Elementary school is the first stage of education which typically begins in kindergarten. Early elementary education sets the stage for future success in the upper grades. Each year skill sets build upon each other, laying the foundation for learning in later grades. Largely, kindergarten, first and second grades focus on reading skills. Mastery is expected in third grade whereby reading comprehension and written expression become more of the emphasis. Traditional education does not take into account that approximately 15% of the general population has some type of learning disability. Of those, approximately 70% have some form of dyslexia. Dyslexia is the most common cause of reading, writing, and spelling difficulties. However, most of these children are not identified until after third grade.
The Johnson Academy of Therapeutic Learning recognizes that all students do not learn at the same pace. Traditional educational environments teach to the “middle.” However, The Johnson Academy offers an effective alternative to the “one size fits all” approach of the mainstream education system. The small learning environment allows each curricular subject to be taught using a cognitive sensory or “hands on” approach.
The highly trained staff at The Johnson Academy of Therapeutic Learning works with students in a small, distraction free classroom setting. Each student’s placement is guided by assessments that pinpoint exact strengths and weaknesses. This allows for a specific educational plan to be be developed and implemented. The use of evidenced-based, intensive academic, language and/or auditory therapies that remediate deficits in tandem with a small classroom size taught by experienced teachers allows for students to become proficient learners.
A child’s academic success is largely based on his or her reading proficiency. Reading proficiency is measured by reading fluency and reading comprehension. In fact, reading is the leading indicator of academic success. Researchers at Yale University have been studying reading disorders, specifically dyslexia for years using brain imaging techniques. The research has shown that there are differences in brain activity patterns in children with dyslexia. Therefore, activating children's neural circuitry for reading early on is key.
Most teachers are not educated in how to identify if a child is having difficulty in reading. In fact, most teachers use the “wait and see approach.” This allows for the student to experience failure without getting any help. Waiting to see if a child catches up to his peers can be devastating to a student. Not only do students who struggle in reading become frustrated, they feel “dumb.” Children do not understand why they don’t read as well as the other students. They do not recognize that they may have some underlying processing issue.
Despite the fact that the amount of spending per student has doubled since the 1970’s, our reading scores nationwide have been flat for the past 20 years. Additionally, thirty-eight percent of American school children are unable to read grade-level material (NCES National Center for Educational Statistics). So, why is that given the advances in society that teaching children to become proficient readers is such a daunting task?
Learning how to read comes naturally for most of us. It is something that is taken for granted and not given much thought. However, for children with dyslexia, it is not natural. In fact, it takes a lot of effort; therefore, many children with dyslexia do not like reading. Reading should be automatic and fluent. If not, the student may be putting forth so much effort in the “decoding” process that his or her comprehension may be affected. This may also be true if your child is a slow reader. Furthermore, since he or she is putting forth so much effort into decoding, he or she experiences fatigue, particularly in the upper elementary years, when the amount of required reading increases voluminously. If a child does not understand what he reads, the effects are far-reaching since reading is essential for each subject (even math). Researchers have shown that children who are not reading fluently by the end of first grade are at significant risk for academic failure throughout their school years.
Just as reading is the cornerstone of learning, mastery of mathematical concepts and memorization of math facts are the building blocks for success in math. When a child has not memorized his or her math facts (addition, subtraction, and multiplication), he or she will experience pitfalls by the time he or she reaches 4th grade math. Long division requires multiple applications of math concepts. If a student is still finger counting by the 3rd grade, he or she will often lose his or her place and make mistakes. Teachers often comment that children are lazy or not trying hard enough when this happens, which is not the case.
Determining if your child has a Mathematics Disorder is done by assessing many facets in your child’s mathematical and language abilities. Mathematics disorders are often associated with other learning disorders involving reading and language. Therefore, getting a complete assessment of your child’s mathematical, reading and language abilities is crucial. The assessment allows for a specific intervention program to be developed as well as the selection of a mathematics curriculum which will complement your child’s abilities. Although the specific causes of mathematics disorder are not completely understood, symptoms can be grouped into four categories: language, recognition/perceptual, mathematical (memorization of math facts) and attentional.
Students should be able to look back on middle school with memories of wacky science experiments, learning new and exciting concepts in biology, and reading books that took them to places they never knew existed. Unfortunately, many students who struggle in school will reflect on their middle school experiences and remember how much they hated reading, how poorly they did on tests, and the humiliation they felt.
At The Johnson Academy, our mission is to turn those painful struggles into successes. Through years of continued education, attending conferences, constant review of journal articles, meeting with other professionals, and a passion for helping children, The Johnson Academy staff is able to offer the best evidenced-based learning programs and a small classroom setting. By pre-and post-testing all of our students, we have been able to study which programs work most effectively to remediate specific deficits in order to allow for academic success.
Individualized standardized assessments are administered to each student, which lends to the development and implementation of a specific academic or language program. These evidenced-based therapies target each student’s learning needs. If your child has had an assessment from another professional, a review of the assessment will be made to determine the best intervention(s). Additional assessments may be necessary if an appropriate treatment approach cannot be determined.
Approximately 15% of the general population is estimated to have some type of learning disability. Dyslexia and other reading disabilities affect one in five children. However, most of these children are not identified until after third grade. Many children experience failure and become defeated, losing interest in reading. This is why it is imperative to get help as soon as possible. Many children are mislabeled as defiant or lazy. This is mostly untrue. After all, who is motivated to do something that is difficult?
After the appropriate assessment battery has been administered, we hold a meeting with the parents and/or student to explain why learning has been so difficult and recommend the appropriate intervention(s). The Johnson Academy staff works closely to better understand each student's learning needs by frequent in-services by other professionals and weekly reviews of each student and their progress.
Learning disabilities inflict pain. Children are complex and possess strengths in a variety of areas. But for 13 years (kindergarten thru 12th grade), their self-esteem is based on academic success. Your child may express reluctance to attend school, become moody, or tell you "I'm not smart." Often, children with learning disabilities will do anything to avoid reading aloud at school or pretend to have forgotten an assignment to hide their weaknesses. The Johnson Academy staff works together to build a child’s sense of accomplishment while providing the best academic and remediation techniques available. Parents often think if we get a tutor or help more with homework, it will get better. Unfortunately, until the underlying causes of the child’s learning difficulties are pinpointed, he or she cannot work to their potential. The key to success is to get help as soon as possible. It is never too late. At the Johnson Academy, there has never been a parent who stated they acted too soon.
A Mind at a Time by Mel Levine, M.D.
Delivered from Distraction by Edward M. Hallowell, Ph.D.
The Mislabeled Child by Brock Eide, M.D, M.A. and Fernette Eide, M.D.
Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz, M.D.
When The Brain Can’t Hear: Unraveling The Mystery of Auditory Processing Disorder by Teri James Bellis, Ph.D.