Understanding and Accepting

Last week I completed the exam accommodation schedule for our students at Forman School. It was enlightening to see that students who were once resistant to taking an exam in the library for a distraction free environment or in the computer lab where they would have access to a word processor to compose essays were now readily signing up for the services they needed. Students are no longer ashamed to ask for accommodations or deny they need them. In our Learning Center, Learning Specialists begin the school year planning demystification sessions for each of their students. Following discussions of a student’s strengths, the Learning Specialist leads the student into understanding his neurodevelopmental profile and its impact on school performance. Gradually the student becomes comfortable talking about his learning profile and acknowledging the fact that he may need accommodations in the classroom and when taking examinations. It may take some students longer than others to understand and accept the nature of their learning problems, but with careful guidance and support of their Learning Specialist, most, if not all, students learn and apply strategies to perform better in school and will advocate for needed accommodations without fear of being ridiculed or “different.” Acceptance is the key.

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“The Language”

Since our intensive training in the Schools Attuned Program, Subject Specialist Path, which earned faculty a certificate two summers ago, all Learning Specialists at Forman School now use the neurodevelopmental terms in the Learning Profile write-ups which they compose for each of their students before classes begin. This one page Learning Profile provides a “snapshot” of the student that includes his/her learning strengths, challenges, affinities, and necessary accommodations. These profile pages are given to parents, classroom teachers, college advising staff, and other professionals who need access to this information. Learning Specialists are also asking that students use the neurodevelopmental terminology when articulating their learning needs. As a faculty, we are making a conscientious effort to include this specific language in the comments we write home to parents each term. The problem we are facing is that oftentimes parents and educators do not fully understand what is written in the learning profiles because they never had the All Kinds of Minds training. Students are also experiencing difficulty learning the terminology. Forman is a high school which specializes in teaching only those students having learning differences. Do you believe using this technical language makes our reports more accurate, or should we write in layman’s terms?