When a child finds a school that fits, learning can come naturally.
For 8-year-old Olivia Jackson, getting the chance to learn in an environment that supports her learning style has made going to school better.
Olivia is very inventive, loves to build things, and enjoys playing interactive computer programmes during brief electronic brain breaks at the Bermuda Centre for Creative Learning.
Olivia said: “Maths is my favourite class and I find it’s better for me to learn here.”
The youngster learns multiplication using manipulative materials, engages in reading a story with a teacher and classmates, and works on assigned classwork during her independent practice times during a typical school morning.
These sessions allow Olivia to complete her homework under the guidance of teachers, and also allow her to gain self-confidence as she learns to manage her time. Teachers scaffold their support, and work towards having her become a more independent learner.
Once she’s completed any of her additional work, she can then spend her time exploring her other interests, such as playing tailored occupational therapy games — which helps to increase her fine motor and processing skills, or other computer programs to increase her keyboard typing.
Olivia’s ability to complete her homework during the school day means that she has more time to spend with her family in the evening.
BCCL also suggests that parents read with their children each night, and one International Curriculum home learning activity is assigned each week.
Olivia was diagnosed with expressive language disorder as well as dyslexia and ADHD.
At BCCL, her learning differences don’t make her stand out among her peers, as the school is dedicated to teaching students with learning difficulties.
While at a mainstream school, it became apparent when Olivia moved into Primary 3 that she was behind in reading and at Primary 1 level.
Andrea Jackson, her mother, said: “She had started to see herself as stupid at school.
“She now is able to express openly with other like-minded students that she has learning differences. She had always been a confident, independent child, and I am glad that this has been restored as her confidence was impacted before joining BCCL.”
Olivia added she felt more comfortable at her new school.
She said: “I can bring a fidget spinner and I get to move around instead of staying in one place, and we can sit on bean bags.
“We also get a break in between classes and we get to go to the park. I really like to spend time outside.”
Cindy Corday, co-founder of BCCL, added: “We recognise that students who need additional support such as speech and language, occupational therapy and tutoring from the Reading Clinic should not miss lessons and feel left out.
“Our daily schedule is created well before each school year begins to incorporate these sessions. A daily schedule is posted and includes a list of which students have therapy for that day — this routine normalises these important supports for students.”
Ms Corday added: “Olivia responds well to having smaller class sizes and compassionate teachers. She likes doing hands-on projects, and the project-based learning through the International Curriculum has been ideal for her.
“BCCL teachers use the Orton Gillingham teaching method specifically designed to help struggling readers by explicitly teaching the connections between letters and sounds.
Ms Corday said: “Olivia’s gains are clearly due to her having been immersed in this method along with helping her to advocate for how she learns best. The family has seen improvement in her reading as well, and continues to see Olivia’s confidence restored.”
Ms Jackson added: “Olivia has always responded to the world differently and, even from a young age, showed a huge amount of curiosity.
“She has always been curious and been able to work things out, she loves building things from household items — and tape, a lot of tape — Lego and Minecraft.
“I cannot even begin to describe how at ease having Olivia at BCCL puts us. To know that she is in a nurturing environment where she does not feel stupid or left out and that she can deal with her specific issues and fabulous personality quirks without judgment is invaluable.”
Robyn Bardgett is a media communications consultant working with the Bermuda Centre for Creative Learning. BCCL’s next open house will be held on Saturday from 11am 1pm. For more information, visit www.bccl.bm.