Josh came to Halstrom Academy with severe Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). He and his parents thought a college education was out of reach. Since then, Josh says his nearly failing grades have “completely turned around.” “Before Halstrom, I felt that getting into a high-caliber University was not going to happen – but now, that’s definitely a possibility,” says Josh. “That really gives me a lot of incentive to continue getting really good grades.”
A Common Story
What made the difference? Students like Josh, who are diagnosed with ADD or ADHD (Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder), have difficulty focusing on tasks, noticing details and following through on assignments. They may appear to be ignoring instructions and seem incapable of organizing their schoolwork. These are not character flaws or signs of poor parenting, these students are dealing with a common neurodevelopmental disorder. The traditional school model, with large classrooms and one-size-fits-all lessons, cannot meet the needs of students with ADD/ADHD, and other disorders such as dyslexia and social anxiety.
The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that schools provide a free and appropriate education to all students regardless of disability. For students who are identified as learning disabled, this can mean additional services and program modifications to meet the child’s needs. The law also requires students receive education in the Least Restrictive Environment. Students learn best and have a better social experience when they are educated with their non-disabled peers. This requires striking a balance between time spent segregated in a resource room for individualized instruction and time spent in a regular classroom, often a frustrating exercise.
A Better Way
Wouldn’t it be better if the one-to-one instruction found in special education rooms was the norm for all students? Those with special needs wouldn’t be pulled out of class for needed help; the class instead would be designed to meet their needs. Dr. Karen Bishop, an innovative educator, found that children could successfully master subjects by receiving personalized attention, customized learning plans and additional support in a positive and nurturing environment. This is the underlying concept of Halstrom Academy’s program.
Personalized instruction allows teachers to cater to the student’s specific needs and implement techniques that work best for children with learning disabilities. Students with special needs receive help outside the classroom in workshops and study lounges, allowing them to complete their homework in school and alleviate stress for both the student and the parents at home. Halstrom teachers use varying techniques, including enhanced technology, to present coursework in a more creative, fun way so the student will focus, engage, retain and enjoy the learning process. A child may be a morning person, or may work better in the afternoon. Schedules are optimized to take advantage of a child’s optimal learning times with guided content reinforcement. Halstrom Academy, founded by Dr. Bishop, provides personalized instruction that ensures each child is the singular focus in each class. The small setting of Halstrom’s campus creates a close-knit community where friendships develop and thrive. This is the environment that allowed Josh to turn his grades around and believe in himself and his ability to succeed.
“I think sometimes parents accept the traditional school model, even when their kids aren’t doing well in school, because they don’t know there are other options,” says Josh’s father, Wernher. “Parents shouldn’t accept having a ‘C’ student because the traditional school can’t meet their needs. Parents need to know that alternative school programs exist that are designed to help kids be successful. Halstrom Academy is a great alternative to the traditional school model.”
Gillian Burdett is a freelance writer covering all things home and living. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.