Working with children with learning challenges and concerns for the past twenty years has given a meaningful direction and purpose to my life. I have traveled extensively from New Delhi, India to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Denver, Colorado; and Sacramento, California in my journey as a student and a facilitator for the children with learning issues and their families.
I started my career as a remedial education teacher at Educare, New Delhi, where I learned the basics of the Orton Gillingham approach of teaching phonics and reading skills under Dr. Sunita Sodhi. This was a very fulfilling experience of understanding the concepts of learning disabilities and helped me to do my PHD in the area of learning disabilities in math (dyscalulia) among the elementary grades.
I landed in Pittsburgh in the summer of 2003 with my family and worked as a volunteer with the Learning Disabilities Association of America for almost two years and simultaneously joined the 32 Degree Masonic Learning Center to do my certificate course in remedial education therapy under IMSLEC (International Multi-Sensory Language Education Council). This gave me an opportunity to study and gain insight into the details of the language teaching process and improve my style of teaching along with the correct pronunciation.
I enjoyed working with students and could observe the significant changes with the remedial education but always wondered for how long to provide these interventions to the students. School systems have been giving modifications to students with learning issues within the regular classrooms such as extra time to finish the assignments, assessing the student on multiple choice questions, or using the scribe to write the answers for them. These accommodations and benefits are available in the United States as well as in India.
This does help the students stay in the mainstream schools in an inclusive environment, but I always failed to understand that what happens to the child when he/she steps out of the school environment and interacts with the community at large. This system and the accommodations/modifications do not equip the students to apply problem solving skills, use their memory skills, or build comprehension abilities.
Our present education systems both in the United States and India are helping the students to do well in schools by modifying the environment but not giving them the essential learning skills and abilities to become independent learners.
My family and I moved to Denver in 2008 and I started working with a local school district as a substitute special education teacher. I started to explore after-school activities and services for children in the local communities and came across one homeschooling group and subscribed to their newsletter. Meanwhile, I started getting some students referred from the private schools nearby for remedial tutoring. In one of the newsletters from the homeschooling group, I read an article about Prescription for Success Learning Center being run by Claudette Anderson. She had been practicing the SOI-IPP program at her center in Parker, Colorado. I met her and got information about SOI Systems.
This was a real eye-opening experience for me to understand the missing links between learning skills and school learning. I never looked back from this first meeting with Ms. Anderson and did my SOI Basic Certification with her. As I started using SOI assessments in my practice, I started finding answers to a lot of my concerns as to why the kids cannot do well in school despite being tutored and/or given remedial classes and concessions being given at school.
I registered my learning center, EmpowerKidz, in Colorado and started formally working as an SOI Practitioner from home.
As I started interacting and working with students (after moving to Sacramento), I realized that I needed to work on the basic cognitive skills and remedial education with students to bridge the gap in their present level of functioning and their potential capabilities. I experimented working with SOI workbooks and computer modules and gradually incorporated remedial education for reading, spelling, and phonics which has made significant sustainable changes among the students.
I went ahead and did my Intermediate and IPP Certification with Jody and Diane at the SOI main office in June 2012. At EmpowerKidz Learning Center, I have used all of the programs under SOI including personalized workbooks and computer modules, IPP training for children, and the Certified Learning program. All the programs from SOI have proven to be very useful as students have made irreversible, sustainable progress. In March 2013, I went to the SOI main office again to get my certification in the Learning Discovery and Certified Learning programs.
Subsequently, I moved back to India in June 2013 and opened EmpowerKidz Learning Center in December 2013 in National Capital Region (NCR), New Delhi. Since its inception, we have been working hard to create an awareness for Cognitive Skills Training program through different modalities.
Presently, we are working with 10 students in an after-school setup and are using most of the components of SOI. Some of our students are working on personalized workbooks and computer modules. A few are working on Certified Learning and are ready to move to next grade levels.
We used the recently added workbooks – Reading Right, Math Motivation, Inspire Creativity, and Vision: Focusing Skills – with our students during the summer time and found it very effective. Some of our students have worked on Math Starter and Language Prep, too.
Most of the students who are working with us have been coming to us for the past one year consistently. At one point last year, we had touched the maximum number of around 15 students but some students dropped out because parents wanted instant results (within a month or so). We have been partially successful in showing the positive results with the 10 students coming to us presently. I am very satisfied with the progress of my students and so are the parents.
The best thing I have learned with SOI is that I can customize each and every child’s work plan based on the individual needs as evaluated on the PLA and ALA tests. Along with the personalized workbooks and the computer modules I can use Language Prep, Reading Prep, Math Prep, Memory Matrix and more. There are a variety of resources that can be used in different combinations to address each child’s concerns.
Today, on December 3, 2015 – World Disability Day – as we complete two years of starting our center in India, it gives me a feeling of immense satisfaction that I am on the right track of using the appropriate programs under SOI systems for building the essential learning abilities among the children along with Multi-Sensory Language instruction in English as well as Hindi. We are at a platform where we need to market our services and reach the level of self-reliance.
written by: Dr. Anupma Sethi, SOI Practitioner and founder of EmpowerKidz