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Just Effective Teaching

Blog Type:  Teaching Date Posted:  Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Submitted by Bill Barrett

Although it is almost 16 years ago, I can still remember the feeling I had entering my first public school teaching job.  I was hired to teach four sections of 9th grade Civics classes and one section of an 11th grade honors US history class.  Mainstream regular ed and honors classes with a mix of students, some of which were on IEP’s.  This had been my goal at the time…to take my six years of Landmark experience and a graduate degree and attempt to effectively reach a wide audience of students while at the same time continue my work with students with language-based learning disabilities (LBLDs) in a mainstream public school setting. Approaching a class of 28 students, six of whom were on IEP’s (picture a Landmark class with an additional 22 students) made me immediately realize the importance of structuring my approach to make sure my students' skills and organization were up to par.  Content would absolutely have its place, but as a vehicle for critical thinking and most importantly, skill development.  Somewhat because of my inexperience in this setting, I began to fall back on some of the strategies I had learned in my six previous years at Landmark.  I will admit that I first used these strategies to buy myself some time as I began to get to know my students and gain a handle on the needs of my classes.  I had assumed during those first three weeks that I would move on from some of my tried and true Landmark strategies into a different realm of pedagogy more suited to a mainstream public school environment.

What I found out very quickly is that the strategies I had used during my time at Landmark were not just Landmark strategies…they were effective teaching and learning strategies for all student skill levels. As a teacher, the act of doing things such as putting an agenda on the board every day, using multi-modals as opposed to strict lecture, structuring writing through templates and outlines, giving credit for participation and organization, emphasizing test review as much as the test itself, teaching note taking as opposed to only dispensing “important” information, taking time to check on and reward notebook organization and break down specific tasks were strategies that benefited all of my students, not just the students with learning differences.

It remains my belief as an educator that when you assist in helping students acquire and learn the necessary skills with which they can access content knowledge on their own while also rewarding the attributes they bring such as cooperation and self-advocacy, you are providing them with a greater gift…the gift of control.  The ability to see themselves as a partner in the learning process engaged in the development of their own skills and not just an empty vessel waiting to be filled with knowledge.  In the end that doesn’t just represent Landmark teaching – it represents effective teaching, and worthwhile learning.

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Bill Barrett is the director of Faculty Recruiting and Teacher at Landmark School

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Tags:  effective teaching IEP language-based learning disabilities LBLD learning strategies self-advocacy Teaching Strategies

Accessing Learning Disability Services in College

Blog Type:  College Prep Date Posted:  Friday, December 15, 2017

student working with a college counslor

By Grace Daley

When you make the transition from high school to college, many parts of life will change. Maybe you’ll go to school in a new county, province, state, or country. Certainly, your schedule will be different than anything you've experienced. You’ll make new friends. Your teachers will be called “Professor.” You’ll likely have more homework.

Despite these changes, you, the student, will still be you. If you had a hard time waking up in high school, the same will be true in college. If you loved to read before bed, you will want to do the same as a freshman at university. And if you have a language-based learning disability (LBLD) and academic accommodations helped you in high school, they will certainly help you in college as your disability will remain with you. The difference is, in college, your disability becomes solely your responsibility.

Accommodations Offered at the College Level

You should ask yourself: What accommodations are available and how do I access them? All schools have slightly different accommodations; those available for students with LBLD often include the following:

  • Extended time on exams
  • A distraction-reduced environment for exams
  • A notetaker
  • Permission to audio-record lectures
  • Texts in audio format
  • Executive functioning coaching

All colleges have slightly different processes for requesting accommodations, but they all require students to provide documentation of their disability. As you’re thinking about beginning your college career, there are some proactive steps you can take to make sure you receive the help you need as soon as you start class.

Have updated documentation. The disability services office at a college or university must base its determination of accommodations on recent documentation of a significant need from a licensed professional. Many colleges won’t accept an IEP or 504 plan alone as documentation of a disability. Neuropsychological or psycho educational testing within three years is acceptable, but testing in a student's senior year of high school is best. Check with the colleges or universities you are applying to about their preference.

Familiarize yourself with your school’s process. The college or university's disability website is a great place to start. Send them an email or give them a call if you’re still unsure of the steps. Ask how soon you can begin receiving accommodations once you start.

Know what has worked in the past. Maybe using flashcards really helped you learn new vocabulary terms. Or perhaps it helped to make margin notes on your readings, tests, and quizzes in order to process the information. You have been given a whole toolkit of strategies that have helped you get the most out of your education. The ability to apply these strategies and advocate for help acquiring similar accommodations can make this challenging transition smoother.

Meet the people who can help you. When you arrive on campus for accepted students’ day or orientation, visit the disability services office. This can be a scary step for some, and sometimes it is easier if you go with your parents or a friend. Just remember, this office exists to support your learning needs and they want to help. Lots of aspects of your life will change in college, but you will be the constant. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Use strategies that you’ve learned and don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself. Grace Daley is the Student Services Coordinator at Boston University's Office of Disability Services.

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Tags:  Accommodations college accommodations language-based learning disability self-advocacy

Overcoming Anxiety in the Classroom

Blog Type:  Social and Emotional Issues Date Posted:  Friday, November 16, 2018

landmark school student advocates

This is the third post in a five-part series about students, stress, and anxiety. The first article is an overview of anxiety, the second looks at a relaxation program for elementary and middle school students, the fourth explores how mindfulness can reduce anxiety. and the fifth covers the relationship between language-based learning disabilities and anxiety.

By Via Valenti

Being a student with anxiety, adjusting to new classrooms, a new environment, and delving into a social life isn’t always easy. Before my acceptance into Landmark for my sophomore year of high school, I attended eight schools with the hope that one would be the right fit for me and my learning style and a suitable place to help keep my anxiety under control. None of them were. Fortunately, Landmark came into the picture and became my academic home. The school altered the course of my future and taught me how to be an advocate inside and outside the classroom not only for myself but also for others struggling with anxiety. 

As a sophomore at Bryant University, I wish I could say that I’ve mastered how to deal with classroom nerves and social anxiety. However, that’s not completely true. I still struggle with anxiety, years after making strides toward overcoming its dominant presence in my life. But my time at Landmark allowed me to make significant progress from where I was. Landmark taught me how to utilize my resources, be an advocate for myself, and to persevere even if it feels impossible.

Taking Advantage of Resources in College

My freshman year, I lived in Bryant’s wellness housing, a substance-free dorm that fit my lifestyle and allowed for a more quiet living space that made me feel at home. For my academics, I have weekly appointments with disability services, a resource on campus for students who struggle with academic challenges like dyslexia or anxiety. I meet one- on-one with a learning specialist to talk about my classes, and we spend time adjusting my in-classroom accommodations, such as extra time for assignments and exams and a separate testing area to alleviate nerves.

Everything I learned at Landmark still holds true today: I advocate for myself by meeting with my professors, I get involved and meet new people, and I’m certainly not afraid to be different.

Via’s Strategies and Tips to Control Anxiety

  • Find an activity that calms you. I really, really enjoy yoga classes.
  • Stay involved on campus. Being social and talking to people can help alleviate a lot of anxiety because it keeps you distracted and absorbed in your commitments, so you don't have time to worry!   
  • Music is really helpful when you get bad thoughts or start to overthink;  it can help distract you. Verbalizing the lyrics out loud can change your brain’s thinking to focus on the lyrics rather than the thoughts you’re having.
  • I always take an hour out of every day for "me" time. Life is really overwhelming, and if you don't stop and take a few minutes to yourself, you will go crazy with your thoughts.

There are some days when your anxiety will be worse than others, and there are other days your anxiety won’t get you down at all. I’ve learned that my success in college is not limited to just my good days. The bad days don’t keep me from pursuing my passions and involvement on campus, and they push me to face my anxiety, use my resources, and confront what’s out of my control. My anxiety is my biggest strength for teaching me about myself, and a weakness I have not let hold me back.


About the Author

via valenti headshot

Via Valenti graduated from Landmark High School in 2017. She's majoring in politics and law with a double minor in business administration and communications. She's active in several groups on campus.

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Tags:  anxiety college accommodations self-advocacy

The Voices of Students Like Me

Blog Type:  Learning Disabilities Date Posted:  Thursday, August 17, 2017 Byline:  By Natalie Tamburello

people marching protesting

When you think about social movements that you learned about growing up, what do you remember? What do you see in your mind’s eye? For a moment, reflect on your experience when you learned about the civil rights movement. Were you sitting at your desk in a darkened history classroom, watching Dr. King deliver his "I Have a Dream" speech? Were you at a museum, perusing photographs and listening to an audio tour about marches and demonstrations?

"Individuals with learning and attention issues need the opportunity to join together, share their experiences, serve as leaders, models, and mentors, and articulate a vision for a different future that we can all embrace."

How about the women’s rights movement? Do images of Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, or Margaret Sanger come to mind? When you think about the disability rights movement, are you reminded of people crawling up the steps of the Capitol Building in Washington D.C., or of parades of able-minded citizens in wheelchairs who were shut out of libraries, museums, and office buildings that lacked curb cuts and ramps? Now… close your eyes and think about the community of individuals with learning disabilities. What do you see?

Organizations have been fighting on behalf of individuals with disabilities, including learning disabilities, for more than 40 years. Yes, the protections of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) were put in place, and accommodations for those with learning and attentions issues have increased. Public perceptions have started to change, and we’ve seen improvements in high school and college graduation rates. However, I can’t help but ask myself, what is missing?

A Community Lacking a Movement

I was identified with a learning disability in first grade. Neither I, nor my parents, identified with the disability rights movement from the history books and documentaries produced. There was no community with which we could identify, no protest my family could take me to, no leader with similar experiences for me to look up to, no footage to watch about my community, no speeches to inspire me… nothing… just me and my parents sitting with a specialist, my newly minted documentation, and a box of tissues.

Alone and “disabled.”

I was asked to leave my first school. My parents were told: “This is not the right place for Natalie; we are unable to meet her needs here.” Removed from my friends and the school experience I learned to expect, I moved from one school to another, every three years, in search of an educational roadmap that didn’t yet exist for “my kind of learner.”

Throughout my educational journey I found others like me, learned how I learned best, became increasingly resilient and an effective self-advocate, enjoyed academic success, and volunteered for organizations that worked to improve the experience for students like me.

When it was time for me to choose a career path, I struggled. On the one hand, I wanted to enter the workforce as a successful student who happened to be dyslexic, and leave the dream of lending my voice to the disability rights movement behind. It was appealing to think about contributing to society and leading the “normal life” that I so desperately wanted, not letting my label or educational experiences dictate my career path.

On the other hand, there was no denying that the labels “disabled” and “dyslexic” had become a part of who I was, whether I liked it or not. I searched the landscape of organizations that fought for the rights of people with learning and attention issues, and realized that while all were fighting the good fight, not many of my peers with learning disabilities were leading the way.

Then I closed my eyes and remembered the social movements of the past, and realized what was missing and how I could fill that void. It was the voice of students like me who have lived the experience of learning differently. We, who were told, “you can’t,” “you won’t,” “you shouldn’t,” who were held back, graduated late, took tests in closets, transferred schools, dropped out of school, sat at the back of the classroom sweating, sat in the front of the classroom determined, stayed up all night trying, cried on our way to and from school, got that first A, read that first book on our own, told that first friend about the struggle. Those personal and emotion-filled experiences matter and make up an essential pillar of any successful social movement.

Disability Rights Movement on the Rise

At the start of any movement, there is a sense of urgency and unrest, and a core of individuals band together to right a wrong, correct an injustice, or implement changes that help to shape a just, equitable, and inclusive society. Powered by parents and shaped by lawmakers, the disability rights movement put policies and protections in place to ensure that every person with any disability was a valued and contributing member of his or her community.

I started on a journey to join a movement and represented a new generation of my community. I went to graduate school and did research so that I could talk the talk; I already knew how to walk the walk. I now work for the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD), one of the organizations that have been at the forefront of the disability rights movement representing people like me. Because of their work and the collaborative efforts of a handful of other remarkable organizations, individuals with learning disabilities now have real opportunities to develop advocacy skills, build self-confidence, and access the tools needed to succeed in a society that often overlooks the potential of individuals who learn differently.

I am now a proud member of the first wave of young adults who have benefited from these protections. And through this foundation, we have been able to find and develop a voice. I know that NCLD and other organizations working on behalf of people like me understand the power of student voices, but understanding how to incorporate our voices and stories and to utilize them to energize, personalize, and realize the movement, is a much more complicated task.

Even now, I think about that moment with my parents, the newly minted documentation, and the box of tissues and ask, “What could we do now as an organization, as a growing and outspoken community within the larger disabilities rights movement, to lift up and empower our voice? How do we replace the tissues with a soapbox and a megaphone, and how can we prevent shame and stigma from entering our storyline? How can we provide every 10-year-old, 13-year-old, 16-year-old, 18-year-old, 26-year-old like me with a platform, a place in this movement, and a sense of belonging, strength, and purpose?”

Yes, we need laws and regulations, but when we recall the social movements of the past, what do we see? We see the real voices, names, and faces of individuals who are living the experience. Individuals with learning and attention issues need the opportunity to join together, share their experiences, serve as leaders, models and mentors, and articulate a vision for a different future that we can all embrace.

As a young professional, every year that goes by distances me from the day-to-day student experience, and I have a deeper appreciation of the importance of integrating the voices of students even more now. I am proud to work for NCLD, an organization that is committed to integrating and lifting up student voices. NCLD is committed to ensuring that all programming is informed and guided by the very population we serve. In addition to our Student Voices Research and internship program, we have engaged young adult advisors, and incorporated their voices and perspectives in our strategic plan. These steps are just the beginning. I encourage all organizations currently working to defend and protect the rights of a population that is not yet fully integrated into the organization, to find a way to include the voices of those served. Consider asking yourself the question: “Who is the face of our mission?” And if that face isn’t sitting at the desk next to you, then we have work to do.

When I have children, my hope is that they will close their eyes, think about the disability rights movement, see my face, and the many faces of individuals with learning disabilities among a crowd of many.

This post was originally published on New Profit's website. Read the original post.

About the Author

Natalie Tamburello

Natalie Tamburello is on the Learning Resources & Research team at the National Center for Learning Disabilities.  

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Tags:  attention deficit hyperactivity disorder disability rights dyslexia dyslexia and professional success dyslexia awareness dyslexia legislation dyslexic community learning disabilities self-advocacy social movements

Academic Expectations & Self Advocacy: High School vs College

Blog Type:  College Prep Date Posted:  Thursday, June 28, 2018

Read more posts about Navigating the College Admissions Process for Students with Learning Disabilities


Making the leap from high school to college can be overwhelming for students. The transition can be easier if they know what to expect in college. This table outlines what is expected of students in high school and college in regard to academics and self-advocacy.

High School College
Most of the learning happens in the class. Homework supports the class experience. Most of the learning happens outside the class. Class work supports the outside learning experience.
Parents serve as advocates for students and work with teachers directly. Students must advocate for themselves.
Faculty and families establish study hall times and locations. Students must plan their own study times.
Homework is given on a daily basis. Students are given a syllabus with homework and assignments listed for the semester.
Teachers seek out students who need additional support and help. Students must find professors during office hours to get extra help and support.
Readings are discussed and reviewed in class. Professors assume students complete the reading and will ask any questions they have.
Teachers work to engage students in class discussion. Professors give opportunities for discussion but do not always prompt students who are reluctant to participate.
Teachers will often review information prior to a test. Professors expect students to review on their own and will teach until the day before a test.

Check out Landmark School's Transition and Guidance page to learn more about the transition to college and other post-secondary options.

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Tags:  Accommodations college admissions college advice self-advocacy

Executive Function 101: Independence

Blog Type:  Teaching Date Posted:  Monday, April 23, 2018

This is the fourth post in a five-part series about Executive Function. Each post includes downloadable templates to use at home and in the classroom. The first article is about managing time. The second addresses managing materials, the third addresses managing information, and the fifth finding balance between school and extra-curricular activities.

executive function templates room cleanup
Download the Room Clean-up and Daily Checklists. 

The ultimate goal to mastering executive function skills is achieving independence. This gives us the liberty to take on new challenges and thrive.

Once students have been introduced to the skills and strategies to manage, and in some cases, overcome executive function deficits, the goal is to push them to become independent learners. First and foremost, students achieve independence when they understand themselves, their strengths, weaknesses, foibles, and learning style. The next step is to take all of this information and make adjustments to best manage time, information, and materials, and to ultimately be a confident and effective self advocate


  • Practice new skills.
  • Build time into the day to reflect, update, prioritize, plan, review.
  • Refine skills to suit your learning style.
  • Know yourself.
  • Self advocate for your needs.

Support at Home

Most experts agree that families and guardians must listen to their students struggling with executive function deficits. They should encourage their students to master skills for school and home and practice them regularly. Robin Day-Laporte, the head of the Study Skills department at Landmark School, said, “As students encounter more opportunities for success and failure and as time passes and they grow up, their executive function skills are strengthened. Failure is okay—it appropriately challenges the brain and a child's character. Opportunities to fail help a child to develop problem-solving skills and build resiliency. "And as it relates to helping a child grow, develop, and eventually transition out of high school, I encourage parents to know their children, to watch and listen to figure out what they love and what truly brings them joy, and then to honor and cultivate that. If a child genuinely loves what they are doing, they are motivated. And motivation is a key component of executive functioning."



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Tags:  Executive Functioning executive functions learning style problem solving schedule self-advocacy
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