A Lexington education program, primarily serving children with dyslexia, has seen substantial growth in enrollment over almost a decade of classes. The program director, parents, and students agree the intense focus within small groups coupled with a family like caring are cornerstones to success.
The Learning Center within the private Lexington School opened with 16 students in 2010. Learning Center Director Jane Childers says the plan was to start with eight students. This past August 65 students received instruction at the Learning Center. Childers said students and parents like that it’s a school within a school. “They want to have their students in what they consider a “real school.” A school where they are involved in sports and musical productions and interacting with their same age peers just like any other kiddo does. Yet they are getting the special instruction,” said Childers.
That special instruction or remediation comprises about 75 percent of the day, in small groups of typically four students, with a specially trained teacher. “It’s considering multi-sensory instruction, in that we present information to them verbally. We present it to them visually. And then there is always a kinesthetic or hands-on part of the learning that’s going on simultaneously in the lesson,” explained Childers.
Childers says the Orten Gillingham method involves a great deal of repetition.
Emily Stout’s third-grader Camden has transitioned out of the Learning Center and is now in class at the Lexington School. She says if her son didn’t master a lesson the day it was taught, then she says, the teacher would hit it again the next day. “What I loved about that is that first month he came home and I could see he was happy he was confident, he knew he was bright. He felt secure in the classroom,” said Stout.
Stout admits Camden didn’t want to move on at first and she was a bit anxious as well, but he’s doing well in the traditional setting.
Jennifer Begley’s ten-year-old son Joshua is in his fourth year at The Learning Center. She says Joshua’s confidence has drastically improved. Begley said it seems it would be hard to duplicate the program in public schools. “I think public schools can do it, but funding would have to be there because the classroom size would have to be that one to four ratios and that’s a discussion at a much larger level,” Begley said.
Begley says the different approach can be seen in many ways. In learning how to write letters, the students laid on the gym floor in the form of letters then traced letters on sensory appropriate materials.
13-year-old Ryder Pergrem is a commuter. He’s about 45 minutes away but says he doesn’t mind the drive. He said his reading ability has improved greatly. “My first year of third grade I learned how to read, write. I learned really how to do everything that I didn’t know how to do beforehand before I came here,” noted Pergrem
Another 13-year-old, Ella Cline has been attending the Learning Center for three years. She says she feels very comfortable, almost like another family. Cline admits she was a bit anxious about possible stigmas. “Yes, I did have a concern that people would think I am different. But, who cares, to be honest. Everybody is going to be different or unique in their own different ways, so if people don’t like you for who you are, then they are not your true friends,” said Cline.
For Stephanie Wicker and her family, the landing of her son Grayson at the Learning Center covered many miles. Originally from Prestonsburg, Wicker says the family first moved to Louisville for a special program, but then heard about the Lexington program and made another move. Wicker feels it’s been the right decision. “You know I miss home. I miss where I am from, Prestonsburg. But, you do what is best for your child and the Learning Center is most definitely the best for my child at this time in his life. This is a crucial part of learning at third grade,” assured Wicker.
For his part, Grayson says he likes the small classes and one on one time. He’s already got a profession in mind, down the road, that’s to be an airplane pilot.
A new building is going up next door as part of an expansion for the Lexington School. But, the Learning Center will also occupy some space there. And while the student growth has been significant over the last nine years, director Jane Childers isn’t sure how much more will occur. “I still want my student integrated for those specials because that’s just such an important social, emotional component of the program. Being able to be in a regular school and doing what all the other kids do is so important to their learning, that I don’t want to sacrifice that, so it may not be that we grow much more than we are right now and that’s really okay,” said Childers.
When the new facility opens up in August, first through fifth-grade students will move into it. Childers says the middle school classes are being refurbished. But wherever learning center students are taught, the small class size along with a hands-on focus will continue.