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learning differences

Debate = Empowerment

Blog Type:  Learning Date Posted:  Thursday, May 14, 2015

Submitted by Caleb Koufman

landmark high school debate

When most people imagine the extracurriculars offered at a school for students with language-based learning disabilities​, such as dyslexia​, debate club is usually not among them. Just like any presumptions about their disabilities, though, students ​where I work as a teacher ​proved this one wrong, too.

It is my job to encourage students to question lessons and provoke discussions in a polite and articulate nature​ despite whatever learning difference they may have.​ ​After persistent student requests, and a bit of uncertainty on the part of the faculty, senior faculty member Bruce Stoddard and I started a debate team as an extracurricular activity at the school.

Junior ​William Cassilly and sophomore ​Kenneth Deluze comprised the first-ever​ debate team ​at Landmark School​. It was such a pleasure to witness any anxieties about debating melt during the initial speeches. Suddenly, finding their confidence, Kenny started slamming his fist onto the desk in front of him like a Manhattan courtroom lawyer as he accused the other team of conceding a point that they forgot to address, and Liam calmly and inquisitively cross-examined his opponent like a Southern legislator before making his final arguments during the final focus. ​

Despite what most people may think about students who inherently struggle with language, these students ​can be uniquely​ skilled at the most important aspects of debate.

​They value presentation and preparation and authentically appeal to judges. With strong verbal and logical reasoning, our debaters are able to diminish the effect of their learning disabilities and present a strong and confident demeanor at the podium. ​Despite their challenges with reading and writing, many of our students ​often ​have an affinity for compelling public speech and the ​new debate club allows ​them​ to realize this. ​ ​

The experience of learning how to debate requires acquiring new skills that are often outside of any student’s comfort zone. In general, most people dread public speaking. But debating also requires knowledge of how to take notes in shorthand and write persuasive cases that cite scholars, scientists, advocates, lawyers, judges, politicians, literature, and legislature. The most important part of debate, though, is the experience of confronting an intimidating challenge and succeeding. Debate is empowering to students, and we hope to watch the program grow in the future to incorporate more people with varying levels of experience.

This week we will be attending our​ third official debate at a competitive private school nearby. ​The topic is whether or not high schools, universities, and professional sports teams should ban the use of ethnic group images such as mascots and team names. There's no telling who will win or lose but the debate is sure to be inspiring, competitive, and the start of a new and exciting tradition.

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Caleb Koufman is a faculty member at Landmark High School.

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Tags:  Caleb Koufman compelling public speech confidence debate debate club disabilities dread public speaking dyslexia empowerment exciting tradition extracurricular activities Landmark School language-based learning disabilities learning differences logical reasoning persuasive cases

Life After Landmark

Blog Type:  Social and Emotional Issues Date Posted:  Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Submitted by Stephanie Johnston

All parents worry, but parents of children who learn differently worry a lot more.  From the time our son started school we worried.  There were vague worries: why isn’t he able to learn, respond promptly, organize himself, etc…There were specific worries: will he ever be able to tie a shoe? Read? Take independent responsibility for himself and his life?

Those of us who are able to get our child into the right academic setting are like survivors of a shipwreck clinging to the edge of a raft with our children safely in the middle. We watch from the sidelines as they gain academic and life skills in a uniquely supportive environment. We are sheltered from the storm for a short time, but always looming on our horizon is the bigger, impersonal world. The older your child becomes, the less accommodating the world at large becomes. The boy must become a man.

Leading up to the big transition from 8th to 9th grade, we worried ourselves sick that our son needed more time in his supportive school to build a foundation. What would happen if we pulled him out too soon? Yet, in the larger context, we knew he would have to make that transition – ready or not – and we timed it so he could enter high school with all of the other incoming freshmen; for better or worse he would be one of them.

When the first day of high school arrived my fervent prayer was that he would “cope and pass”. Our son is a man of few words, but I can tell a lot by his body language. He was waiting with a group of students at pick-up time; he sauntered over to the car loose, jaunty, relaxed… and hungry. The first day was great. Now, halfway through his freshmen year, he is an honor student at a preparatory high school. Some things are harder for him than others. His learning differences are still there but he owns them with an easy confidence. He is fine.

After all these years of intense, urgent, appropriate worry “all of a sudden” it’s coming together for him. When he was at Landmark we parents all worried together. Every child is so different that no two journeys will be the same. Many parents of older children offered me encouragement, telling me our son would be fine, but I was too worried and the future was too murky for me to relax. Now we can see the four years of intense support and instruction that he received at Landmark laid a wonderful foundation for success. Were it not for that, he wouldn’t be where he is now. So with tremendous relief and gratitude, I can say yes, there is life after Landmark and it’s good.

Stephanie Johnston is a parent of a former Landmark School student.

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Tags:  academic skills Landmark School learn differently learning differences life skills preparatory school Stephanie Johnston supportive environment transition to high school

Tips for Parents Who Suspect Their Child Has a Learning Disability

Blog Type:  Learning Disabilities Date Posted:  Friday, September 14, 2018

teacher working with student

By Ann Andrew

Parents know their children better than anyone else and can usually sense if something isn’t quite right with them physically, emotionally, or academically. If you suspect that your child has a learning disability, then it’s very likely there is one. I know this from experience. As an elementary school student, my oldest son struggled in school, particularly with reading. An intelligent boy, I assumed his difficulties stemmed from some sort of learning disability. He was diagnosed with dyslexia in 2011 (my two other sons were subsequently also diagnosed with dyslexia), and since then I have devoted myself to helping students with language-based learning disabilities (LBLD). LBLDs fall under the broader category of specific learning disabilities (SLD), and dyslexia is the most common SLD, according to the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

"A child who read for 20 minutes a day is exposed to 1.8 million words a year."

Be Honest With Your Child

Your child knows they’re different. Don't try to hide what you know or suspect from them. A parent who keeps the information from them leaves the child feeling like the parent is ashamed of the child's learning difference. Your child will also benefit from speaking to a professional (neuropsychologist, school psychologist, therapist with a comprehensive understanding of LDs) once—or many times. Children need to have at least a basic understanding of the science behind how we learn to acquire language—read, and write. They need to hear from as many adults as possible that they are not “broken” or “dumb.”

Early Signs of Dyslexia and Other LBLDs

If you struggled to read (or do math or write), it's quite possible that you also have a learning disability that went undiagnosed. Parents with dyslexia have a 40-60 percent chance of having children with dyslexia—a clear early warning sign that your child may have an LBLD. Your hatred of a subject is probably borne from not being taught in a manner that was accessible to your learning style or disability.

Oral (expressive) language deficit: It’s a warning sign if you have a chit-chatting toddler who is making indecipherable sounds and words or seems challenged by learning new words.

Auditory (receptive) language deficit: Ask questions if a doctor has diagnosed your child with ADHD without addressing the possibility of an LBLD or an auditory processing disorder. Children with ADHD have the ability to process language, while children with an LBLD have a weakened ability in this area. Their slower processing of language impedes their capacity to comprehend spoken language. For these children, it is not an “inattention issue.” To complicate matters it's very common to see comorbidity (the presence of more than one distinct condition) of ADHD and dyslexia together.

Executive functioning deficits: Difficulties with attention, organization, and self-regulation are often comorbid with LBLD.

Social skills deficits: Often excused as “developmental delays,” social skills deficits can also be comorbid with learning disabilities. Ask your child’s preschool teacher if they play appropriately in school. Have they progressed from parallel to cooperative play successfully? Are they well liked by their peers or often misunderstood? Observe your child at school and see how other children interact with them in that setting. Children with dyslexia and other LBLDs can present symptoms of depression, anxiety, oppositional behavior, or disengaged behavior, in school and/or at home, which can be effects of being misunderstood or repeatedly asked to do something they do not have the skill yet to accomplish.

Facts vs Myths

Myth: Boys develop slower.
Fact: It’s not scientifically proven that one gender develops faster than the other.

Myth: We should wait and see what happens with our struggling children. “Teacher so-and-so is really good at helping kids who are struggling to read."
Fact: With early, intensive, and evidence-based intervention and instruction, children with dyslexia and other LBLDs can learn to read like their non-dyslexic peers.

Myth: Accommodations or modifications are sufficient for children with LBLDs.
Fact: Dyslexia and other LBLDs can be remediated. The longer you wait to obtain the diagnosis, the harder and more expensive it is to remediate. Accommodations or modifications without a diagnosis will not unlock your child’s potential.

Myth: People with dyslexia will never enjoy reading.
Fact: Many, many individuals with dyslexia love to read and are voracious readers. A child who reads for 20 minutes a day is exposed to 1.8 million words a year. These words help to foster a love of learning, the belief that you can dream big and achieve those goals, and confidence to make a smooth transition to college, employment, and independent living.

Parent To Do List

No two children share the same learning profile, so there’s no one-size-fits-all path to diagnosis and services. Based on my experience, here are my suggestions on how to navigate the special education landscape.

Initial diagnostic evaluations Obtain a full audiological and full vision evaluation (not a screening by the pediatrician or the school) prior to or in conjunction with any evaluation for LBLDs. Note that some advocates suggest that the child has the vision evaluation before any other testing. In addition, neuropsychologists can test for auditory processing issues and recommend a full audiological evaluation if they feel one is necessary.

If you are going to have your school district evaluate the child, be sure to put in writing that you are requesting the audiological evaluation for hearing and auditory processing be conducted by an audiologist, a vision and visual processing evaluation by an ophthalmologist, and a full neuropsychological evaluation by a neuropsychologist. This will give you a stronger opportunity to exercise your right to these types of professionals as independent evaluators if you feel the district fails to provide a comprehensive, accurate, and complete report for all areas of suspected need.

Note that school districts are required to administer a psychoeducational evaluation on request. Some may also perform a neuropsychological evaluation under certain circumstances. In a perfect world, your district would comply with all of your requests. However, few have the resources to provide the extensive testing your child may need.

You can request that the neuropsychologist observe your child over multiple days and in multiple settings (not just school), as well as attend the IEP meetings to present the report, discuss recommendations, and participate in the formulation of the IEP in the consent request. It’s unlikely that practitioners at large hospitals comply with this request, but some in private practice may.

Also, on the consent form for the neuropsychological evaluation or incorporated by reference as an attachment, document in detail all of your areas of concern—no matter how trivial they may seem. For example, a young child who doesn’t regularly turn when their name is called may have a social, hearing, or processing deficit.

From my personal experience, I recommend that your child have a neuropsychological evaluation administered by an independent neuropsychologist. Check with your insurance company to see if they cover these claims. Many will cover some, but not all, of the expense. In my opinion, this ensures that you are getting the full picture of whether or not your child is making progress, if your child has a disability, if so which one(s), how they should be remediated, at what pace you should expect results, etc.

To make sure that the evaluations are perceived as authentic and representative of the child’s entire presentation, urge private evaluators to observe the child outside of the clinical setting, collect input from the district, incorporate and correlate historical data points, provide exacting recommendations to the extent possible, and attend your IEP meeting to present the report, provide assistance during the eligibility determination, and participate in the IEP development.

Annual progress-monitoring evaluations Many schools will not conduct annual progress evaluations unless they are requested. Some evaluators will ask to see the child one year later to follow up. Schedule it on the day of the initial evaluation. Repeat key evaluations annually to cross check progress.

Tips for the IEP Meeting

Parents are the experts at the individualized education plan (IEP) meeting when it comes to their child, but to be credible we need to be aware of the laws, the academic standards, and the methodologies that will be effective for our child. Here are some tips for your IEP meeting.

  • If possible, bring an advocate to your IEP meetings.
  • It’s okay—even valuable—to record meetings.
  • Don’t sign anything except the attendance page.
  • Do not sign that you have received the meeting notes. You are not required to do so in order to obtain a copy. No matter what you write on the notes, your signature will be represented by the district as your agreement with the accuracy and completeness of what was written.
  • Follow up in writing. Keep records of all correspondence.
  • Invite your principal to attend meetings.

Key Components of the IEP For every accommodation on an IEP, there should be a corresponding IEP goal, which is designed to build the skill that is missing and thus replace the need for an accommodation. Accommodations are never a substitute for teaching.

How IEP goals are measured is one of the most critical aspects of an IEP. Without solid forms of measurements that are quantifiable and standardized in nature, any teacher can say a child is "making progress" while the student is instead floundering or even regressing.  

School district's can and do provide one-to-one special education instruction to students outside of school hours—even on weekends—in order to meet the needs of the student whose parents vigorously advocate.

If your child has met all of their goals and is within average range percentile-wise of grade level, then the IEP is working. Just because a child can see when we put glasses on them doesn't mean we can take away the glasses. It means we continue on the same path of intervention we were on to ensure the continued growth.  

The road for parents of children with a learning disability is very rarely smooth. It requires time, persistence, and patience. Your dedication is well worth the effort when you watch your child(ren) transform from struggling students to thriving, enthusiastic learners. Trust your gut and take action.

Related Resources:

About the Author

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Ann Andrew is a parent, educator, and advocate with a passion for helping students with language-based learning disabilities. Cynthia Moore, of Advocate Tip of the Day™, contributed to this blog post.]]>

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Tags:  ADHD auditory processing dyslexia awareness Executive Functioning expressive language IEP individualized education plan language-based learning disability learning differences learning disability neuropsychological evaluation oral language social skills specific learning disability

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

May Is Better Hearing and Speech Month

Blog Type:  Teaching Date Posted:  Thursday, May 5, 2016

line drawing of an ear

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

In recognition of May Is Better Hearing and Speech Month here are some classroom tips to help students. While these tips are meant for the classroom, they can be applied in almost any setting.

  • Avoid asking, “Do you understand?” or “Does that make sense?” Rather, ask students to repeat or paraphrase the information to ensure comprehension.
  • Ask students to describe an action or object, if they are struggling to retrieve a word or concept.
  • Provide specific feedback to students about their social communication (pragmatic language) skills.
  • Provide graphic organizers and/or word banks to help students brainstorm and organize their thoughts prior to a discussion.
  • Reduce background noise whenever possible! Background noise can distract students with ADD, it can make processing of verbal information challenging for students with CAPD, it can cause sensory overload for students with a SPD
  • Ask students to repeat instructions silently (also known as reauditorization or subvocalization) to aid with memory

For more information about speech, language, and hearing development and disorders: American Speech, Language, and Hearing Association (ASHA).
Here are a few Interesting fast facts from the ASHA website:

  • Studies have shown that teachers are 32 times more likely to have voice problems compared to similar occupations.
  • 40 million Americans have communication disorders, costing the U.S. approximately $154–$186 billion annually.
  • 6 million–8 million Americans have some form of language impairment.
  • Approximately 36 million Americans have some degree of hearing loss.

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

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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! 

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

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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.”

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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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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

The Flipped Classroom for the LBLD Student

Blog Type:  Teaching Date Posted:  Friday, February 26, 2016

flipped classroom graphic

By Kimberly Hildebrandt

If you are an educator, you have probably heard of the Flipped Classroom. It is all the rage right now, and for good reason. The concept is simple, though the implementation can be quite varied. Here’s the big idea: Students learn content at home then come into class to practice, workshop, discuss, or work one-on-one with the teacher.

The flipped classroom isn’t really a new thing. Plenty of teachers have sent students home to learn new content from reading a text and then come to class to discuss. But, as people with language-based learning disabilities know, reading from a text is not accessible to all people and certainly does not always capture the essence of a lesson.

Technology has made the flipped classroom accessible to many more people. Today, “flipped classroom” has become synonymous with short video lectures or online manipulatives. Students then come to class to discuss the ideas they discovered in the lecture, practice new concepts with peer and teacher support, or further a project. The flipped classroom allows for more peer-to- peer and student-to-teacher interaction, something helpful to all students but particularly those who struggle in school. And making short videos lectures has never been easier. As long as you don’t mind the lectures being a little rough around the edges, a lecture takes hardly any more time to record than it does to actually give. Edutopia has a series of great videos (much more polished than my own) explaining the Flipped Classroom and the tech you need to do it. But remember, the flipped classroom is not the same as technology. As Edutopia would say, “We think the flipped classroom is a pedagogical solution with a technological component.”

While making your own videos ensures that students get consistent vocabulary and seamless instruction, you don’t have to make your own videos to start using the flipped classroom. Nor do you have to employ a flipped classroom ALL the time. START SMALL. Do a short unit using carefully curated videos or even just one lesson. And remember, if something goes wrong the first time around, give it a second chance.

So go ahead, give it a try! I think you’ll like it. Want to know more about the flipped classroom? Take a look at these resources:

(Note: ALWAYS preview a video before assigning it to students.)

  • Hardware and Software to make a video tutorial
    • I used an iPad and bContext app (though there are many interactive whiteboard apps available, I like bContext’s ability to upload documents from Google Drive and then upload videos directly to YouTube, which is where I shared videos with students)
    • My colleague used a document camera or an iPad as a document camera (with iPad stand like this one and iPevo app).
  • Always have students do something while watching a video:
    • Fill out a template
    • Answer questions
    • Take two-column notes
    • Play Posit - Online software which allows a teacher to upload a video and create pauses with a question for students to answer before moving on in the video. This is a super cool site!

What are your experiences with the flipped classroom? Have specific questions? Want to know more about how the flipped classroom plays out with students with language-based learning disabilities? Respond to this post and join the conversation!

Hildebrandt 800 wide

Kimberly Hildebrandt was a math teacher for 10 years at the Landmark School and is currently their social media coordinator.

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Tags:  edutopia flipped classroom Landmark School language-based learning disabilities LBLD learning differences learning disabilities Teaching Strategies two-column notes video lecture

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