I work as a learning specialist in a mainstream independent school in New York City. In my role I see students with a variety of challenges and diagnosed learning disabilities. I currently work with one student, Ethan, who is diagnosed with NVLD. In a social, collaborative environment that demands strong independence and self-advocacy skills he has struggled. The give and take of social interactions and understanding what is appropriate behavior in the classroom can be difficult for Ethan. Together, we have developed strategies that help him advocate for himself and I have shared useful tips with his teachers so that their interactions with Ethan are productive. When preparing for a meeting with a teacher, Ethan and I will plan exactly what he wants to say and we try to keep him solution oriented. Rather than complaining about a grade he isn’t happy with; we focus on questions he can ask to help him better understand what he can do next time. In class, I’ve worked with his teachers to be explicit about their expectations. For example, his math teacher might say “I expect you to have your homework open on the desk and for you to present a problem at least once a week.” Another strategy that has worked well is to give Ethan a clear sense of a timeframe and agenda for each meeting. When we sit down during our weekly session I share exactly how I want to spend our time together. For Ethan, it’s about learning the rules of the social give and take—rules that may be intuitive for some. He continues to make a lot of progress and I’m excited to see how he continues to grow!
Abby Diamond is the Director of Academic Support at Trevor Day School. Prior to her current position, she spent 10 years as a learning specialist and the chair of the Learning Center at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School. During her time at Fieldston, Abby spearheaded a collaboration between school leaders and administrators and The NVLD Project.