WHAT A DIFFERENCE!
Understanding, teaching, and empowering students with language-based learning differences such as dyslexia
Kendra McCuine, M.Ed, teacher and interim director of the Hope Graham Program (HGP) at Bancroft School, writes about the beautiful and amazing dyslexic brain. Read on and discover further proof of what Hope Graham students already know: Dyslexia is a difference, not a disability!
In Our Students’ Words (Part 2): The Power of a Name
In the Hope Graham Program (HGP), we believe that enabling students to name their challenges empowers them to understand when and why they struggle. A student who can confidently say, “I am dyslexic” knows that he or she is a bright student whose brain is not optimally wired for reading, not a student who is dumb. Students who know that they have expressive language challenges understand that they need some time to think before responding, some sentence starters to get the words flowing, or the opportunity to talk around the idea they’re trying to express — and that these are just tools to help them express what they already know.
Most importantly, by naming their challenges, our students have the opportunity to realize that those challenges are only a sliver of their overall identities. At Bancroft, a student might see himself as a student who is great at robotics, a quick math problem-solver, a kind friend, dyslexic, and a strong lacrosse player. Or she could be a curious scientist, member of the Lower School Leadership team, dyscalculic and ADHD, and star of the fifth grade play.
Earlier this year, one of our new HGP students decided to write a letter to the President after realizing the freedom that comes from being in a school where differences are named, celebrated, and recognized as just a small aspect of our extremely multidimensional students. Portions of this letter are shared with the student’s permission:
“I am in 5th grade and am 11 years old, like your son Barron. I am Dyslexic and have ADHD. I want to explain how I struggled in public school from kindergarten through 4th grade. While in school, I was struggling with reading, writing, and math. I was so frustrated that I tried to cover my confusion by making jokes. I had no confidence and thought that I was dumb.
“My parents were told that the school does not use the word Dyslexia. I googled and found in October of 2015 The United States Department of Education Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Service produced a memo that ‘encourages States to review the policies procedures and practices to ensure they do not prohibit the use of the terms of Dyslexia, Dyscalculia and Dysgraphia in evaluations eligibility and IEP documents.’
“I finally had some answers when a psychologist diagnosed me. After we received the test results, the psychologist recommended Bancroft School in Worcester MA. So now I am at Bancroft in the Hope Graham Program for Dyslexia and ADHD. I feel so much more confident and comfortable. There are 7 kids in my class and I'm getting the right tools I need and learning how my brain works.
“How can you as our President help kids like me get the right tools so they don’t get left behind? Lastly, Mr. President, if public schools do not even acknowledge the word dyslexia how are kids going to get the help they need?”
Names hold a lot of power. We encourage you to help your child acknowledge and perhaps even celebrate the sliver of their identity that has made HGP a good fit for them.
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