Ask the School Psychologist...|
by Beth Bruno, Ed.M., M.A.
Matching Programs with Student Needs
I received a letter from a "late bloomer" recently. Its contents underscore the importance of matching educational programs with student needs... intellectual, social, emotional and practical needs. There is no one "right" answer for educating all students; there are as many "right" answers as there are individual learners.
I probably would be considered a late bloomer. At the age of five, I measured off the top of the Stanford Binet Intelligence Test with an intellectual age of 18 years 5 months. The principal of my school believed in keeping students with their age group. I was already reading at a very high level. I don't remember not being able to read. I was stuck with the Dick and Jane books, for a whole year.
In kindergarten I made trouble. After 3 days of school I had a broken nose, a bad attitude, and a bad reputation. I was bored silly. I was sent to therapists. In the ensuing years, I was misdiagnosed with every thing from bipolar disorder to schizophrenia, which I most decidedly do not have!
I was fortunate enough to have parents who cared. I was also fortunate enough to grow up in a house with books in every nook and cranny. We all read a lot. I was fed up with the rote method of learning arithmetic. My dad showed me the beauty inherent in numbers, by teaching me the basics of calculus. He also taught me about progressions- arithmetic, geometric, exponential, and logarithmic. He taught me about primes, irrational numbers, and imaginary numbers. To play with them, I had to learn arithmetic. I had trouble showing my work, because I tended to do most of my calculations in my head. I was always accused of cheating, because the answer was usually right.
Book reports were a nightmare. A lot of the time, my teachers had never heard of the book I was reporting on, because at home we had a lot of lesser known books by famous authors. I was interested in leading an artistic life: writing, painting and making music. That dream was crushed in 1957, when the Russians launched Sputnik.
Sixteen of us, the brightest and most mathematically talented in my class, were herded into scientific endeavors. Of the sixteen that were chosen because of their exceptionally high I.Q.s, there is a veterinarian, an interpreter at the U.N., a social worker, a school teacher/ housewife, a dentist, and a fellow who went to Canada and built a logging company from scratch. I lost track of the rest. I ended up as a technician, working on every thing from lawnmowers to mainframe computers. I have sold artwork, filled coffeehouses with people, and entertained at a rock festival. I just finished my first novel.
Last year, I found the source of all this restlessness, and the feeling that something wasn't quite right. It is called Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). My son has it, too. He is going to a tech school, because the traditional education model has nothing to offer him.
The public school system was designed to perpetuate itself. It does that very well. What it also does, is crush fragile spirits, by forcing them into some kind of universal mold. It took me thirty years to get past the pain of not fitting into a place that I really shouldn't have been in at all. My son has dyslexia, on top of ADHD. He has me for a parent, so he'll be ok. I taught him from an early age that a strong work ethic and honesty are more important than anything. If you have honesty and an ability to work hard, you have every thing you need. Everything else is picked up on the journey.
Dad with a new perspective
Note from Beth Bruno to teachers and parents:
Individual children demonstrate a variety of learning styles, so a single teaching approach won't benefit each child equally. This is true of all children, not just those with identifiable learning disabilities. There are many ways to enrich and augment the curriculum, as well as ways of presenting lessons in a variety of modalities to help students with different learning styles better understand and internalize new information and skills. The following Web sites might be useful in your efforts to make such modifications.
School of Individualized Study:
School for Applied Individualized Learning (SAIL):
Curriculum planning based on learning styles (this one is very practical and hands-on)
Beth Bruno firstname.lastname@example.org
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