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    #246409 - 12/05/19 07:01 AM Thoughts on specialized schools?
    MBenedetti Offline
    Junior Member

    Registered: 11/13/19
    Posts: 5
    Hello everyone! I would love to get people's thoughts or experiences with schools that specialize in working with kids with stealth dyslexia (and 2E) students. We're applying to some schools (Athena Academy - not to be confused with Athena's Advanced Academy and possible with Charles Armstrong). We are currently homeschooling and have really enjoyed our (short) experience with it but 1.) we feel like our son is missing out on the social aspect of school 2.) teachers in his 1x a week classes don't really get a chance to know him and it helps to know him 3.) we learned of his "E" stealth dyslexia tendencies after we decided to homeschool. We feel like it would be better for him to learn in an environment where he gets help daily and it's integrated into his curriculum (vs therapy once or twice week.) Has anyone had their child in a school that caters to kids with dyslexia and did you feel it was a positive experience? Thank you! (I posted on FB DIG and 2E as well so my apologies if this is a repeat for some!)

    #246424 - 12/06/19 12:01 PM Re: Thoughts on specialized schools? [Re: MBenedetti]
    aeh Online   content

    Registered: 04/26/14
    Posts: 3606
    I have not, but I'll comment on homeschooling dyslexic children. There are a number of resources available for remediating dyslexia, including relatively affordable homeschool-friendly curricula, such as the Orton-Gillingham-inspired Logic of English, All About Reading/Spelling, and Barton. HELPS is a low-cost intervention for reading fluency. LoE and AAR/S call for 20-30 minute sessions, 3-5 days a week, and HELPs is typically 10-20 minutes/2-3 days a week. (If you can find a tutor to do Wilson, that's also an excellent program, with both an OG phonics intervention, and a paired fluency program. But pricey, and pretty time-intensive. Ideally, it should be something like 45-60 minutes 4-5 days a week.)

    As to the social aspect of school: is partial/hybrid homeschooling an option in your district? Some districts will allow students to participate in portions of the school week, and homeschool for the remainder of their subjects. Or look at afterschool/extracurricular programs frequented by his school friends.

    #246426 - 12/06/19 03:21 PM Re: Thoughts on specialized schools? [Re: MBenedetti]
    Pemberley Offline

    Registered: 08/07/11
    Posts: 733
    Welcome. You don't mention the age of your child. I'll fill you in on our experience. Hopefully you will find some of it useful.

    DD was identified the summer between K and 1st grade. Old school special ed teacher at local public used a variety of programs. DD kept "outpacing the program" so she jumped around doing whatever she thought would help most. After 2nd grade we made the decision to outplace her to a special ed school. Not thrilled with the peers but small (5-1) ratio and intensive intervention made it worthwhile. The school offered enrichment but it wasn't really enough to meet her needs so we did a ton outside of school. One thing they did do that helped A LOT was radical subject acceleration in her area of biggest strength - placed her in an 8th grade English class (using audio books) as a 3rd grader then started 1-1 HS English as a 4th grader.

    Here she had a young, recently graduated reading interventionist who insisted on choosing one program and implementing it with fidelity. This meant daily Wilson intervention. It took until 3rd grade for her to read at kindergarten level. By 5th grade she was reading at grade level. By the end of 6th grade she scored a 97 on the level Z Fountas and Pinnell. The gap between her abilities and her peers was widening but there was no place to move her. Our school district placed her in their one day a week TAG program which made the special ed school crazy. We knew she had to move on.

    For 7th grade our district agreed to pay for a new 2e school that had just opened despite it not being an approved special ed school. This. Was. A. Disaster. They did not provide *anything* as promised and we pulled her out after 4 days. Be very wary of schools who market themselves as being designed for 2e students. I would be happy to discuss by pm if needed. Suffice it to say that despite the best of intentions I have seen several devolve into serving smart kids with behavior issues and/or not being able to meet the needs of the other E.

    She is now thriving at Fusion Academy - a nationwide chain of 50+ locations - that offers 1-1 classes taught in the way each student needs and at the pace that each student needs. DD did a grade acceleration with them and is thrilled with her classes. She has a very strong interest in musical theater so has a ton of outside activities. In school they address the social issue by having the whole school meet for lunch at the same time and offering clubs each day. Not a typical social situation by any means but it works for DD.

    By getting the intense intervention early on she's able to function well now although most of her education relies on the use of assistive technology. The year between the sped school and finding Fusion Academy she basically self taught/unschooled which also worked well at the time. It is really all dependent on the kid, their needs, their strengths and what resources are available in your community.

    Hope this helps!

    #246488 - 12/15/19 10:19 PM Re: Thoughts on specialized schools? [Re: MBenedetti]
    MBenedetti Offline
    Junior Member

    Registered: 11/13/19
    Posts: 5
    Thank you @aeh and @pemberley for responding! I apologize for not responding sooner! We are new to Davidson and I don't really understand how the forum works - I thought I would get an email letting me know when I got a response. I didn't hear anything, forgot which forum I responded to (yikes!) and just assumed no one had any feedback.
    @aeh: We are currently homeschooling and I think there are a lot of things about it that really suit my son. If we don't find a school we feel really confident about, we will continue homeschooling and I will look into the programs you mentioned. We've tried some schools that are afterschool classes (language arts once a week, math once a week) Because we only go once a week, the teacher needs to keep the kids focused for that 2 hours and so it's not particularly social or collaborative. Also, the teachers don't get to really know the kids that well and my son really needs someone who gets him. He is more of an absorb and learn type vs a lot of output and it comes across as disengaged. I think that's frustrating for him and his teachers. I love the idea of hybrid option. Thank you!!
    @Pemberley, Thank you so much for sharing your daughters story! I just looked into Fusion - it looks incredible. We are in 2nd grade so we'll have to wait for something like that but it would really suit him. He does best one-on-one and having something consistent every day that is social would be ideal. It's really good to get feedback from a parent who has tried a specialized school because it helps us focus our questions more. We need to really understand exactly what they do to address his gifted side and his E side. We are going to the school this week to see what a day in the life looks like but will really get the most of our information when we meet with the head of school. Do you have any recommendations for what to ask? Thank you so much!

    #246538 - 01/03/20 03:57 AM Re: Thoughts on specialized schools? [Re: MBenedetti]
    Pemberley Offline

    Registered: 08/07/11
    Posts: 733
    Welcome back. It's really unfortunate that there is such a delay for posts from new members. Your second post didn't appear for more than 2 weeks so I assume you have already visited the new school. I will respond anyway in case it's useful.

    I have visited more sped and 2e schools than I can count so I'll try to share what I learned in case it helps. Sorry so long - hopefully you will find some useful info though.

    The one school we visited that was best set up to meet the needs of younger 2e kids did not market themselves as being for sped, gifted or 2e kids. Started by a school psych who had a 2e daughter she tried to set up a school that focused on individual needs and actually followed through on doing that. This part is going to be key for you and is very difficult to find. Bit by bit this school brought in reading specialists, sped math specialists, SLP's, etc that are not often found in small(ish) privates. They didn't recruit sped students but parents found them and were willing to pay to get what their child needed.

    This school opted not to pursue sped accreditation because they wanted to remain appealing to parents of neurotypical kids. Slowly some parents began to have success in getting their districts to pay for the school, some districts refused. With their approach to truly meeting individual needs they began appealing to gifted students as well. By the time we found them they were 30% sped students, 30% gifted students and 40% neurotypical students "with significant cross over between the gifted and sped populations". This worked better at creating a real 2e program than some intentional 2e schools. Your mileage may vary but I think it's good to keep in mind. When we visited we saw a 5th grader in an AP Biology class. Compare this to the 2e schools who say subject acceleration is unnecessary because they provide depth and breadth at grade level instead. You need to decide which approach is a better fit for your son. We were just a bit too far away to make this school work for DD but it gave me a good idea of things to look for.

    I have found info from heads of the schools can be iffy. Usually started by parents of 2e kids most are legitimately dedicated to creating a solid learning environment for other 2e kids but their backgrounds may be in areas other than education. I have visited schools painted pure white with very bright lighting because that's what the founder and/or their kids needed although my DD found the environment quite harsh. Their (or their kid's) 2e experience was somehow universal in their minds. Some will talk a good game, name drop and try to dazzle you but when pushed on details be unable to provide specifics. You need to do your homework to be able to tell the difference. The school I described above was in an old building, had beat up desks and threadbare carpeting. When I asked about this I was told by parents, teachers and administrators that the school made a conscious decision to invest everything they could on top quality teachers rather than on the building. Compared to the newly founded 2e school who spent seemingly unlimited amounts of money to decorate and furnish a shiny new facility but had no services and minimal teaching resources. The difference was striking.

    So what to ask? Ask them to be precise about what your son will be provided. Who will the teachers and service providers be. What are their backgrounds. What training and experience do they have with gifted and 2e students. Do they have sped teachers on staff. How about someone with OG or Wilson certification. Which dyslexia program will they use. Exactly what do they do to meet the individual needs of their students. If your son needs enrichment will it be done with depth and breadth at grade level or through acceleration. One 2e school emphasized that every student received 2 hours a week of enrichment or support services. What if your son needs both? Or more than 2 hours a week? What will he miss if provided the extra time on reading intervention. Take a look at their enrollment contract. The failed 2e school wanted us to sign a no exit contract that did not obligate them to actually provide anything to meet DD's needs. They outsourced all services - had literally no one in house to meet the needs of "the other E's". Look at the facilities. One 2e school we visited had a well equipped sensory gym. Does this mean their 2e populations tends to be more ADHD or ASD than dyslexic? Ask them and listen carefully to the answers. The head of school may be very dedicated and knowledgeable. They may truly think they can meet your son's needs and be eager to work with him. Or they can say almost exactly the same thing and really just be looking for the tuition money. Hopefully your mom gut will be able to tell the difference. One clue is a pleasant follow up email vs a series of high pressure sales pitch phone calls after your visit.

    Also look at their history and track record. When visiting one of (probably THE) best schools in the world for language based learning disabilities I saw they had a strict protocol for admissions. They had it down to a science and I could trust that they knew what they were doing. They had a track record to back them up. Very, very different from the school I described above. Both were successful but with very different approaches. The common denominator was that neither tried to sell me their program. They assessed DD's needs, told me what they thought would help her and how they would do it. Very different from the failed 2e school in just about every way. Also ask for details of who they turn away. Smart kids with behavior issues or kids who aren't really in need of a gifted school but it soothes the egos of wealthy parents might not be peers to make your son's learning experience a positive one.

    I find it very important to talk to other parents whose kids attend the school or who have in the past. If there Is a local parent Facebook page ask for info - both positive and negative. Go to the school just before dismissal and talk to parents waiting for their kids. Ask them what they like or what they would add if they could. Ask what other schools they considered before choosing this one. At the failed 2e one of the happiest parents I spoke to said her child had been kicked out of 6 previous schools. She was thrilled they hadn't asked him to leave yet. Is it because they were meeting his needs or because they had minimal expectations?

    Oh - and during our unschooling year we found an amazing home schooling coop that offered classes during the school day. I wonder if something like that could help,with your current situation.


    Edited by Pemberley (01/03/20 04:00 AM)


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