Lesson Learned

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This was my workspace last night. Notice the coffee. 🙂

I did it!  I finished the initial report for my first student, and it took much longer than I expected.  Lesson learned.  As previously mentioned, I have a fabulous mentor who is absolutely supportive and available when it comes to making sure I know what to expect.  We met together on Wednesday to discuss how my sessions have been going and how to write the initial report.  I optimistically left with the intentions of completing the report that same night and emailing it to Lynn to review.  Boy, was I mistaken!

Fortunately, I was instructed to begin with a template that was provided to me by Discovery Program, Inc.  This little gem was a lifesaver!  I was able to start at the beginning and slowly plug in the corresponding information as it applies to my student’s test results.  The Initial Educational Assessment includes basic information about the student including behavior and mannerisms, as well as information regarding testing conditions,

My Level I manual is an enormous and extremely helpful resource.

My Level I manual is an enormous and extremely helpful resource!

dates, and location.  A brief overview is given for each of the subtests that were administered, and a summary of the student’s performance is also offered.  Strengths and weaknesses are highlighted for each area of testing, and the report is concluded with a summary of the student’s deficits in visual and auditory processing.  I frequently referred to my Level I manual and several copies of sample reports.  Eventually, after chiseling away a little bit at a time (with many breaks and distractions), I wrote the final recommendations and proudly signed my name at the bottom.  Next time, I think I’ll start as soon as testing is completed!

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Update: On a Roll!

I survived my first session!  Here’s a quick update:

one of the stations at the Chesapeake office

one of the stations at the Chesapeake office

When it was time to begin, I made my way to the waiting room, where I found my very first student.  Let’s call her Katie.  I introduced myself and invited Katie and her mother to join me in the room where the sessions would take place.  We spent several minutes getting acquainted with one another.  Then, I presented them both with a stack of items which Katie would need for the duration of our time together.  These items included a composition book, chalk and chalk holder, chalkboard eraser, and books which are used in NILD educational therapy.  I then kindly asked Katie’s mother to have a seat in the waiting room for the remainder of the session.

The first two sessions were designated for informal testing so I would have a starting point to work with.  I spent the hour having Katie complete a number of tasks which allowed me to observe her pencil grip, letter formation, reading level, how she deals with stressful situations, etc.  Before I knew it, time was up and it was time to say goodbye.  Before Katie and her mother left, I gave them a 3×5 chalkboard to take home and mount on the wall.  We discussed where it should be placed and how to condition it, and then they were on their way.

"Buzzer" is one of the five core techniques used in NILD Educational Therapy.

“Buzzer” is one of the five core techniques used in NILD Educational Therapy.

I have now completed six sessions.  Informal testing cut into a portion of the third session, but now we’re on a roll!  Katie and I are learning how to work with one another.  Yesterday, during our sixth session, we reached our first milestone.  I realized that I had learned how to make her work to solve the questions she has, and she has learned that she is able to figure some things at on her own.  We still have a long way to go, but this sure made my day!  Perhaps the biggest struggle so far has been learning to squeeze all five of the core techniques into a 60 minute session. (A typical session is 80 minutes.)

Today, I will meet with my mentor, Lynn, to discuss how to write the formal report which I will be giving to the parents on Monday.  She has really made herself available to me during this whole process.  I am so grateful for the amount of support and encouragement I’ve received from everyone at Discovery Program.

Here I Go!

What a whirlwind this week has been!  Last Monday, while I was visiting the Virginia Living Museum with my family, I received a most unexpected call.  I turned to my husband and said, “I think I need to take this.”  I stepped a few feet away and answered, “Hello?”  I knew it was important, because Wanda Parks was on the other end.  She’s the Virginia Director of Discovery Program, and she’s been working diligently to place me with a student.  I listened for her voice, “Hi Deanna!  I think we may have a student for you!”  I couldn’t believe it!  I had begun to think that phone call would never come.  I scrambled to locate a pen in my daughter’s overstuffed diaper bag.

impromptu notepad

impromptu notepad

With a blue washable marker in hand, I balanced a museum map on the ledge overlooking the bobcat den and began to jot down everything Wanda said.  She was looking for a therapist to begin right away and asked if I was interested.  “Absolutely,” I said, “I’m so excited!”  We talked a little more about my new student:  What school does she attend?  What grade is she in?  How did her family learn about Discovery?,  etc.  Wanda told me to expect an email with all the details, and she urged me to call the family that same night.  “Tonight?”  I tried (unsuccessfully) to hide the anxiety in my voice.  Again, Wanda infused me with encouragement and reminded me to call her with any questions I might have.

Remember this lady?  Louise has been an Educational Therapist for 16 years.  I'm so glad she was there to help me!

Remember this lady? Louise has been an Educational Therapist for 16 years. I’m so glad she was there to help me!

Fortunately, my in-laws were in town to celebrate my daughter’s birthday.  The timing couldn’t be better!  Once we got home, my husband suggested that he and his dad make dinner while his mom and I get to work reading my student’s report so I would be prepared for the call I had to make.  As promised, I found the needed information in an email, and I spent the next half-hour or so familiarizing myself with my student’s file.  Then, I nervously excused myself to the bedroom to call the parents of my first student.

To my surprise, the phone call went quickly and smoothly.  We agreed that we would begin the following week,  and I hung up with a sigh of relief (not dread).  Whew!

trying to find time to put together a toddler tea party

trying to find time to put together a toddler tea party

The rest of the week was filled with meetings and preparation, all while planning my daughter’s birthday party, keeping up with my evening shifts at the restaurant, and *trying* to maintain our daily family routine.

That brings me to today, my first day.  I’m not as nervous as I thought I would be.  In fact, I’m not nervous at all.  I think it (mostly) melted away after that initial talk with my student’s parents, and I haven’t really had time to think about my nerves since.  I arrived early so I could get all my ducks in a row, and my mentor, Lynn, has made herself available if I have any questions.

So, here I go…

He Said, She Said

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Mother and Son Dance at our wedding, 2009

I am often asked why I am interested in Educational Therapy and how I got involved.  As previously mentioned, I was led to Discovery Program primarily through my relationships with my husband and mother-in-law.  The following is an interview detailing each of their experiences with NILD Educational Therapy and how their lives have personally been touched.

I’ll begin with my mother-in-law, Louise.  She has a unique perspective since she is both a Professionally Certified Educational Therapist and a mother of two students who have graduated from the program.

How did you get involved with NILD?  Both of our boys were having struggles in school.  We had them in a private school.  They were very well liked by the teachers and students.  We could tell they were bright, intelligent kids, but they seemed to struggle (one with reading and one with writing).  We had tried several different methods of intervention with them and through circumstances that I can see now God had arranged, I met somebody who was with NILD.  We started talking, and she told me she would love to test my boys, so she came over to my house and tested them.  The next semester, we made plans for them to move to a nearby Christian school and

Louise, PCET

Louise, PCET

take NILD Educational Therapy.  Well, that summer, it just so happened that NILD was having a Level I course here in Oklahoma City at one of the Christian schools that had the program, so that same friend said, “Louise, you’ve been involved with their other interventions; why don’t you just come to the training so you’ll know what they’re going to be doing?”  So I signed up for it, not really knowing what I was getting myself into.  It turned out to be a two-week course, eight hours a day.  There were 18 or 20 of us in the class, and I just really clicked with what they were doing.  It made a lot of sense.  Each morning, they had a student who had completed the program tell about how helpful the program was to them, and it was just hard to get through that without tearing up thinking about my own family.  During this time, it came out that my husband had struggled so much during his schooling, so he was interested in not having his kids go through the same things he did.  At the end of two weeks, I thought I was done.  But again, my friend said, “Louise, you’ve taken all this training.  Why don’t you take a student?”  And I thought, “Oh, I didn’t think about that, but why not?”  There was a student at her school who had been in the program for one year and wanted to continue with Educational Therapy, but his parents couldn’t afford both therapy and private school, so he was going to be homeschooled that next year.  Unfortunately, that caused him to be ineligible for the program there, so I just became an independent Educational Therapist and took him as my first student.  I think I was the first person in Oklahoma City to become an independent Educational Therapist.

How long have you been practicing?  since 1996

What is your educational background?  I have a bachelor’s degree in home economics, actually.  But I specialized in child development and family relations within home economics.   Then, I got my master’s degree, also in home economics, specializing in child development and clothing and textiles.  I have a little bit of a different perspective than someone who has an education degree or background.

What was your biggest challenge in your early years as a therapist?  That’s a good question.  I think it was hard at the beginning to try to get so many things done in that 80-minute session.  The idea was to hopefully get ten things done in that time.  That was the goal, and I found that I had to really pace myself.  The main thing I think I struggled with, as far as individual techniques, was the math block.  I always did well in math, and I understood it, so it was hard for me to go back and make each step small enough for the student to understand.  I found myself trying to give them too much information and not find out where they were in the thinking process.

Scott and Louise

Scott (5th grade) and Louise

How did you balance family and career when your kids were living at home?  Well, I never really wanted to work while I had kids at home, and this was the first job I had done since I had kids.  But I just purposed to work during the school-hour day, which pretty much limited me to working with homeschooled students.  I always was available to my kids after school got out; I was back in my role of being a mother.

The thing I like about NILD Educational Therapy is that I can try to make my preparation time between students.  I always try to have a half-hour break between my students, so I can take notes about the student and prepare for the next student right after they leave.  That first year I would use math block sample questions sometimes at dinner with my kids, and they loved that kind of stuff.

How have you grown or changed? My experience with NILD Educational Therapy has helped me understand my husband’s dyslexia and what he went through as a child. It helps me better understand how he thinks.  Generally, I think I just have a greater understanding for the different ways people think and approach problems and how they reason.  Also, I think I’ve learned to question well.  In therapy, we do so much questioning, and I’ve learned to let people respond and not try to jump in for them or try to make it easy for them to respond.  I want to see how they can respond on their own and help them think of ways to question and grow themselves.

In relationships, I think the one cool thing that has come out of this is that I’m very involved with the families that want me to be involved with them.  That, to me, has just been a real gift from God that I didn’t expect because when I was in college, my goal was to work with parents.  Back then, I wasn’t even married, so it seemed like a far off thing to work with parents.  My brother even said, “Louise, do you think parents will listen to you if you’re not even a parent yourself?”  I thought, very naively, “Yes, because I’ve got all the answers in the book!”  Now, since having had my own children and having had training in Educational Therapy, I am often a lifesaver (if I can say that in a humble way), for parents who are really struggling, especially with teenage boys.  I can see beyond where they are now, and help them see that things are going to get better, and they won’t be in this position the rest of their lives.  I think that I have been given the grace and ability to work with parents in a way that I desired to 35 or 40 years ago that I had forgotten about.  As I got further into doing Educational Therapy, I started really trying to help the parents become more resilient themselves so they can help their children become resilient.

What have you learned about yourself?  I have become more aware of my weak areas of cognition and learning.  Doing puzzles like the design tiles is not a strength at all for me. History and social studies were always difficult for me in school.  The readings in Getting the Main Idea have often given me a curiosity to research more about a subject I probably learned in grade school or junior high, but would not be able to tell you much about, to save my life.  So, therapy has helped me also to hone my weaknesses and grow cognitively.

Scott and Louise at Scott's high school graduation

Scott and Louise at Scott’s high school graduation

What is the greatest benefit you’ve seen that NILD Educational Therapy offers to students?  I think it empowers them to learn to be independent and to have confidence. 

How have you, as a parent, benefited from having your children go through NILD Educational Therapy?  First of all, it was a relief for me to find somebody who understood what my kids were going through.  It was wonderful to have someone who had some answers to my questions, who had my best interests (because they had my kids’ best interests) at heart.  They sometimes were a go-between with me and the teachers.  Mostly, it was a relief to have someone who I felt understood…someone who I felt I could talk to about my kids’ struggles.

Why do you continue to practice NILD Educational Therapy?  I’m drawn to wanting to help people.  There’s so much of a need.   And it’s so rewarding to see kids being helped and to see families being helped. 

Scott’s Responses:

How old were you when you attended Educational Therapy?  I went from fifth grade to seventh grade.  Fourth grade was the year that my old school left all the responsibility to the students and told the parents to back off.  That was a really rough year for me, so after that year, we moved to Oklahoma Christian School and started therapy.

When you began, in what areas did you struggle in school?  I had a hard time with vocabulary and reading.

What was your biggest struggle in therapy?  I would say the hardest thing was Dictation and Copy.  I really didn’t like the writing, especially in cursive.

What was your favorite part?  The tiles.  I liked figuring it all out in my head before making the design with the tiles.  I also liked the auditory memory, recalling the numbers.  I think I liked these because I felt like my therapist was impressed with my ability in these areas.

At what point did you start to notice changes?  For me, the changes weren’t noticeable at first.  I mean, I still struggle with reading, and I still find it hard to keep my attention focused at times.  It was an education for me; I recognize what’s going on.  It was more of a change in my relationships that I saw, and that continued to play out for years afterward.

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graduating from UMHB with a bachelor’s degree

How was your school performance affected?  Fifth grade was the first year I had a research paper assigned to me.  I didn’t do a single thing on the paper.  I didn’t know how to start, and every time I would try, I would get frustrated and I couldn’t get anywhere.  Once I got into high school, I still lacked discipline with turning things in on time, but I was able to focus and work through the frustration better.  I remember my senior year of high school when there was a 15-page paper due on the works of Percy Shelley.  I still turned it in late because I wasn’t disciplined, but I was able to work through it on my own.  My mom wasn’t having to sit down with me.  I remember walking around the kitchen table when I was little to get the ideas out of my head while my mom typed.  Once I was a junior in high school, I didn’t need to do that anymore, so that would be an improvement.

Did you notice changes at home?  Growing up, I had a lot of anger, mainly toward my mom and sister.  I remember having a lot of fights with my mom.  That was in late elementary school and junior high.  Then, in high school, I think things got a lot better.  I don’t know how or if I changed, but I think my relationships eased up in a lot of ways.

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Scott directing a music video while working toward his MFA at Regent University

How has NILD Educational Therapy prepared you for adulthood, and do you still use anything you learned during therapy?  I think part of it is taking responsibility.  I would say that, after going through the program, I stopped trying to blame everyone else for my struggles.   I’ve used rhythmic writing from time to time.  I don’t always enjoy it, but I think it’s beneficial.

What would you say to students who are struggling?  Hang in there.  In most cases, teachers and parents will try to help you.  Accept their help and be encouraged.

for parents of struggling learners?  I would just say that having these types of difficulties in school is stressful to the students, even if they don’t show it.  More often than not, it’s clearly stressful to the parents.  Not doing homework and not getting good grades isn’t fun.  I wasn’t doing it because it was fun.  I would also say that there is hope.  For my mom and me, there were a lot of moments that were extremely aggravating for both of us, and looking at our relationship now, I’m just extremely encouraged by her willingness to stick with it and love me regardless.

for teachers of struggling learners?  I’d say so much of my struggle was self-induced.  Teachers bent over backward for me and I still didn’t do my work.  Not everyone fits in the box of school, but find out what interests the students and start there.  A lot of the projects that I didn’t do, I didn’t have any passion about.  They didn’t mean anything to me.  There needs to be a way to make it relevant and exciting, no matter what the subject.  And don’t give up on us.

for therapists?  Working with kids who aren’t doing well in school can be difficult.  I’m sure my parents, my therapist, and my teachers wanted me to do so much better than I did in certain things, but at the end of the day, it was up to me.  I would say the same thing to a teacher.  It’s sometimes a thankless job, but we really do appreciate you.

A #2 Pencil and a Dream

photo credit Oeil DeNuit

Joyce Meyer was quoted as saying, “A #2 pencil and a dream can take you anywhere.”

Growing up, I swore I would never become a school teacher.  Not me.  Ever.  I went to college like all of my friends because that’s what I was supposed to do.  I didn’t have any real direction or dream I was determined to live out, but I knew I had to pick something.  I chose Nursing…until I realized I didn’t really care for blood.  Then, I switched to Theater.  After all, that’s what really fired me up in high school.  Eventually, I landed at the School of Education at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor.  It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made!  I found my passion in educating children, and I also found my amazing husband, Scott.

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engaged to my best friend

Upon my initial visit to meet Scott’s family, I learned that his mom is an Educational Therapist who was trained through NILD.  I was instantly intrigued and begged her share all she knew.  What is it that you do?  So is it tutoring? (No, it’s not tutoring.  More on that later.)  Is it frustrating?  Do you like it?  What are the prerequisites?  She kindly answered all my questions and mentioned that I might like to give it a try.  That was well over five years ago, and it seems we have revisited the topic nearly every time we get together.

Since my husband went through the program when he was growing up, he has been a great source of information, as well as encouragement.  I look forward to the unique perspective he can offer when I begin working with students.

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at our wedding in Georgetown, Texas

Shortly after we married, we made the move from Texas to Virginia for Scott to attend graduate school at Regent University.  I did not realize it at the time, but that’s the same school where NILD holds their summer training sessions.  Everything was lining up beautifully, and I didn’t even know it!

This past summer, I took the Level I training course that NILD offers.  I expected to hit the ground running and open a private practice out of my home, but it didn’t work out so smoothly.  By November, I still had no students, and I was feeling quite discouraged.

DPI staff members with Kathleen Dwyer, author of The Blue Book, at a winter conference

DPI staff members with Kathleen Dwyer, author of The Blue Book, at a winter conference

I attended the annual winter conference in hopes of getting some desperately needed encouragement, but I got much more!  Through a series of events following the conference, I was offered a position to start practicing with Discovery Program, Inc.

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I’m so excited for this new adventure with Discovery!

And that’s how I got here:

Currently, I’m a full-time stay-at-home mom, and I wait tables on the weekends.  I’m anxiously waiting for my first student so I can move forward with my dream of becoming an Educational Therapist.