Articles

A Better Environment for Different Learners

I have four children who all learn differently. But I have one with a learning difference.

October is Dyslexia Awareness Month. Dyslexia is not about intelligence or behavior, but about being less successful absorbing knowledge in a traditional way. It’s a learning difference. I’m the parent of a different learner.

All children need a close look, so we can tailor our parenting and teaching to their specific needs. Some kids not only need a close look, they need a second, third, fourth, and continuous look.

Dyslexic kids don’t carry a banner announcing they could be much more successful in an environment suited for their style. They keep their heads down and usually try to be invisible, or act up so no thinks they care. Because these kids are smart, they know they’re different, even when others around them (even adults) don’t.

Chances are the household is stressed. Concerned parents try to be patient, but often they don’t succeed, berating their child for not trying or being disorganized.

This happened in our house. I hijacked the nighttime routine, hovering over my son’s shoulder, stealing his confidence as I micromanaged his homework. I applied my approach to my other children and stayed home most nights feeling as if I couldn’t truest the routine to anyone else.

Thankfully, we found a school that understood my son’s learning difference. At first, he wasn’t sure about the program, but his transition in a year was amazing. The program took the heat of getting work done off the household and transferred it to the student, something we had been unable (or unwilling) to do. It taught academic and social strategies to be successful.

To be honest, all students would benefit from the integrative learning and the push for creativity, as well as test-taking strategies. Programs should provide a learning environment for youngsters who faltered in typical, mainstream settings and need an alternative approach.

Diagnostic profiles include dyslexia, giftedness, gifted-dyslexic, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Individual learning characteristics are taken into consideration as student profiles based on comprehensive testing are developed for each child and form the basis of class placement and curricular decisions.

Students are supported in classrooms with a highly structured, small-group format offering an average student-to-teacher ratio of 8-to-1 in the lower school program and 6-to-1 in the high school. Students who require academic remediation receive structured multi-sensory instruction, while those needing acceleration advance through strategies such as curriculum compacting.

Students are also taught to understand their strengths and their weaknesses. Many leave the program with greater self-awareness and become powerful advocates for themselves, learning to ask for what they need in order to succeed.

Most important, successful programs for dyslexic children don’t attempt to “fix” children, because they are not broken. My hope is that more people will understand that a learning difference is just that, a different learning style. Every child deserves to be understood and to be taught the skills they need in order to succeed in life. Every child should have access to the right school to meet his or her needs.

We’re lucky to have found a school that understands my son and has allowed him to thrive. I have my smart, funny, happy son who plays basketball, tennis, and does mixed martial arts, to prove it.