Classrooms · inspiration · learning skills · soi-ipp · training

Opening the Venetian Blinds

I read with dismay an article in the Washington Post about the Obama administration’s new plans to tighten oversight of states’ special education programs by applying “more stringent criteria” for outcomes. Unfortunately, this means the standards will be based on standardized tests.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Tuesday that for the first time his department will also consider outcomes such as: how well special-education students score on standardized tests, the gap in test scores between students with and without disabilities, the high school graduation rate for disabled students, and other measures of achievement.

“Every child, regardless of income, race, background, or disability, can succeed if provided the opportunity to learn,” Duncan told reporters. “We know that when students with disabilities are held to high expectations and have access to the general curriculum in the regular classroom, they excel.”

I disagree. High expectations for students with underlying deficits in foundational thinking skills and learning abilities will not help them succeed.

As former senator William Brock stated:

“Picture a child as a window with Venetian blinds, and the learning teachers try to impart as a 100-watt light bulb outside the window, suing the light of their knowledge and experience through the window. If the Venetian blinds are wide open, then the light of our knowledge and experience can get through and the child can see the light – they can learn from us.  

However, if the Venetian blinds are partially closed because they have underdeveloped sensory integration, underdeveloped visual closure abilities, underdeveloped auditory processing skills, or underdeveloped neural pathways, they will struggle to read, to do math, to take a test, or to learn at the pace of their peers. If those impediments are sufficient to close the Venetian blinds entirely, they simply will be unable to learn.”

Our work at Shady Oak Learning is exciting because we can give parents and students real hope of “opening the Venetian blinds” and helping students have genuine success.

One of our students, Emmanuel, came to us  at age 11 with several delays in speech, reading, math, and writing. Through SOI testing and perpetual motor screening, we discovered Emmanuel had difficulties in visual processing because his brain had suppressed vision in one eye. His balance was extremely poor and he was unable to do any independent academic work without a lot of support.

Emmanuel has made tremendous progress in two years. He is a leader in our school, and is constantly challenging himself with new goals. When he first got on the balance board, he was not able to stay on without help. He is now our “Balance Board King” and can keep the board still while standing for 2 minutes with his eyes closed!

Emmanuel’s mom, Myra, who volunteers in our school, said this, “Our son, Emmanuel, has made great progress. More importantly, he has made the most progress in expressing himself and in writing on his own.  He enjoys learning and looks forward to going to class every morning.”

I love Proverbs 13:12: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire is fulfilled, it is a tree of life.”

Every child wants to learn. With SOI, we have the ability and opportunity to see this longing fulfilled.

written by: Pam Jarvis, founder and Executive Director of Shady Oak Learning is a life-long lover of learning. She reared five children and now is proud grandmother to eleven grandchildren. In 2012, Pam’s vision of creating a school that was good for kids became reality with the creation of Shady Oak Learning and her after school program, Brain Workout. Pam received her BS in Speech Therapy from West Texas A&M University and her M.Ed in Special Education. Pam has used her unique blend of experience in private school settings, home-schooling and public education to create a one-of-a-kind place where learning is fun, engaging and challenging.

To view this blog in Spanish, click here.

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