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Results tagged “learning differences” from Boarding School Blog - onBoarding Schools

Having worked their way into the open and everyday conversations and perspectives of education over the last couple of decades, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised by the latest wrinkle in the ADD and ADHD world of definition and treatment. We've certainly known that students with ADD/ADHD are more than capable of harnessing their talents and abilities; and, many are supremely talented.

The latest wave of ADD/ADHD dialog now takes the disorder beyond strategy and treatment- repackaging the diagnosis into a positive trait that some argue is a blessing. I'm left scratching my head. Why define, diagnose, and treat ADD/ADHD if it's such a valuable tool/perspective?

Framed by Michael Phelps, his ADHD status, and his unbelievable Olympic performance, Tara Parker-Pope highlights both sides of issue in her New York Times article, "A New Face for A.D.H.D., and a Debate."

The two perspectives (as told to Ms. Parker-Pope):

"It's not an unmitigated blessing, but neither is it an unmitigated curse, which is usually the way it's presented," said Dr. Hallowell, who has the disorder himself. "I have been treating this condition for 25 years and I know that if you manage it right, this apparent deficit can become an asset. I think of it as a trait and not a disability."

From the other side,

"This reframing A.D.H.D. as a gift, personally I don't think it's helpful," said Natalie Knochenhauer, founder of A.D.H.D. Aware, an advocacy group in Doylestown, Pa. "You can't have a disability that needs to be accommodated in the classroom, and also have this special gift. There are a lot of people out there -- not only do their kids not have gifts, but their kids are really struggling."

Ms. Knochenhauer, who has four children with the disorder, says they too were inspired by the astonishing performance of Mr. Phelps in Beijing. But she added, "I would argue that Michael Phelps is a great swimmer with A.D.H.D., but he's not a great swimmer because he has A.D.H.D."


Update: For those interested in learning more about the program, checkout my podcast, Cardigan Mountain School Introduces PEAKS, with Cardigan's Brian Beale, Associate Director of Admission, & Ryan Feeley, English Teacher & Summer Session Director.


During a visit to Cardigan Mountain School (an all-boys, junior boarding school in Canaan, NH),  I saw a school in the midst of implementing a new academic initiative. Personalized Education through the Acquisition of Knowledge and Skills  (PEAKS) will serve as a backbone for the school's academic life. Old standbys like study/learning skills and language lab- fee based services at most schools- will be incorporated into PEAKs and become part of every student's curriculum without extra fees. 

Focusing on study skills and teaching the different ways students learn, Cardigan expects PEAKS will provide each student with more control and insight into the ways that he learns- instilling an approach to learning that a student can use in any setting.  When entering or confronting a new environment, a student who's learned through PEAKS will have an idea of how to identify what he needs to and strategies that he might employ to work through the material. 

The program will be both highly accessible and supportive. Not only will students take formal PEAKS classes during the school day, they'll have opportunities throughout the afternoon & evening study hours for additional group sessions and one-on-one tutoring. 

At the end of their Cardigan experience, each and every graduate should prove well prepared to succeed carrying the abilities of self-recognition and self-sufficiency into their chosen secondary schools. You can read a brief description of the school's program below:

"Guided self-development is the cornerstone of the class, and its focus lies in helping each student, no matter his skill level, become a better learner and self advocate. In this course, students will be introduced to different types of learning styles and a variety of study skills. After identifying their own learning style(s), students will explore and practice effective study strategies for each type of learner. Upon completion of the course, students should be fully cognizant of what type of learner they are, be able to describe their learning style, and be able to both explain and execute relevant strategies that will be effective in their future educational pursuits."

Photo Credit: redjar
There are many different kinds of boarding schools in the United States. Some are highly academic and serve only exceptional and motivated students. Others are geared to working with the average to above student. And a few select schools work with children and adolescents with special needs which cannot be met by traditional or regular programs. These special needs schools can address a wide variety of disorders from Aspergers Syndrome to dyslexia to emotional problems. Some are college preparatory; others have a more transitional mission and are preparing their students for a return to the mainstream.

Families oftentimes find it a daunting task to identify the right boarding school for the "special" child. Websites and brochures don't give enough detailed information for a parent to make an informed decision. Current psychological and academic testing may be inconclusive so parents don't understand the problems or how to best treat them. Some families seek the counsel of an educational consultant to help them sort through the various options. Whether a family uses a consultant or searches on their own, it is vital to find the school that is the "right fit"; one that can address the child's unique learning style.

Close to 20% of the school age population are diagnosed with a learning difference. Most of these children have a problem using language and are said to have a language based learning disorder. Others have a non-verbal learning disability and struggle with some of the following: organizational difficulties, poor social skills, visual-spacial weaknesses, conceptual reasoning deficits. Many children have attentional issues and executive functioning deficits. Some LD students just need small classes, academic support and minor classroom accomodations; others whose LD issues are severe and more debilitating, need direct and intense skills-based language remediation. There is a significant difference between academic support and remediation. Boarding schools that offer support usually have a few LD trained teachers in tutorial center. Their role is to help the LD student keep up with what's happening in the classroom. On the other hand, remedial instruction is a structural approach to helping the child learn strategies to compensate for their weaknesses. Curriculums at these schools use a multisensory approach and experiental teaching strategies. All teachers at these schools are trained in using these techniques. It is very important for parents to understand the difference and to know what a boarding school can and can't do before placing their LD child.

The Greenwood School Featured on PBS



Looks like I'm a little late to the game on this one, but I wanted to bring attention to this segment on The Greenwood School that aired over the winter on PBS's National Education Report. Tom wrote about his visit to Greenwood's campus in an earlier post about junior boarding schools for LD students. The video acts as a perfect compliment to his observations about the school and the type of students it serves.

Here's a bit of background in case you're not familiar with The Greenwood School:

Greenwood is a boarding school in Southern Vermont dedicated to taking bright and talented boys with learning differences and learning disabilities (LD) such as dyslexia, attentional difficulties (ADD / ADHD), or executive functioning deficits and empowering them with the skills and strategies necessary to bridge the gap between their outstanding promise and present abilities.

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