signs that our smart bodies are telling us that we've learned in school to put away.

Adam Dayan (25:15):


Jerry Pavlon-Blum (25:15):

Not to deal with. Right?

Adam Dayan (25:16):


Jerry Pavlon-Blum (25:16):

So the person who has sweaty palms or the person who's not breathing correctly anymore, freely. Those are signs if you act on and practice, you can practice because it's part of your habitualized routine.

Adam Dayan (25:31):


Jerry Pavlon-Blum (25:32):

And when you get to college, you're still practicing.

Adam Dayan (25:35):

Absolutely. Briefly, Jerry, because we may have touched on this already and I'd like to think that we are coming out of the pandemic. I don't want to take us back to the throes of the pandemic, but just tell our listeners briefly, how did the pandemic affect your school? In other words, what trends have you been seeing in your students since the pandemic started?

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (25:59):

Certainly a greater sensitivity to the sensitivities they already had. Certainly a confusion everyone has experienced in what school is. We shut down very, very briefly in comparison to many schools in New York or elsewhere. We were very lucky. Our head of school, Chris Ongaro was actually getting ready to defend his dissertation for his PhD and specialized in the blended classroom. That's just luck for us. That's just incredible. So he was already on a professional level of understanding how students can blend educational environments and in a productive way on screen and live. A lot of people did not have that information. I'm really proud of him that he published in the National Association of Independent Schools brief in March of 2020, as soon as this was all going nuts. And everybody was freaking out exactly what mistakes not to make, how to point towards what kids can do in their capacity on screen, et cetera. And then what it has to look like very differently when you're educating someone throughout a day on screen versus in a live environment.

Adam Dayan (27:35):


Jerry Pavlon-Blum (27:35):

Stevenson was fortunate because we had a hybrid right away, those parents and those children who wanted to be on campus could be on campus. I think we were closed for what was it, like two weeks or something by the city? Maybe it was a week. I can't remember what the government did when the mayor shot everything down, but it was very brief. We opened right away in a hybrid model that allowed students in an A and B environment to choose which one, A or B Monday and Tuesday or Thursday and Friday. Wednesday, it was cleaning day and the school was closed. Back in that era when we thought we had to all clean everything, including our our cabbage. So, we had a very beautiful system that was both online, protecting all teachers. They were at home with live classrooms on screen and kids who wanted to be and could be had teachers in the classrooms with them and just opening up their laptops.

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (28:39):

So let's say, you and I are in the same class. We both open up our laptops, but you go to English and I'm in math at the same time, in the same environment, with five people and the plastic screens up between us and all of that. In the next iteration of where this is going to go, first, one of the answers is with a thrill to stay the same in some ways in enrichment. One of the things that happened is that the deal killer of geography disappeared.

Adam Dayan (29:15):


Jerry Pavlon-Blum (29:16):

I was bringing people to classrooms to talk about government from the Kennedy school who would never have the time to come to New York and whatever, but he was happy to do that. We had the New York Times theater critic come in and talk with kids who were writing critical reviews and wanted to be in their mind's eye, maybe a critic one day or a reviewer of films for papers one day. And so that lifted and so I want to keep that.

Adam Dayan (29:50):

Yeah. Great. So I'm going to switch gears a little bit now and we'll do a little bit more of a rapid fire round. And so I know you're involved in a number of organizations. Tell me a little bit about New York City P2P.

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (30:05):

It is a Stevenson program for all parents at all schools with children of any age who are raising emotionally complex children. Stevenson's New York City P2P or parent to parent, is a non-clinical opportunity to get together monthly on Zoom and talk, to be each other's best resource.

Adam Dayan (30:28):

So any parents from any school can get together and be a resource for each other, talk about their experiences, resources they've found useful, things of that nature.

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (30:38):


Adam Dayan (30:39):

Tell us about the work you do for New York City parents whose children's needs may not be what Stevenson can provide.

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (30:48):

There are a lot of hard stories in New York and children who will never quite find a way towards a school like Stevenson. There are too many barriers to entry, and it's what we were discussing before about lack of access. And that includes lack of access to education in mental health and wellness, and also in educational opportunities. So for example, a pediatrician called me in my office at Stevenson in the external work that I do and said, "Can you help me? There's a boy. He's my patient. He's been out of school for two years."

Adam Dayan (31:25):


Jerry Pavlon-Blum (31:26):

And I said, "Two years, how old is he?" 15.

Adam Dayan (31:32):


Jerry Pavlon-Blum (31:33):

I said, "Two years? Where is he?" And she said, "He's home."

Adam Dayan (31:39):

Oh my goodness.

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (31:40):

He's home. And he's just non-productive. And the parents are, this is a single parent home. The single parent needs to get to work and can't be there every day. And so what does one do? So that's a hard story and that's a hard case. There are parents, especially single parents are my heroes. I don't know how that's possible to do, especially with an emotionally complex child, but they do it and they're heroes of mine. The answer is professionals of all different sorts, whether it's a... I took a call yesterday from a child and adolescent psychiatrist who's at one of the major institutions and we are colleagues from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, where I attend every year and make myself known as an educator who's not a doctor and wants to talk like one so that I can communicate and understand what research looks like, how it's read, how it's designed, and who's making that research.

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (32:52):

So that's my pleasure in external affairs. She called and said, "Can you please help this parent? Her kid is out of school," et cetera. So those sorts of opportunities for Stevenson are beautiful because it's very hard. Actually, I don't know another school that is happy to work with families not enrolled at their school in order to provide resources, opportunities for meeting and personal connections, whether it's to someone like you, to a lawyer that's needed, a psychiatrist who's needed, an education consultant who's needed, and they just don't have access in that way. And so it's my privilege to help.

Adam Dayan (33:36):

That's great. You are the founder of Pavlon-Blum Young Adult Coaching. In what ways does your coaching company help young adults?

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (33:46):

Yeah. The difficulty of being a young adult is clear. I won't go into that because everybody knows. But as soon as you're 18 and you are emotionally complex, the world can really kind of cave on you. You think you know what you're going to do. You come home, you're in your parents' apartment, you get a job and you don't have the foresight to recognize what it takes to keep it. You lose it, you get another one, you lose it. You are constantly blaming everybody else for the reasons that you lose your jobs until you're not actually getting any jobs anymore. That's one example.

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (34:30):

A lot of the young adults I work with are college graduates at this point in my career. So I'm not working as a rule with 18 year olds who are kind of at a loss. I'm working with older young adults who really are ready for and asking for help. So that is the extent to which I do help through executive functioning guidance, through planning and aspirational goals. Knowing the difference for example, between money you need. So the reason you are happy to work as a waiter is that you are keeping a roof over your head. And you're clear about the goal, which is to make money. And it's not confused with your career or your passion because young adults can get really cantankerous and say, "Why should I do that? It's not even what I... I don't even care." And the answer is why would you want to do that? So that's a little bit of the service that I provide.

Adam Dayan (35:32):


Speaker 1 (35:40):

If you like what you are hearing, please let us know by subscribing to our podcast and letting others know about it too. If you have thoughts, questions, comments, or would like to suggest ideas for a future episode, we'd love to hear it. So email your feedback to

Adam Dayan (36:04):

Jerry, we have a connection to the theater in common. What opportunities do you think exist for theater to be a medium for educating children and more specifically children with special needs?

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (36:15):

Yeah. So what is in theater, Adam? You know that. I think the opportunity is constant. I think the creativity involved in, as we've been talking about together, flexible thinking, entering, knowing how to enter a scene, knowing how to respond to someone who's giving you information is important in education and is important, and as I have told you, was important to me in the classroom. It is important to me as a senior administrator. Certainly important as a program director. The idea of looking at every student and seeing them at 20 and asking myself as we all do at Stevenson, will she, will he, will they turn around at 20 and say, "I was helped. I was dignified." Or not. And I think that's always in my mind to see them forecast. And that is a part of the theater, having a vision and understanding what a production looks like and how it's built, how character is built, goes into how we support our children in the character building that they are doing, et cetera.

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (37:32):

So I think it's everywhere. And frankly, since you introduced me through my academia, if you look at people like Celia Genishi, who were just marvelous teachers at Teachers College, she always looked at the environment. This was why she was one of my heroes. I loved the book that she wrote on just asking teachers to change up their classrooms, change the lighting, put in a reader's chair, open up the room, put down a carpet, find different ways to use your architectural space. That's all theatrical. So it always serves me. How about you, Mr. Lawyer?

Adam Dayan (38:12):

How about me?

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (38:13):

How do you use your theater training?

Adam Dayan (38:15):

Well, I don't have theater training. My connection to the...

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (38:18):

Theater experience.

Adam Dayan (38:20):

Well so my connection to the theater is from being on the board of directors for a Spanish repertory theater in New York City. One of my roles as a board member is to bring more students to the theater. I was introduced to the theater when I was a high school student by my Spanish language teacher who brought the class to the theater, the same theater that I serve on the board of, and it just opened me up to a whole nother side of life that I hadn't been exposed to prior to that. So, I always had a passion for Spanish. That's kind of where that stems from. Being involved in Spanish class and being exposed to the theater by my Spanish classroom teacher introduced me to a new passion for the theater. That was perhaps my first introduction to it and certainly to a Spanish one.

Adam Dayan (39:13):

So I've kept that connection and it's been a wonderful learning experience for me over the last two decades. And now I'm in a position where I can help bring the theater to other students. And in the world that you and I are in dealing with kids who have different learning needs, there's all different kinds of ways of learning. And some who may struggle in a classroom setting perhaps learn much better in a different kind of setting. Maybe on stage or maybe in the audience of a theater or whatever it may be. And there's so many different mediums or media of expression. And I think as you're a student, when you're young, you're exploring that. You're trying to figure out how do you best learn? How do you best express yourself? And certainly the example you gave earlier about the student who is exhibiting all this movement and you help that student find a place in dance. And that's amazing to me and I think that's such an important part of education. Tapping into what drives a person and then helping that person express it in the right place. So, that's what theater means to me.

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (40:18):

I love that. And I love most about it, that it came from, it started with something that seemed like something completely else. It started in Spanish class.

Adam Dayan (40:31):

It did.

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (40:32):

And look what grew from it. And that is the part of enrichment that is very vital. And so when we think of, and maybe we leave each other with this up note. A student who came to our school, he was online gaming for something like 375 hours a week. And so there was some question about it's appropriateness. And as you know, I think in the nation now, many people are talking about, they're using language that we don't really understand yet, like gaming addiction. We're just beginning to understand. Well, so I feel like as an educator, it's my job to be dubious about that and not just use a medical model to understand 375 hours. I heard passion.

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (41:28):

And so when I first met this boy who had lots of other co-occurring issues and was really struggling, he knew why he was with us. He was okay being with us. I would put it that way. That's honest and that's enough for us. I just asked a simple question, trying to get to know him. "Do I understand that you love it? 375 hours? You love it?" He said, "I do." I said, "What do you love about it? Gaming?" And he answered, "The music."

Adam Dayan (42:04):


Jerry Pavlon-Blum (42:07):

That's what I said and much more.

Adam Dayan (42:09):

The music.

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (42:10):

And you couldn't have paid anybody a million dollars or more to guess what he would say.

Adam Dayan (42:17):

Yeah, really.

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (42:18):

And this is the Spanish class leading to ballet in your adult life where you're a board member. How does that go together? In this case...

Adam Dayan (42:28):

Acting more than ballet, but I'm with you.

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (42:30):

Oh, what was it?

Adam Dayan (42:31):


Jerry Pavlon-Blum (42:32):

Oh, acting, sorry. Sorry about that. In this case, I said, "Do you want to do it more?" And he said, "I'm in trouble for doing it as much as I do it."

Adam Dayan (42:44):


Jerry Pavlon-Blum (42:45):

Very practical. And I loved it. And I said, "I hear you. But if you could actually be known for the reasons you love it, if you could actually get busy pursuing the music you love in gaming, would that interest you?" He said, "Yeah." I said, "Good. I have no idea how I'm going to do this or what I'm talking about, but I will make something. And when I think I have an idea, I'm going to come to you. Is that okay?" And he said, "Yes."

Adam Dayan (43:16):


Jerry Pavlon-Blum (43:17):

I want to fast forward two years and the philharmonic called twice that year, his graduation year asking, "Does Jake have anything for solo piano? We need a solo piano piece for a program we're doing."

Adam Dayan (43:34):

Get out of here.

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (43:35):

And this is the director of education at the philharmonic. And we said, "Yes," and hung up. And of course the person who I hired to work with this student immediately called up the student and said, "Okay, we have this much time. And does this jazz you?" He said, "I totally am jazzed."

Adam Dayan (43:58):

Wow. That's an amazing story.

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (44:00):

He actually made... So backing that up before, how did the philharmonic call for him?

Adam Dayan (44:06):

Fill the gaps.

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (44:08):

We did what we do. We took enrichment seriously in this regard and said, here is this boy who loves music. He has an incredible capacity on paper in an academic sense, for mathematics. We all know how mathematics and music go together. And I was betting on something and called a professional who's a composer and has a longstanding relationship teaching in the public school for the New York Philharmonic. And all I said was, "Do you trust me?" And he said, "What?" And I said, "Do you trust me?" Because we've been working together like this for years. And he said, "Yeah, what?" And I said, "I want to hire you, but I don't want you to teach. I just want you to learn. I just met somebody and he knows more than you can know about gaming music. He's incredible." And he answered, "Cool." And that was it. And that's how we started.

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (45:12):

And for three months he only learned. And at some point when they had a very strong relationship meeting weekly and teaching him to play piano more and more, and teaching him a platform for composition, which is electronic, he then switched and it was time. And he said, "Can you play that again?" Whatever the music was from some game. He said, "That's like Rachmaninoff, hang on." And we would Google it quickly and then play it and the student heard it. And so then they were now on this next level of understanding how the music in gaming is actually related to and stands on the shoulders of classical music.

Adam Dayan (45:56):


Jerry Pavlon-Blum (45:56):

Of course. And then he started composing only because he was so opinionated, very strongly about terrible music in gaming. The worst, and I said, "Will you pick the most horrible one? Just, I want to hear it next week. Just pick the worst one and give me whatever it is." So he played an on tracked in a game and he said, "This is," and I said, "Why is it so horrible?" And he gave me all the best, coolest answers. And I said, "Great, can you erase the track and just make it better? Just write. If it's that bad, you're only going up." And he said, "Yeah." And that's how he started writing. Today I will tell you, he considers himself a young composer. He was honorably mentioned at an international festival. He is a player.

Adam Dayan (46:55):

It's unbelievable. That's an unbelievable story. And the word running through my head is discovery because when he was gaming, he wasn't thinking about any of that stuff that followed, but it was a process of discovery that you helped him explore and gave him the opportunity to connect it to something bigger. And that's amazing to me.

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (47:20):

Yes, Adam, and the word that comes to my mind is fun. Because all I ever promised him, I said, "I will ask you for a promise and I just want one from you. I promise that you will have fun. This is nothing if it isn't fun, period. Because serious fun is where we're going."

Adam Dayan (47:40):


Jerry Pavlon-Blum (47:41):

And his example of a promise was, "I won't quit."

Adam Dayan (47:49):

That's a great promise.

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (47:49):

That is a great, and I said, "If you won't"... And by the way, he graduated two years ago.

Adam Dayan (47:55):


Jerry Pavlon-Blum (47:55):

And we are working together weekly.

Adam Dayan (47:58):

That's great. That's great. So I won't quit. That's a good segue because before I let you off the hook, before I let you out of the hot seat, I'm going to ask you one more question. I know you're not a quitter. So tell me Jerry, what's one interesting fact about you?

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (48:15):

I study Italian every day and I've been studying Italian every day for almost four years.

Adam Dayan (48:22):

Wow. Every day for four years.

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (48:23):

Every day for four years. And it started as a lark because I teach the value of consistency and I just wanted to check myself like, can I be consistent in all the ways as adults we get to excuse ourselves. Well this happened, well that happened. Well, it didn't make any sense anymore. Well, I had to leave. And I thought with no excuses at all, can I just say every day I will practice? And I didn't know Italian at all, by the way.

Adam Dayan (48:56):


Jerry Pavlon-Blum (48:56):

And one year ago I thought, okay, I'm ready. That was like it's Duolingo. It's an app.

Adam Dayan (49:04):

Yeah, I know it.

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (49:05):

And so what I recognized is that in that robotics, I just deliver what it asks and I regurgitate what is wanted, but I don't think, I don't imagine, I don't play. And I decided I would go onto a different environment on the internet. And I found a teacher who actually is in Bergamo and we are in touch four days a week.

Adam Dayan (49:34):

Having fun now?

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (49:35):

After school and I'm still having fun.

Adam Dayan (49:39):

That's great. Unbelievable. Love it. All right, Jerry, let's wrap this up. Where can our listeners get more information about your school? Robert Lewis Stevenson.

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (49:48):

Online, just Google Robert Lewis Stevenson's School, New York City. Do put New York City because there's one in California.

Adam Dayan (49:57):

Good to know.

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (49:58):

And or is the website. We have a Facebook of course that you can go find, but I wanted to say something much more available.

Adam Dayan (50:09):

And how can they find you on Facebook? What's the handle or the name?

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (50:12):

Robert Lewis Stevenson School.

Adam Dayan (50:14):


Jerry Pavlon-Blum (50:14):


Adam Dayan (50:14):

Phone, email? Do you want to give those out?

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (50:16):

Sure. The email, I guess you should use my email. Is that right?

Adam Dayan (50:21):

That's fine.

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (50:22):

Is that what you're saying?

Adam Dayan (50:23):

Whatever you prefer.

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (50:23):

It's jpavlonblum. I'll spell it for you. It's J-P-A-V-L-O-N, no hyphen though I have one in my name, B like boy, L-U-M like Michael. So it's Very happy to hear from you. But very importantly, I want listeners to know whoever you may be, whether you are somewhere else in the country and an educator, whether you are a physician or a child and adolescent psychiatrist listening, we do not stand on ceremony. That is the privilege of my office. If you know people who can use help, if there are parents who are isolated, which is very typical in our population, give a call. I'll very likely call you back the same day.

Adam Dayan (51:14):

Excellent. And as far as location goes, you on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, correct?

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (51:17):

We're on the Upper West Side. We're on 24 West 74th Street, right off Central Park West between Central Park and Columbus Avenue. And you'd pass it a million times and never know it's at school because it's a brownstone.

Adam Dayan (51:29):

All righty, let's bring it home. Jerry, I've always enjoyed our deep conversations over the years. It's been a pleasure for me personally, to have the opportunity to sit down with you in this type of format and speak in depth, the way we have. You're doing remarkable work for an underserved population who are deserving of more services for their mental health. And I want to thank you for your work and thank you so much for coming on the podcast. I wish you continued success and good luck with your endeavors. And I really look forward to staying in touch.

Jerry Pavlon-Blum (52:01):

Me too a hundred percent. Thank you for having me.

Adam Dayan (52:04):

Awesome. Thanks, Jerry.

Speaker 1 (52:09):

Thanks for listening to Curious Incident, a podcast for special needs families. Don't forget to subscribe for a new episode every month. For more resources and helpful information, check out our blog and

Speaker 1 (52:23):

This podcast provides general information, which is not intended to and does not constitute legal advice. You should not rely on this information for any purpose. For legal counsel, you should consult with an attorney to discuss your specific circumstances. Your listening to this podcast does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the Law Offices of Adam Dayan, PLLC. No attorney-client relationship is established unless a retainer agreement has been executed between the client and the law offices of Adam Dayan. This podcast may constitute attorney advertising. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Any guests featured or resources mentioned on this podcast are for information purposes and are not endorsed by the Law Offices of Adam Dayan, PLLC.


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