By Craig Lowery, Head of School
In the midst of “application season” this is an important question, and while it seems like it might be obvious, I find myself thinking and talking about this question regularly. A week doesn’t go by that I don’t receive an email or phone call with someone who says “My student doesn’t have dyslexia so would Park Academy be a good fit?” The answer to this question is both clear and complicated at the same time, especially when looking at High School vs. Lower School.
In the last two years, our Lower School enrollment has exploded, at least by our small school standard! In 2016, for the first time ever, we had to close enrollment at the end of summer in order to best serve the students we have and to thoughtfully find and train the best staff, without overly taxing the system. Demand stayed very high and this year we find ourselves hitting spring break with waitlists for many of our grade levels, and the applications keep rolling in. These increases can be attributed to a number of factors, including Park Academy’s establishment as a high quality program doing great things for students with dyslexia, as well as the increased awareness around dyslexia education.
In our Lower School, nearly all of our students are here for language processing difficulties, primarily dyslexia. Common difficulties in traditional settings are often related to a number of learning differences, especially in the areas of processing speed, memory processing, attention difficulties, and executive functioning. Students benefit from small classes, trained teachers, Orton-Gillingham (OG) reading interventions, and from differentiated instruction. Our students gain a sense of safely, acceptance, and understanding that allows them to feel and be successful in school.
High School shares many of these traits but can also be quite different. Students with dyslexia have often had years of reading interventions prior to high school, and while many still benefit from OG and Barton methods, their struggles and needs can be quite different. The traits I mentioned before (processing speed, memory processing, attention, and executive functioning) are often present with a number of learning differences and can be areas of continued difficulty despite great interventions and very smart students. The strategies that are good for students with dyslexia are often the same as those for other learning differences including relationship-based learning, use of assistive technology, small classes, multi-sensory projects, and alternative forms of assessment. So, while our program continues to meet the needs of students with dyslexia, we have the opportunity to serve a broader range of learning differences in the High School program. Here, students learn more about how they learn and what types of strategies and tools will help them both academically and in life.
As our program continues to grow, we continue to refine the modalities and experiences that will help our students feel and be successful. We have found a great deal of success with our focus on dyslexia in our lower school program and find that we can serve a slightly broader range of learning differences in our high school program. No matter what their identified learning struggle(s) might be, we can continue to help them learn about themselves and feel confident in their ability to self-advocate and use their knowledge, talents, and tools to be confident learners.
For further questions of who Park Academy serves, and what the process is for discovering if your child is a good fit for our program, contact Kim Barton, Admissions Coordinator, at 503.594.8776 or firstname.lastname@example.org.