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dyslexia

Learning with ADHD

Blog Type:  Learning Date Posted:  Monday, January 26, 2015

By Edward Hallowell, M.D., Ed.D. 

Learning with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is difficult, at best. I know because I have both ADHD and dyslexia. A phrase that I have come up with that I think best exemplifies what it is like living with ADHD is that it’s like “having a Ferrari engine for a brain with bicycle brakes.” The good news is that there are ways to strengthen these bicycle breaks to help stay on track and manage those Ferrari engine-like thoughts.

With the New Year steadily underway, there has never been a better time to take charge and evaluate what works best in trying to provide guidance to those with ADHD or, if you yourself have ADHD, finding the measures to take that work well for you. What has helped me most to overpower my ADHD began when I was in first grade. My teacher, Mrs. Eldredge, made it a point to make her students feel safe—whether they had ADHD or not—to inquire about anything. By eliminating fear, she allowed me to believe that I could be as successful as I wanted to be. I have carried this notion with me throughout my life and have instilled this belief in the patients, both children and adults, that I work with today. Having a confident mindset to take on any task will make you unstoppable. Another tip to help stay on track is to follow a schedule. Everyone needs structure, especially children, but for those who have ADHD, schedules and rules are as essential as maps and roads are for drivers. Without them, these kids can get completely lost.

With encouraging teachers and setting an organized, well-defined schedule, students will not only be more productive,  but also more excited to succeed.

dr. edward hallowell headshot

Dr. Hallowell is a child and adult psychiatrist, author, speaker, and leading authority  in the field of ADHD. Founder of the Hallowell Centers in New York and Boston. but also more excited to succeed.

 

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Tags:  ADHD adult psychiatrist attention deficit hyperactivity disorder child psychiatrist confident mind set Dr. Edward Hallowell dyslexia eliminating fear guidance Landmark School language-based learning disability Ned Hallowell student productivity student success

Painted Yellow Lines

Blog Type:  Learning Disabilities Date Posted:  Thursday, June 9, 2016

road with yellow lines

At Landmark School's recent commencement ceremony, graduate Matthew Pramas '16 sheds light on what it means to learn differently and reminds his classmates that it can have its advantages. 

I remember sitting on the swings, 11 years ago, on a beautiful spring day. My teacher let my class out to recess for the last 20 minutes of school, and we were allowed to use the entirety of the playground and field. I was minding my own business and then I looked over to my left to see, only 30 feet away, the resource room kids. They weren’t allowed to play with us; they couldn’t reach me on the swings. They were restricted to a small fire lane by the back door of the resource room. They were trapped, penned in by some painted yellow lines outlined on the ground. And I looked around the entire playground where my class was running on the field, playing on the jungle-gym, filling the air with their laughter; and then back at that tiny, quiet box the resource room kids were left in. Even then, I knew this was wrong.

In a way, I wasn’t with my usual classmates at all; I was with those resource room students. I knew what those kids were going through because, for several times a day, I was one of them. I too was restricted; I was trapped by my school and put in confining places like the resource room. My possibilities were decided by my school, and they were very narrowly defined, just like those resource room students. And just like them, my classmates and I have been defined. We’ve had decisions made for us, things chosen for us; but now, as we graduate, it’s time to make our own decisions, to be in control of our own lives. That is why we all need to find something-whatever it may be-that speaks to us, that leads us on our own journey.

We just need to know that this label we bear is not a disability, but a great ABILITY.

We have an ability to succeed in what we want to do like few others. I wouldn’t dare say that to any other group of seniors, but we do things differently. We have always done things our own way because we have language-based learning disabilities and we have needed to find different ways of doing routine activities in order to survive in the classroom. I know that many of us would trade our disability if we had the chance because we have gone through so much, and we’re even still advised to conform to a world created by other people. People who aren’t like us. Remember, we haven't been seen as outsiders for the things we have done, we have been seen as outsiders for who we are as people. But none of that defines us now.

We just need to know that this label we bear is not a disability, but a great ABILITY. The ability to think differently and take our own path. It is our strength.

Malcolm Gladwell argues this very point in his book David and Goliath. Gladwell talks about how people’s weaknesses can actually be strengths, and he mentions one lawyer, David Boies, who is severely dyslexic, but who turns his disability around to be an asset by memorizing every case. This has made him one of the most respected lawyers in the United States. Gladwell chose this title “David and Goliath” because in the old story, David is the young, weak boy who challenges Goliath, the strongest fighter on the enemy side, to a duel. Everyone assumes David will be easily killed as they gear the boy up with soldiers’ armor, like everyone before him. Only for David, the usual armor won’t work for him because David doesn’t fight the normal way, he uses his slingshot, which is unusual. So he takes his armor off, leaving himself completely vulnerable. We know what that feels like. Except this supposed vulnerability isn’t a weakness for David because no armor meant increased mobility, and when it came time to fight, David shot a rock in between Goliath’s eyes and won. He won because he turned his supposed weakness into his strength — into a force no one else expected.

This is our story. We are the David who can dare to think differently.

He won because he turned his supposed weakness into his strength.

Don’t lose this ability to see different sides, think of new solutions, and use creativity to solve the difficult problems.

And as I look back in on those resource room kids, after all these years as my fellow peers and I prepare graduate, I know that this spring day liberates me to live; it no longer confines me. It motivates me to see how far things need to be taken, how much better things can be — that it isn’t pointless to make the world a better place or try to advance something just a little more for the sake of humanity. We all have this motivation, this passion somewhere. Some of us have already found it, some of us haven’t, but we all have it. For me, living means becoming a writer. It means waking up every day to channel that passion to work for justice, to fight ignorance, to do something great. We can all do great things. Because for me living means taking every opportunity, seizing every moment. It means that if I ever have the chance to grow old, that I will look back on my life and regret nothing. It means for me, at this time, being satisfied with what I did with my life and deciding to choose a way of life over a job, and a vocation over a career.

Class of 2016, we escaped from our confining places a long time ago, but there are those who never got the chance to leave. Let us prove that we are not bound by some painted yellow lines.

A-Pramas2

Matthew Pramas was a part of the 2016 Landmark School graduating class and was a student speaker at our recent commencement ceremony. Matt is headed to St. Michael's College this fall.

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Tags:  ability class of 2016 confidence dyslexia graduation Landmark School language-based learning disabilities LBLD learning differences learning disabilities Malcolm Gladwell self-esteem

Dyslexia: Making Learning Relevant

Blog Type:  Learning Disabilities Date Posted:  Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Recently, we spoke to Dean Bragonier, founder of Noticeability, a nonprofit enabling students with dyslexia to cultivate their strengths and providing tools to the adults that serve them. Dean will also be addressing our graduates and families at Landmark's 2016 commencement.

What was the inspiration for starting Noticeability?

I have an 8-year old son who has dyslexia. Both my wife and I are dyslexic so we knew there was an 80-100% chance that our son would be dyslexic as well. Having personally struggled in school, I knew our boy would require social and emotional support to help maintain his confidence. I had no idea that through Noticeability I could possibly address the needs of millions of other dyslexic students.

We have a culture that uses text as the principle medium in education. People with dyslexia, of course, are tremendously burdened by this. Noticeability harnesses technology to make learning interactive and relevant. The key is accessibility. It's vitally important to develop phonemic awareness and build reading skills but technology should be used to support and augment reading, not bypass it.

Our focus at Noticeability is to reach students, mostly in public schools and juvenile justice facilities, who have been conditioned to think that they are broken or stupid because of their dyslexia. Our goal is to expose these students to the professions where dyslexics find the most success (entrepreneurship, arts, engineering, and architecture) while providing them with an accessible, meaningful, and rewarding moment in their education.

NoticeAbility offers teachers a one-day training session where they learn about the neuroscientific advantages of dyslexia and gain the essential skills of social emotional instruction. Once their training is complete, teachers are awarded professional development points and their students are given access to NoticeAbility’s online learning platform. Our curricula, which is comprised of 10 online modules and 10 classroom sessions, enables students to access lesson plan content through a variety of modalities (video, audio, graphics and pictures). The intention, of course, is to enable students to work at their own pace and through a medium that resonates with their specific learning preferences.

When students come together in the classroom, they begin the project based learning component of the curriculum. Students are divided into teams and work, as groups, in SOUL centers: Self-Organized, Unbridled Learning Centers. In our entrepreneurship course, for example, students generate entrepreneurial ideas and build a business plan and prototypes for their ideas. Teachers, meanwhile, provide students with the appropriate scaffolding to facilitate teamwork and emotional development. When the course is complete, SOUL Center teams presentation their creations to their parents, teachers, and student body.

How can we raise awareness about dyslexia and other language-based learning disabilities? Responsibility rests on the many people who have dyslexia who live, work, and contribute to society in a positive way—despite their disability. Landmark graduates should be the spokespeople for this learning difference. They know what it feels like, first hand, to be completely misunderstood in a classroom despite being extraordinary problem solvers and critical thinkers. As successful dyslexics like Charles Schwab, Steven Spielberg, and Richard Branson speak often and openly about their experience with dyslexia, the paradigm will inevitably shift from a deficiency-based narrative to a strength-based perspective.

We have Noticeability t-shirts that say "dyslexia is cool". The more dyslexics come out and talk about the nuances of their learning difference, the more the stigma will be reversed. My hope is that one day people will add "dyslexic" to their resume to give themselves a competitive advantage. Sure, there will always be professions where dyslexia is a liability (I doubt there are many of us in proof reading departments), but there are so many careers for which having dyslexia can be a huge advantage.

Responsibility rests on the many people who have dyslexia who live, work, and contribute to society in a positive way—despite their disability.

What are you most excited about in preparing to speak to our graduates? Even though I don't know these students personally yet, I feel like I know so much about them. I want to remind them that their perseverance was forged from adversity. They must understand that they have just completed one of the most challenging periods of their lives. If they can have confidence in who they are and maintain their determination, these students will have remarkable lives.

Check out Dean's TED talk.
dean bragonier headshot
Dean Bragonier is the Founder and Executive Dyslexic of NoticeAbility. Shaped by the challenges associated with his dyslexia, Dean became a diligent and successful college student after struggling through the traditional secondary education system. It wasn’t until he enrolled at Bates College that he developed a true love of learning, fostered in large part by the institution’s unique approach to education and its support of students with learning differences. Upon graduation from Bates, Dean embraced his entrepreneurial instincts and acquired a small seasonal restaurant on Martha’s Vineyard Island that he transformed into a successful full-scale enterprise (see Boston Magazine, July 2001).  It was through this endeavor that he was able to contextualize his years of laborious academic learning and discover the true gifts of his dyslexic mind. As a social entrepreneur, Dean has founded his own nonprofit organizations and served as board member and advisor to a number of others.  NoticeAbility is the culmination of Dean’s passion for education and his conviction that the advantages of dyslexia far outweigh its associated challenges.

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Tags:  dean bragonier dyslexia Noticeabilit language-based learning disabilities

A Letter From a Girl With a Language Based Learning Disability (LBLD)

Blog Type:  Learning Disabilities Date Posted:  Wednesday, December 7, 2016 Byline:  By Brooke Williams

girl holding books in field

Being dyslexic is part of who I am. I don't hide it or neglect it. I embrace it.

The academic life people with language-based learning disabilities endure and how we fight back.

In second grade, I started to realize I was a pretty bad reader. I watched my friends breeze through chapter books, while I was still struggling with picture books. I felt so discouraged and dumb. It was the absolute worst feeling I have ever felt. Knowing this, my mom would help out in class and we would practice my reading, but I wasn't getting better. Why wasn't I reading just as well as my friends? Why did I struggle so much with understanding the story? Why was I taken out of class three times a week to work on my reading? What was making me different from everyone else?

I was diagnosed with dyslexia when I was third grade. For those who don't know, dyslexia is a language-based learning disability (LBLD). It can be different for everyone. And no, I don't read upside down or backwards. Here is an example of my dyslexia. When reading, I tend mix up similar looking letters such as d, b, and p. Also when reading or writing, I tend to mix up words that look and sound similar, such as their, there, and they're. Luckily for me, my parents knew I needed help academically in order to conquer and accept this disability. They fought for me, harder than anyone I know.

I am so fortunate that I got to go to one of the best private schools for children who have language-based learning disabilities. Landmark School is one of the best LBLD schools in the United States. Kids from all around the world try to go to that school. The teachers and programs are incredible. This school did more than just get me through high school. It made me the hard working, determined student I am today.

Landmark gave me confidence in myself and confidence in my difference. At the end of the day, that's what it is. It's a learning difference. I'm not getting a leg up in class, I'm leveling the playing field. Being dyslexic is part of who I am. I don't hide it or neglect it. I embrace it. Don't let anyone ever tell you that you are stupid. Because you aren't. You actually are highly intelligent.

Going into third grade, my teachers were saying "this girl will never make it to college". Well here I am in my sophomore year at a university. And ready for this: your girl is dyslexic, majoring in English.

About the Author:

Brooke WilliamsBrooke Williams is a graduate of Landmark School. She's currently majoring in English at Salem State University.
This post previously appeared in https://www.theodysseyonline.com.

 

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Tags:  confidence determination dyslexia English Landmark School LBLD mixing up letters struggling reader

Dyslexia: Learning Disability or Entrepreneurial Advantage?

Blog Type:  Learning Disabilities Date Posted:  Thursday, October 13, 2016 Byline:  By Elliot S. Weissbluth

typewriter

Having dyslexia doesn't mean you can't learn or be successful, but you may have to go about it a little differently.

I was first diagnosed with dyslexia as a child, and then again 20 years later as an adult law school student.

Dyslexia affects each individual a little differently, but generally creates difficulties for processing written language. It is often characterized as a “learning disability.”

Early on, I struggled to keep up in grade school, especially with reading and studying. My parents purchased a Smith Corona typewriter, and every day I typed my notes from class onto onionskin paper. The process of deciphering my own handwriting (not easy even today!) and then typing the words onto a page I could read later was critical to helping me learn. Imagine my delight later in life when computers came along and I was already so comfortable on the keyboard.

Having dyslexia doesn’t mean you can’t learn or be successful, but you may have to go about it a little differently.

In fact, people with dyslexia are often highly creative thinkers, likely because in compensating for or overcoming the challenges of dyslexia we develop a strategic intelligence, as well as a stubborn persistence. It is no surprise to me that entrepreneurs exhibit higher rates of dyslexia than the general population. We’re wired to approach challenges in new ways, to work around obstacles, and to solve problems.

And we’re in pretty good company: Woodrow Wilson, Andy Warhol, Albert Einstein, Richard Branson, Steven Spielberg, Agatha Christie, and Cher, are just a few examples of dyslexics who have achieved amazing things.

Effective coping strategies vary from person to person, but here are a few I’ve learned:

  • Take your time. In school, dyslexic students are often allotted extra time to complete assignments. In the real world, the best way to avoid the sensation of not having enough time is to start things early. I’ve always been an early riser, so I usually get up at 4:30 in the morning so I can have an hour or so to myself before the kids wake up and the day begins in earnest. This allows me to look at my calendar, slowly read important e-mails, and think through everything ahead of me that day. My habit of extensive and early preparation developed out of my need to not feel rushed to “keep up” with my non-dyslexic peers.
  • Be purposefully attentive. Attention requires effort. Try “active listening,” a technique used in conflict resolution, in which the listener paraphrases and repeats back the speaker’s message to ensure mutual understanding (you can keep this feedback silent and write down what you think they mean). Look for clues about what the speaker FEELS rather than just hearing what they SAY. I’ve found that journaling helps me stay in the present.
  • Reject the myth of multitasking.If you are trying to listen to someone speak or you are reading something important, you can’t text, talk, tweet, check your email, or perform some other function without degrading your attention.
  • Recognize your strengths and develop them rather than improve a weakness. Turn your compensatory tactics, whatever works for you, into assets. I could type 30 words per minute in seventh grade, and by the time the Internet caught on, I was naturally composing on the keyboard, able to transcribe spoken words and typing nearly as fast as a professional typist.

About the Author:

Elliot Weissbluth

Elliot Weissbluth is the Founder and CEO of HighTower Advisors, a financial services company that serves high-net-worth clients. He's also a LinkedIn Influencer. Follow him on LinkedIn.

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Tags:  Agatha Christie Albert Einstein Cher confidence dyslexia dyslexia awareness Elliot Weissbluth entrepreneurs with dyslexia Executive Function executive function strategies language-based learning disabilities learning disabilities learning style multitasking Richard Branson Steven Spielberg Woodrow Wilson

Tips for Parents: Working with Your LBLD Student, Part 3

Blog Type:  Learning Disabilities Date Posted:  Sunday, May 15, 2016

mother and daughter at computer

By Gail Kent

Homework: Importance and Procedures for Success

Ever have difficulty figuring out how to help your child with homework? Why is homework so important anyway?

Homework is used to reinforce skills and information learned during class time. It is important for students because it allows them to further interact with material and repeat learned skills. In addition, it readies them to perform independent work after high school. Below are some best practices for homework completion:

Establish a consistent time and place for homework completion. Use a desk, the dining room/kitchen table, or someplace with a hard writing surface.

Set up the homework completion area for success:

  • Be consistent
  • Eliminate distractions
  • Maintain homework tools:
    • pencils, pens, colored pencils, highlighters
    • paper
    • tape, glue stick
    • hole punch, scissors
    • ruler, calculator
    • miscellaneous items that your student may need

Monitor but don't get involved in the routine completion of homework. The goal is for your student to become independent. While students may need more direct help to set up a routine at the beginning of the school year, slowly decrease your support.

Learn the work cycle of your student and when students need a break. Breaks can happen at certain time intervals or after certain goals are accomplished. Just make sure breaks are taken before students reach points of frustration.

Give positive feedback. Make a point to talk about the things your student is doing well and praise their effort not just their accomplishments.

Expectations. Talk to your student about getting to know their teachers' expectations. Each teacher may have a slight variation of their expectations. Make sure your student knows what these are. If a teacher does not provide a hand-out at the beginning of the year (or for each assignment) listing basic expectations, encourage your student to ask for one.

Use the notes. If your student doesn't understand something, encourage them to look in their notes. Notes are the best way to get information from what happened in class. Asking your student to reference their notes encourages them to take better notes, see potential places they could improve their note-taking, and become more independent learners.

It's still not working. If students still have questions, encourage them to email their teacher.

Don't do it for them! 

gail kent headshot

Gail Kent, an academic advisor, has been a teacher and tutor at Landmark for 20 years.

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Tags:  dyslexia education Executive Function homework homework help Landmark School language-based learning disabilities LBLD learning differences learning disabilities learning style tips for parents

Tips for Parents: Working with Your LBLD Student, Part 2

Date Posted:  Thursday, April 14, 2016

smiling family using laptop

By Brett Hall

Landmark’s Six Teaching Principles™ give teachers guidelines to enrich their lessons and ultimately increase positive student outcomes. In my twelve years at Landmark High School, they have proved helpful time and time again when working with students in and out of the classroom. As a parent, they come in handy at home as well. Although I could reflect on all six, for now I would like to share principle number one:

Provide Opportunities for Success.

Many parents provide opportunities for success naturally at the initiation of a task or event. For example, they might prepare a child for a long car ride by bringing toys, activity books or an iPad. They might get a child ready for a doctor’s appointment by talking through the various tools that the doctor may use or help coach an older student for a college interview with practice questions. All these efforts are made with the hope of increasing the child’s ability to be successful. However, I would like to suggest going beyond the first step when thinking about how you can increase positive outcomes for your children. These following ideas may help your child who learns differently:

  1. Help your child think through all the steps of a process and provide cuing for each step of the task.  
  2. As you structure a day, event or activity, build in time for processing, reflection and rest.
  3. Give specific steps in order and one at a time to lessen working memory demands.
  4. Use visual reminders and technology.  

Don’t forget that day-to-day structure and routine are important constants in a child’s life; although there will naturally be disruptions to the schedule, it is important to balance these disruptions and prepare for them.

If your child learns differently, odds are they have had their fair share of disappointment academically or even at home. By providing them opportunities to genuinely experience success, they get a taste of it and dopamine releases in the brain. This chemical reaction feels good and they want more. That motivation for more success encourages growing independence and as parents, isn’t that our goal? You are the child’s primary teacher. Take every opportunity you can to “provide opportunities for success.”

brett hall headshot

Brett Hall is the Reading Department Head at Landmark High School. Since joining Landmark's faculty nearly twelve years ago, he has taught one-on-one tutorials, small group reading classes, worked as an Academic Advisor, and taught professional development workshops through Landmark's Outreach program. He is also the proud dad of two girls.

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Tags:  cuing dyslexia Landmark School Landmark’s Six Teaching Principles language-based learning disabilities LBLD learning differences learning disabilities Opportunities for success Parent tip routine self-esteem structure Success at home teaching principles tips for parents

Tips for Parents: Working with Your Student with LBLD, Part 1

Blog Type:  Learning Disabilities Date Posted:  Friday, April 8, 2016

How to get your child chatting: beyond “How was your day?”

By Linda Gross, M.A., CCC-SLP

It’s a fact: parents want to know about their child’s day. We want to know about their classes, their social life, and what they ate for lunch. Children with language-based learning disabilities (LBLD) often have trouble answering the usual flood of questions that parents so lovingly ask. This can turn the ride home into a painstaking exchange. Students with LBLD may have language formulation difficulties or an auditory processing disorder that makes it challenging to respond to parents’ questions.

I bet this dialogue sounds familiar.

Parent: “How was your day?”
Child: “Okay.”
Parent: “What did you do today?”
Child: “Nothing.”
Parent: “Did you ask Mr. Smith about the Algebra homework that you didn’t understand and did you sign up for soccer?”  
Child: “Huh?”
Parent: “Do you want to play a sport this season?”
Child: “I don’t know.” How can you get your child to share more about their day?

Try these four tips:

  1. Find out about their day by doing your own investigation. Perhaps your child’s school posts activities, events, or course links on their website or in a weekly newsletter.  Armed with this information, you can fine-tune your conversation and questions.  Maybe it could go something like this: “Who did you vote for in today’s student council election?”
  2. Avoid open ended and yes/no questions. The type of question you ask is key! Ask specific "Wh"-questions. For example, you could ask, “Who was your lab partner in science class today?” or “What kind of sandwich did you make for lunch?” Check out this link to Bloom’s Taxonomy for a hierarchy of questions.
  3. Allow time for your child to process the question and formulate a response.  Small moments of silence may mean that your child is thinking, even though it may appear that he’s ignoring you or didn’t hear you. Also, ask one question at a time; too much language at once can be difficult for your child to process.
  4. Use a multiple-choice format.  Some children have trouble sharing information due to word retrieval or memory difficulties.  For these children, a multiple-choice format works best.  For example, rather than asking, “Which sport do you want to play this fall?” You can ask, “Do you want to run cross country or play soccer?”

So, on your next ride home or at the dinner table, try following these tips. You may be surprised by the more meaningful conversations you’ll have with your children.

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About the Author Linda Gross, M.A., CCC-SLP – Landmark High School Speech-Language Pathologist/Consultant and Landmark Outreach Program Adjunct Faculty

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Tags:  auditory processing communication techniques dyslexia Landmark School language-based learning disabilities LBLD learning differences learning disabilities tips for parents

The Power of Self-Expression

Blog Type:  Learning Disabilities Date Posted:  Thursday, March 24, 2016

drawing of girl holding her ears

By Kimberly Hildebrandt as the summation of an interview with Beth Jamieson

In March, the Boston Globe announced its Scholastic Art Awards.  I was blown away by the technical skill and visual expression, but even more so for the depth conveyed through the art. I was particularly struck by an emotional series of charcoal pieces inspired by the phrase, “Something You Hide” (check out a few of the images in this post) from Landmark High School students, a school for students with language-based learning disabilities, such as dyslexia. Landmark had again won 22 “keys” and 20 honorable mentions. It made me wonder,“What about art makes these students come alive?”

Students with learning differences have, for most of their lives, been picked on, labeled, pulled apart, and made to feel so much worse than “different” in the place where they spend most of their waking hours: school. All the time, school is focused on how to fix them, not just their learning but their selves. The students often build a wall of self-protection, a wall that hides their real self.

The thing I love about art, and in particular the Landmark Art Department, is the powerful place it holds for those who struggle with feeling pulled apart. Art at Landmark is not only a safe place for students to explore themselves, it is one in which students are encouraged to take back ownership of and cultivate their self...and from that place, express.

So how is it done? How is this depth of self-expression and skill cultivated in students? And what can every school room learn through these student’s success?

When students walk through the doors of the Landmark art room, they are not only accepted as themselves, but encouraged to be themselves.  They are no longer labeled as someone with a learning difference who needs to be fixed. They are viewed as highly skilled and intelligent (a la Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences). The art room is a place of learning about both visual and self expression, and further learning how to critique not criticize. Students and teachers alike must work hard and give lots of helpful feedback.

drawing of three young adults

In speaking with Beth Jamieson, the co-chair of the art department at Landmark High School, I learned more about their teaching process. The staff must be knowledgeable, not only in their profession, but also in working with students with learning differences. They employ Landmark’s Six Teaching Principles in working with students. While art teachers don’t explicitly focus on the students learning differences, staff know how to break skill work into smaller, more manageable units, ask questions that are directed and not too open ended, push just the right amount so as to help students reach their pinnacle without breaking apart. Teachers cultivate an environment where mistakes are expected and are encouraged as part of the process; where struggle is healthy and is the path to a tangibly better product. 

While art is certainly not everyone’s strong suit, even for students with learning differences, this notion of healthy struggles, self acceptance, and “learning difference as strength” is key to building any students self-efficacy and love for learning. As an institution, Landmark celebrates and lifts up the creative brains of their students so students see how they matter beyond their difference and even because of it.

Kimberly Hildebrandt is the Social Media Coordinator for Landmark School. She joined Landmark in 2005 as a high school math teacher and taught Algebra and Pre-Calculus until 2015. She also worked for two years teaching math at New England Academy. She holds a Masters in Moderate Special Education from Simmons.

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Tags:  art art education boston globe confidence creativity dyslexia Howard Gardner Landmark School language-based learning disabilities LBLD learning differences learning disabilities Multiple Intelligences Scholastic Art Awards self expression self-esteem Six Teaching Principles

New Guidelines, Standardized Test Accommodations

Blog Type:  Learning Disabilities Date Posted:  Tuesday, January 12, 2016

boy struggling with text

By Janet Thibeau

For years, students with disabilities have been denied accommodations when taking the LSAT exam, even when they’ve submitted the proper paperwork. This year, that’s changed, and not just for the LSAT, but for all national standardized tests. This ruling has far-reaching implications for any student who will be taking a standardized test and requesting accommodations. If you are student or the parent of a student who will be taking a standardized test, it’s important to understand these guidelines, each testing entities’ process for requesting accommodations, and the appeal process to use if your request for accommodations is denied.

Background

In 2010, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) began an investigation into the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), the group that administers the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). In 2012, the Department of Justice intervened in the class action. They alleged widespread failure to accommodate exam takers with disabilities, even in cases where applicants had submitted proper paperwork and demonstrated a history of testing accommodations. In 2014, the lawsuit was settled, and on September 8, 2015, the Justice Department issued a technical advisory about standardized testing accommodations that applies to many of the most popular national tests.

What standardized tests are covered?

The advisory applies to exams administered by any private, state, or local government entity, including:

  • High school equivalency exams (such as the GED)
  • High school entrance exams (such as the SSAT or ISEE)
  • College entrance exams (such as the SAT or ACT)
  • Exams for admission to professional schools (such as the LSAT or MCAT)
  • Admissions exams for graduate schools (such as the GRE or GMAT); and
  • Licensing exams for trade purposes (such as cosmetology) or professional purposes (such as bar exams or medical licensing exams, including clinical assessments.)

Key points

Key points in the new advisory include:

  • Students who receive testing accommodations in school based on an IEP or Section 504 Plan should generally receive the same accommodations on standardized tests.
  • Students who receive informal accommodations should not be considered ineligible for accommodations on standardized tests.
  • Students who receive testing accommodations in a private school, without an IEP or Section 504, should generally receive the same accommodations on standardized tests.
  • High grades should not prevent a student from receiving accommodations. Students who perform well academically may still be entitled to test accommodations.
  • Students who receive accommodations on similar standardized and high-stakes tests should generally receive the same accommodations for additional tests. Documentation of previous accommodations should be sufficient.
  • Documentation used to support a request for testing accommodations must be reasonable and limited to what is needed to determine diagnosis and the need for accommodations. Acceptable documentation should include recommendations from medical professionals, proof of previous accommodations, and observations of educators.
  • Testing entities should defer to documentation from a qualified professional who has made an individualized assessment of the candidate that supports the need for the requested testing accommodations.
  • A testing entity must respond in a timely manner to requests for testing accommodations so as to ensure equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities.
  • Testing entities should report accommodated scores in the same way they report scores generally. Flagging policies that impede individuals with disabilities from fairly competing for and pursuing educational and employment opportunities are prohibited.

ADA Testing Accommodations

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About the Author

Janet Thibeau works for Barlow Thibeau & Associates Education as a college consultant and educational advocate. She is the President-elect of MABIDA, the Massachusetts Branch of the International Dyslexia Association. Janet and her husband Jim have five children, four who have dyslexia. One of her children is a Landmark School alum and another is a current Landmark student.  

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Tags:  Accommodations ACT dyslexia GED Landmark School language-based learning disabilities LBLD learning differences learning disabilities SAT standardized testing testing accommodations

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