Back To School 1 - Page 19 - Learning continued from page 14

Back To School 1
- Page 19
Learning continued from page 14
ral of repeating a grade, being suspended, and not earning a high school diploma, reports the NCLD. While no learning difference can be cured or fixed permanently, students can achieve success with support and intervention.

“These are bright, smart, fun and out-of-the-box thinkers,” says Adrianne Cusick, director of admissions at The Odyssey School, for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. “Kids learn differently and we teach them differently using evidence-based research.”

Creativity counts. Students might build reading skills by reading aloud to dogs, says Cusick, who explained that the four-legged listeners “don’t judge.”Other students might have dysgraphia, a disorder that affects the ability to put thoughts down on paper. “They have great ideas and stories, but struggle to get everything organized. We provide strategies, woven with listening and speaking skills to help students achieve.”

Recognizing that students with ADHD learn by moving, Jemicy uses stand up desks and provides stools for students to rock on. “ADHD kids in other classrooms are stuck trying to learn without using movement. Our kids move around and learn.” Recess, too, plays a role in building social skills outside of the classroom.

Assistive technology can help students who cannot process language visually. Google can read text aloud so students are able to understand information and context. “The goal of reading a book is to learn the lesson,” says Shifrin. Instead of admonishing students for answering a question incorrectly, teachers look to praise the thinking behind the answer and help students learn from mistakes.

“We teach our students to be proud of who they are.”

Good Education
Cusick notes that red flags that may reveal future struggles in the classroom. “A good preschool teacher may notice that a child is not coming along as expected and may suggest further evaluation,” she says. Some children have delayed speech or have difficulty rhyming. “We have one child who loved to be read to but would not touch the book,” she says.

The most important step is finding support from professionals, says Cusick. “Early signs will not go away. The learning gap will widen as other children learn at a faster pace.” The Odyssey School provides free screening for early language and literacy skills and signs of reading difficulty.

It’s never too early. Shifrin advocates for students with learning differences because he understands how hard it is. “My second-grade teacher told my parents that I would never amount to anything,” he says. He didn’t understand how the letters worked together to form words and sentences.

Then, Shifrin was diagnosed with dyslexia in the fifth grade. “When I met my tutor, Mr. Freedman, he believed in me.” Shifrin learned to read, found his footing in the classroom and completed bachelor’s and master’s degrees from with high honors. He’s just finished his 17th year at Jemicy as head of school.

Both Shifrin and Cusick believe many best practices for students who have dyslexia or other learning differences would benefit all students in any setting, he says. Hallmarks of these programs, such as teaching time management, organization, adaptability and flexibility enhance learning and classroom success.

“It’s not special education,” says Shifrin. “It’s good education.”

Now a Jemicy alumna, Dickler could not agree more. A self-professed “hard core math and science person,” she’s looking forward to her next step – Virginia Tech. She’s not worried. “I know how to speak up, find information and get problems solved. I learned to advocate for myself.” •