“Learning and the Brain” helps middle school students understand their learning disabilities and become better self advocates.
Head Teacher Emma Pyle explains,“6th graders study the learning process, types of learning disabilities, and strategies to help with particular challenges. 7th graders review and build on these concepts with further discussions about growth mindset; disability rights, history, and, activism; and neurodiversity.”
Language therapist Leah Wasserman takes over teaching the class to 8th graders, and says the focus shifts to brain structure and function. “Now we dig into the neuroscience,” she says. The students learn about the anatomy, physiology, and neurochemical elements of the brain. And these discussions raise a lot of questions. “They are very curious about the differences between neurological impairments and learning disabilities.”
“By the end of 8th grade, the students guide my teaching,” says Leah, who provides an “Ask Me Anything” Google Form for students to submit questions they might feel more comfortable asking anonymously. “It’s been quite helpful. One student inquired if learning disabilities could qualify you for an emotional support animal. What a great question!”
Leah also notes that this is the time when students begin to learn more about their own learning disabilities and participate in creating their own learning profiles, which will travel with them through upper school.
“Teaching this information is just as important as the direct instruction of skills,” Leah says. “And it will result in greater long term success.”