Dearborn Academy is one of the few schools in Massachusetts that offers intensive support for both language-based learning disabilities and social-emotional challenges.
The schoolwide Learning Center team at Dearborn Academy offers diagnostic testing, ongoing assessment, and one-to-one/small group/classroom support in the areas of reading, writing, mathematics, speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, English language learning, assistive technology, executive functioning and MCAS preparation. In conjunction with a student’s entire team, the Learning Center team works hard to design and support an individualized plan that can help students successfully manage a variety of learning challenges and develop skills that can be generalized across all content areas and beyond the school day.
With the support of our Learning Center team, all classes at Dearborn are language-based and sensory-informed learning classrooms that challenge each student at the appropriate level to they have the tools to meet grade-level or above expectations. Dearborn Academy is one of the few schools in Massachusetts that offers intensive support for both language-based learning disabilities and social-emotional challenges.
Dearborn Academy’s roots are in working with students who have language-based learning disabilities. Walter Dearborn was a pioneer in the psychology of reading and one of the earliest experts on dyslexia. Building from this historic focus, for decades we have committed extensive staff resources and built an approach to reading that incorporates a variety of techniques proven to help students at all levels learn to read more effectively.
For students who are not making sufficient progress in reading intervention or who may require more intensive instruction due to a language-based learning disability/dyslexia (roughly 25% of the students), Dearborn offers the Wilson Reading System (4th edition). The Learning Center team believes in using a multisensory approach, including visuals, graphic organizers and metacognitive strategies that engage students in taking an active role in their learning.
The Wilson Reading System is a highly structured program that requires mastery for each decoding/encoding step before moving on, while also embedding content area/narrative text with fluency work/comprehension to help each student progress through each step at a pace appropriate to their needs. This program can be used for students in Grades 2-12 as well as with adults. Please see the Wilson Training website for more information.
Systematic pre- and post-testing of Dearborn Academy students with severe language-based and nonverbal reading difficulties have shown impressive gains in sound recognition, decoding, encoding, fluency and comprehension.
Writing is a crucial element of literacy. The Wilson Reading System recognizes this and embeds encoding instruction and writing practice throughout each lesson. Often members of the Dearborn Academy Learning Center team push into writing and content area classes to help support students in both reading and writing.
If a student does not require specialized reading support, yet demonstrates gaps in their writing skills, our classrooms are structured in ways that allow teachers to explicitly teach strategies to lessen those gaps. Our teachers use a variety of writing supports, including the EMPOWER thinking maps, story grammar maps, WOW (Word of the Week), vocabulary imaging,and interactive notebooks.
Dyscalculia is a specific learning disability. It includes difficulty in understanding numbers, learning how to manipulate numbers, learning math facts and a number of other related symptoms. It can result from a brain injury, or it may be genetic or developmental in origin. Estimates of the prevalence of dyscalculia range between 3 and 6% of the population. Some studies suggest that children with dyslexia are more likely to have dyscalculia than the general population.
At Dearborn Academy, students with gaps in math can be assessed to determine the nature of their disability. Our Learning Center team, in conjunction with each student’s IEP team, will design an appropriate course of action. The Dearborn staff is experienced in teaching children with dyscalculia and can help them make significant progress.
Learning Center teachers assist students in systematically reviewing computational skill areas needing mastery. They also increase students’ ability to use the language of math to solve applied problems. Again, these strategies are applied across the curriculum at Dearborn.
Speech and Language Therapy
Challenges in spoken and written language, including pragmatic language, may directly hinder a student’s ability to develop age-appropriate skills and their ability to access grade-level curriculum. Full-time speech-language pathologists provide services to students in need and consult with all staff members at Dearborn Academy on how to enrich the classroom with reading, language, and executive function instruction for all students.
The collaboration between the special educators, speech-language pathologists, therapeutic clinicians and occupational therapists promotes tailored instruction that helps students access grade-level curriculum despite any missed time throughout their educational careers. Dearborn’s speech-language pathologists assess and treat pragmatic language, social cognition, expressive and receptive language skills, written language, articulation and executive function. They do this while accounting for students’ other academic, emotional and sensory needs.
A certified Occupational Therapist is on the Dearborn Academy staff and participates in assessing student needs and planning interventions supportive of student learning. For those students requiring this sort of intervention (about 25% of the students), the OT creates one-to-one/small group sessions to strengthen areas such as postural stability, fine motor control and dexterity, visual perceptual skills, sensory processing skills and executive functioning.
The use of adaptive equipment, specialized curricula in handwriting and keyboarding, and classroom activities promoting sensory motor input help students operate more effectively in their classroom setting. The OT also works with teachers to learn how to take sensory issues into account in designing classroom activities and layout and helping students learn to regulate their emotions and behavior.
We tailor technology use to the needs of each student. If students have specific assistive technology needs in their IEPs, our Learning Center team is equipped to develop implementation plans to meet those needs. The team is also prepared to analyze the potential assistive technology needs of each student depending on their reading, writing and participation limitations.
Every Dearborn Academy student gets their own Google account. All of our classrooms use Google Drive and have access to various assistive google chrome extensions, such as Google Read & Write. We have shared computer devices that consist of a desktop lab, Macbooks, Chromebooks and iPads. Every team is also equipped with a SMARTBoard.
We make use of audiobooks (every student receives a Bookshare account), ixl.com (each student also receives their own ixl account), commonlit.org, Brainpop, Flocabulary, and the many technology resources that come with our science, social studies and math textbooks in order to help our students access text in a variety of ways. Most of these technology resources can be used in the classroom and at home.
When English Is Not Your First Language
At Dearborn Academy, we sometimes work with students who do not speak English as their first language. Others have caregivers who speak a language other than English at home. When you have a learning disability and speak (or hear) another language, learning to read and write in English can be doubly hard. At Dearborn, we provide intensive support for English Language Learners.
The Learning Center team helps support the organization of the annual MCAS administration and provides additional support to teaching teams with regards to the MCAS. This ensures that all accommodations are provided throughout the year and during test administration and that MCAS test administrators provide the most successful testing approach for each student. Please refer to the section on MCAS for an overview of MCAS at Dearborn Academy.