This week I sat down with two learning specialists and three students from The Swift School in Roswell, GA. This private school is one that focuses on the learning needs of high-potential students that are challenged with dyslexia, dyscalculia (problems with math), working memory issues, and others. Their learning environment is designed to help these children achieve their academic potential through smaller class sizes, teaching styles (such as Orton-Gillingham method) that take these various brain types and learning process needs into consideration.
As many as 1 in 5 children deal with some sort of learning challenge such as dyslexia, according to the learning specialists, Lisa Armorer and Carol Madden. We now know that these aren’t so much learning “disabilities” as “Brain Types”. As Carol explained, most kids dealing with dyslexia and some of these other challenges are “Right Brain” dominant. This affects the style of learning that is most effective for them and can have an impact on their behavior patterns to some extent as well. Many children are misdiagnosed as having behavioral “problems” when in fact they are actually exhibiting responses to frustration and/or anxiety because they are having trouble learning and they don’t understand why.
Lisa explained how Swift School’s learning approach differs from many “traditional” learning settings and how the strategies they employ take the child’s brain type and associated learning techniques into consideration. This empowers them to achieve academically at a high level and advocate for themselves as students as they return to middle schools and high schools in traditional class environments/teaching approaches.
I got to talk to two 5th graders, Mackenzie Day and Olivia Hall, and 8th grader, Grant Meyer. They shared their poignant stories about how it felt to be “different” from their peers as young students, watching them excel when certain (or all) concepts seemed so difficult for them. They talked about their experiences going to visit Swift School and what it was like to become “veteran” students once they’d been there for a while. Olivia, Mackenzie, and Grant also shared advice for peers in the community who might be considering Swift School as an option when a traditional setting is not helping them reach their academic potential.
Lisa Armorer shared this information with me:
Is your child bright but still struggling in school? It might not be laziness. It might be dyslexia.
Dyslexia affects 1 in 5 students today. Dyslexia is not just seeing words backwards. Dyslexia is a language-based learning difference and causes difficulty with reading, writing and spelling.
COMMON CHARACTERISTICS OF DYSLEXIA:
- Delayed spoken language
- Left/Right Confusion
- Difficulty rhyming words and sounds
- Poor sequencing of numbers and letters
- Difficulty sounding out, identifying, and spelling words
- Slow to memorize alphabet and math facts
- Avoids reading aloud.
- Difficulty with reading and comprehension.
For more information:
The International Dyslexia Association – www.interdys.org
Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators – www.ortonacademy.org
Lisa Armorer, Learning Specialist, Swift School
Carol Madden, Middle Division Director, Swift School
Grant Meyer, 8th Grade Swift Student, President, Student Counsil
Mackenzie Day, 5th Grade Swift Student
Olivia Hall, 5th Grade Swift Student