When new students arrive at Dearborn, we carefully assess their reading and writing skills and design an individualized plan that can help students move past their learning challenges and develop strong literacy and comprehension skills. While many are struggling with language-based and non-verbal learning disabilities, it is our goal is to get all students working at grade-level or above as quickly as possible.
Our Learning Center specialists are also available to help students tackle speech and language issues as well as challenging math concepts, to improve study and test-taking skills, and to catch up after an absence.
As part of our approach to helping struggling students learn to read, Dearborn Academy utilizes a multisensory, structured language approach to teaching phonics. Our method has been used successfully with learners in Kindergarten through adulthood. A derivative of the Orton Gillingham approach, the specific program we use was developed by Sharon Weiss-Kapp at Massachusetts General Hospital and is trademarked as the "Wisnia-Kapp" reading program. It is being used in regular primary classrooms as the phonics component of literacy instruction and as an individual or small group remedial approach for reading disabled students. It is in this latter context that Dearborn Academy has found the program particularly effective. The program uses images imbedded in the letters and storytelling as interesting and entertaining support for recall. It uses direct, explicit instruction in phonological awareness, sound and symbol retrieval, segmentation skills and syllable pattern types.
Systematic pre- and post-testing among Dearborn Academy students having severe language based reading difficulties have shown impressive gains in student sound recognition and ability to decode and comprehend reading material. As a result, we have chosen to use the Wisnea-Kapp program throughout Dearborn Academy.
Learning Center teachers encourage the use of templates to help to sequence and organize students’ writing. The use of the Collins Writing Program builds students’ confidence by systematically breaking down the writing process into small, manageable steps. We use images and graphic organizers to increase recall and retention in all academic areas and use emPOWER, an instructional method for teaching expository writing. By applying consistent teaching strategies in the Learning Center and across the curriculum, we make it easier for students to know what they have to do to be successful.
Learning Center teachers assist students in systematically reviewing computational skill areas needing mastery. They also test student understanding of concepts by using the language of math to solve applied problems. Again, these strategies are applied across the curriculum at Dearborn, helping students predict what they need to do in order to progress academically.
Speech and Language
Impairments in spoken and written language, including pragmatic language, may directly impact a student's ability to develop age-appropriate skills and may hinder his/her ability to access age-level curriculum. Full time speech pathologists provide one-on-one services to the almost 50% of our High School students needing speech and language services. Given that most of our students have language-based or non-verbal learning disabilities, an accurate assessment and recommendation of needed interventions is critical to student success. Areas most frequently addressed include phonemic awareness, articulation, expressive and receptive skills, written language and pragmatics.