What Every Independent School Leader Should Know About LD

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Creating a Presence in an Independent School

Each independent school must determine the infrastructure of services for students with Learning Disabilities. Although it may seem fiscally prudent to provide lists of tutors, but no internal support, schools are then likely to loose some of the most creative, interesting, students who will mature into the divergent thinkers needed to solve the problems of the 21st Century. Although digital learners will provide one viewpoint into future problem solving, students who intrinsically must face the world with a perspective that is atypical of a more traditional learner, is more likely to see opportunities for solving problems.

I believe that  it is the independent school's social responsibility to provide opportunities for learning for students with learning disabilities as a growing resource for solving problems in the world today. The public sector is only able to provide support or accommodations based on very particular  guidelines, and many students to not meet the specific criteria required to access the services that are available.

To determine the possibilities at your school, begin looking at attrition and whether some students who are leaving could have stayed had they received learning support to accommodations.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Levels of Support and Current School Mindset

Most independent schools are considering increasing support for students with learning issues. Whether you have no learning specialists, a tutorial program, one learning specialist or an entire team, we are all tyring to provide the services that will help us keep great students in our schools.

But it is not just about the number of learning specialists that your school employs or the number of tutors. The community mindset is crucial and professional development to provide rich, engaging classroom experiences that level the playing field for students with Learning Disabilities is key.

First, determine your current level of support. Then determine the need in your school AND the resiliency of your community. Remember, having students with Learning Disabilities in your community can be like owning a hybred car...different and quite possibly better than the traditional models. We need the creative, divergent thinkers that students with non traditional learning styles provide in our classrooms.

Once you have determined the current need and mindset, choose your professional debvelopment to move you forward. Watch for the next post on great professional development for all stages of your school mindset.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Ten Questions To Ask Parents of Children with LD

Parents often choose an independent school for the entire family. They fall in love with the faculty, facilities, and community. They want a school home they can support, engage in, volunteer, and watch their children grow and learn.

However, when one of the children has learning needs, the family is in a quandary. Should they keep the child in the "family school" even though it is not the best fit? Perhaps the child's needs are significant enough to warrant remediation that a specialized school provides. If they choose the right school for each child, a schedule nightmare is likely to overtake family time.

Schools should ask parents to consider these questions to help determine the best fit:

1. Does the "family school" provide the kind of support the child needs during the school day?
2. Do you have the resources, time, and energy to engage in tutoring while attending the "family school"? Do you have the resources to provide for specialized school expenses?
3. What is your child's level of resiliency?
4. Will your child understand when peers are "getting it" and they are not?
5. Is your child motivated enough to work harder than siblings and peers, all of the time?
6. Will the school fully accept your child with the learning issues that have been identified?
7. Is there a behavioral component that might make interacting with other community members uncomfortable for you and your child?
8. Will your child make the gains he or she could possibly make in this school?
9. Would attending a school to remediate skills allow the student to return to the "family school" at some point in the future?
10. Will your child's self-esteem be more intact struggling at the "family school" or separated at the specialized school

Each family will need to make a decision based on multiple factors. Although friends can listen to parents as they play out the choices, the ultimate decision must be based on the parent's intuition and knowledge of their. Although decisions can be reversed, repairing self-esteem is a long and arduous process.

If independent schools provide support for students with Learning Disabilities, more families will find the scales are tipped in choosing the "family school."

Monday, December 28, 2009

Why Families Choose Independent Schools for Students with LD

Independent schools are a natural place for families with students with Learning Disabilities to seek an exceptional education for their child. Classes are small, teaching is viewed as rigorous, teachers are nurturing and truly know the children they teach. This is a perfect scenario for the parent who sees a smaller classroom as the "fix" for a child who has struggled to learn in a public school setting.

Others come to Independent Schools for support for students who wouldn't otherwise qualify given the strict codes of public school special education. Others prefer to avoid the labeling, IEP meetings, testing, and stigma that often comes with special education.

Independent schools can and should be the answer for many students who have mild learning issues but excel in other areas--the arts, specific academic areas, social leaders, athletics, and community service. The perseverence, resiliency, and self-understanding that a well-supported student with LD brings to a school can be life changing for the school as well as the student.