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February 26, 2013 > Success stories of Stellar Academy for Dyslexics

Success stories of Stellar Academy for Dyslexics

Submitted By Beth Mattsson-Boze

Few things are more encouraging to the staff of Stellar Academy for Dyslexis than stories of students who leave Stellar and go on to do well elsewhere. The academy is a private non-profit full-day school serving families from across the Bay Area. According to the International Dyslexia Association, dyslexia is a language-based learning disability. It refers to a cluster of symptoms, which result in people having difficulties with specific language skills like reading, spelling, writing, and pronouncing words. Stellar Academy has had great success helping children, who have been identified as having Specific Language Disability, to become accomplished at reading, writing and spelling.

Stellar's director recently spoke with the mothers of two students who moved on from the school only last spring. Here are their stories.

Both Mitchell and Danny experienced failure in their early years of school before coming to Stellar. They were falling behind their peers and not thriving though they received quality instruction that was producing good results with their peers. For both boys, reduced classroom distractions and small class size helped create an ideal environment for learning. The Slingerland approach to language arts instruction, used throughout Stellar Academy, unlocked the door of language for both boys by providing alternative strategies for reading, writing, and spelling. Self-esteem lifted when they began to experience classroom success for first time in a long time.

Slingerland is a multi-sensory, simultaneous, and sequential approach to language arts instruction. Multi-sensory refers to the three modalities by which people learn language (visual, auditory, kinesthetic). All three of these modalities are used simultaneously at all points of the lesson so that a student's stronger modalities can support the weaker, allowing the student to succeed. The approach is sequential in that it begins with the smallest unit of language and proceeds to more complex as previous units are mastered.

Students don't fear failure as much as they fear being the only one in the group who "doesn't get it." Being in class with peers experiencing similar struggles with dyslexia diminished that anxiety. No longer feeling like the odd man out also lifted confidence and gave them new courage to try things. They went from "I can't learn," to "I can."

Mitchell came to Stellar when he was in the 3rd grade. His mom remembers running in circles trying to get answers for what was happening with her son before coming to Stellar. Later on she would wish that she and her husband had decided to start Mitchell at the school sooner. After five years, Mitchell left Stellar last spring when he completed 7th grade. Mitchell and his parents chose to experience 8th grade in public junior high. Mitchell's first report card from public school boasts 5 A's and 1 B!

Mitchell's mom reports that every day in junior high Mitchell uses what he learned at Stellar. The language skills developed through daily practice with Question of the Day, and occasional challenges like Science project presentations, and Wax Museum presentations (on historical figures) built the confidence that Mitchell now accesses in his new school. Teachers are surprised that he writes in beautiful cursive. Of course, the teachers want everything typed which is not a problem because Mitchell is comfortable with typing skills learned at Stellar. Even something like being required to use a planner by his Stellar teacher is serving him well now because it is essential in Junior High where he has multiple teachers assigning work. His mom pointed out that Mitchell's middle school teacher at Stellar did a good job transitioning her son to the demands of public middle school and high school.

"If not for Stellar Academy, my son would have been left behind in regular school. There is no cure for dyslexia, so they need alternative strategies. The repetition of Slingerland was the key," says Mitchell's mother.

Another student, Danny attended Stellar from 2nd grade until his promotion from 8th grade last spring. Danny is currently a 9th grader at Bay Hill High School in Oakland and has just received his first report card which shows 4 A's and 2 B's! He loves the challenge of learning new things and likes the variety of subjects and teachers available in high school. Danny recognizes which lessons from Stellar are helping him to be successful in high school. Danny has the courage to ask for the help he needs, is able to cope with many different types of people, and takes responsibility for getting his homework done. Danny also experiences the confidence to be in a class of any subject because he can read! Danny's teachers are pleased that he learned the Slingerland approach and he tells his mother it is a good thing he went to Stellar.

The foundation these two young men received at Stellar is enabling them to both step up to and enjoy the challenges of junior high and high school.

For more information about Stellar Academy for Dyslexics, please visit www.stellaracademy.net or call (510) 797-2227. The school is located at 38325 Cedar Blvd., in Newark. Stellar is housed in the Neighborhood Church building at the corner of Smith and Cedar.

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