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Yes, there are students at the most prestigious schools who have learning disabilities. After all, that is what a “learning disability” is: a discrepancy between potential and performance. So, yes, genius are over-represented in the diagnosed learning disabilities. Up until recently, however, exclusive schools might not admit a student who had a learning disability. Now, however, they add staff to help those students overcome their academic weakness. YAY!
I am so thankful to have gotten an interview from Susan Maher at Regents Academy of Austin. She is on staff there, helping the students overcome their issue(s) so they can perform at their potential. She preaches ; “accomodations, not modification.” Accommodations might include test taking in a quiet room or with a little extra time. Then, she gives them help in what I would call “study skills.” In this way, she sets them free to achieve, on their own.
I want you to hear her, in her own voice, so you can be inspired. This busts so many myths. This will help so many students, teachers, families, and I do hope also some private school administrators.
REGENTS ACADEMY OF AUSTIN
Regent is a classical Christian school, now well established as one of the most prestigious schools in the Austin, Texas metro area. Both exclusive schools and many small private schools feel that they may not be able to help students with “disabilities”. This is normally because they don’t know how. It may be that the school is so far behind that they have confused “learning disabilites” with “mental retardation.” In fact, given the definition of “learning disabilities” only brighter than average students can get that designation. Proper help need not be the sort of monstrous modifications, let alone cheating, that so many educators fear — or is possibly, sadly, done in government schools.
MODIFICATIONS VERSUS ACCOMMODATIONS
Modifications mean a change in the curricular or production requirements. An exclusive school would not want to offer modifications because that cheapens their product and hence reputation. So often, though, this is exactly what a government school will do. For instance, in a 4th grade history test, only 4 questions will be given the student instead of 20. This puts the students ever farther behind.
Accomodations, include making slight changes to the environment in order to permit the student to be successful in the necessary learning. For instance, why not permit the student a quiet room rather than a crowded classroom? Why not permit time and a half for a test? What is being tested is knowledge of the material, not rapidity. The class period is set arbitrarily, not as a function or measure of learning. In the real world, a person might allot more time to read, or use paper instead of doing math in their head, and so forth. Adults manage the world for their own productivity. In the world of work, such accommodations are required by law.
What Susan Maher is not saying, but doing, is remediation. She helps her students learn how to take notes or write papers or read a book or study math. They may need a more specific method, but once they learn it, they are capable of competing. I like to push remediation: teach how to use strengths in order to overcome weaknesses. Isn’t this part of the human condition?
This is not cruel blame. This is not drill and and kill. This is not “head in the sand.” Instead, this is bright students enabled to shine.