Learning My WayI’m a Winner! Judy Harris Swensonand Roxane Brown Kunz PowerPoint Adaptation by Matthew Montalbano
Main Menu Review related vocabulary Read and listen to “Learning My Way: I’m a Winner!” by Judy Harris Swenson, and Roxane Brown Kunz References Learning DisabilitiesVideo
I wonder if other kids think much about how they learn. I know I do. But, I have to. It usually takes me longer to learn than others in my class, because I am learning disabled. • My Grandpa John, who lives with us, doesn’t understand my learning problems. He always says, “Dan Peters, I think you’re the smartest, quickest kid ever. Don’t you forget it!”
My mom says that Grandpa exaggerates. She agrees that I’m quick, but she says that I have too much energy. Mom calls me her jumping jack. I do seem to have trouble sitting still and paying attention, especially in school.
Even though Grandpa exaggerates, it’s okay with me. I feel good when I’m with Grandpa—not shy or embarrassed. But I get embarrassed easily with other people. My ears feel hot, and I can’t remember the words I want to use. At school, I’m extra shy. Sometimes I feel nervous inside because I know I learn differently than most kids do.
School has always been tough for me. At first, no one knew why I was having trouble. First grade was hard, but second grade was harder. Nothing I did was right. I didn’t know some of the alphabet—many of the letters looked alike to me. I write with my left hand, and I kept getting mixed up on how to pledge the flag.
Everyone but Grandpa seemed mad at me. The teacher said, “Dan, you are not trying.” Mom kept telling me, “Try harder. You can do better. Quit acting like a space cadet.”
Third grade wasn’t any better. I stayed in third grade for two years. I still couldn’t read, but I was able to make the kids laugh when I acted silly. My teacher said that my behavior was inappropriate. She finally called Mom. Mom told me to shape up and grounded me for a week.
Fourth grade was the worst yet. I hated school. Before long, I had a stomachache every morning. I started telling Mom that I was too sick to go to school.
“Enough of this,” Mom said. “You’re a strong, healthy boy and shouldn’t be having stomach trouble. Besides, you never seem to be sick on the weekends. I’m taking you to Dr. McBride for a checkup.”
Dr. McBride looked me over carefully. He even checked my eyes and ears. Then he said, “Your eyes and ears are fine, and I can find no reason for your stomachaches. Your body seems healthy. These stomachaches could be cause by stress and pressure. Stress and pressure are what you feel when you’re worried, nervous, or excited.” Then Dr. McBride asked, “How are things going at home and at school, Dan?”
His question surprised me. I said, “School work is too hard. The teacher doesn’t like me, and Mom is always nagging me a bout my bad grades.”
Dr. McBride asked a few more questions about school. Then he asked Mom to come in. He said to her, “Dan’s stomach problems may come from being nervous about school. I think you should meet with Dan’s teacher and the school principal. Dan says school is very hard for him. He may have a learning problem.”
When we got home, Mom called school. A few days later she went to see my teacher, Mr. Rand, and Mr. Becker, my principal.
After her meeting at school, Mom said that I would be seeing the school psychologist, Mrs. Cason. She explained, “a school psychologist is a person who works like a detective. She helps figure out why kids have problems. You have always had some problems at school. Mrs. Cason will help us find out why.”
Three weeks later I went to see Mrs. Cason. I didn’t know what she would ask me to do. My stomach hurt, and I started to cry in her office. • Mrs. Carson told me she understood. She said, “Please don’t worry, Dan. We know school has always been hard for you. Let’s find out how you can learn best. I’m going to give you some tests, but it won’t be like taking tests in your classroom. Some kids even think it’s fun!”
Before I knew it, the testing was finished. It wasn’t too bad, just like Mrs. Cason promised. She said, “Thanks for working so hard. I know you did your best. I’ll talk to your mom soon and share what you’ve done with her.”
Mom went to school to talk with Mrs. Cason. Mrs. Cason had found some reasons for my trouble at school. She explained what they were to Mom and gave her some information to read.
When Mom got home, she told me about her meeting. She said, “Dan, everyone’s different. People learn in many ways. You’re a smart boy, but you need to be taught in a special way because you have a learning disability. That means there’s a gap between how smart you are and how fast you learn.
“No one knows what caused your learning problem. It could have happened before you were born or at the time of your birth. It’s not like a sickness—you didn’t catch it—but lots of times more than one person in a family may have a learning disability.
“Mrs. Cason says that you are also hyperactive. This is another part of your learning difference. You have trouble paying attention and staying with your work. You also have trouble sitting still.
“I wish that I could change these things for you, but I can’t. We’ll have to accept the facts. That’s the way it is. You need to learn to live with these problems. You must copewith them.”
Even though Mom said I was smart, I still felt dumb. I said, “I have a dumb brain. Why can’t I be smart like my brother and sister are?” • Mom hugged me and said, “I’m sorry you feel bad about yourself. Your brain is not dumb. It handles its information differently, and that’s the reason for your learning difference. Now your teachers and I can figure out new ways to help you learn. This should make things better for you.”
Mom was right. Things began to get better. She helped, and everyone at school did, too. A learning plan was written for me. It was an Individualized Education Plan (I.E.P.), and it would help make my learning easier.
In my I.E.P., my teachers and Mom set long-term and short-term goals. (Goals were things we would work for.) My long-term goals are to learn to read and spell and to control my hyperactivity. The short-term goals were the things I would do every day to help me reach my long-term goals. The I.E.P. also listed books, learning materials, and activities that I would use in my lessons.
A chart was made up to help me improve my hyperactive behavior. I earned points each day for using appropriatebehavior. Special privileges in school and at home were a reward for every ten points I earned.
School got better for me once most people understood my learning problems. In the regular classroom, all the kids use the same reading and spelling program in the same way. I don’t. I go to the resource roomfor two hours every day. To learn reading and spelling, I use books, a computer, earphones, a tape recorder, and games. This might sound like a lot of fun, but for me it’s hard work!
My resource teacher, Mrs. Gates, says that I need to work extra hard if I want to learn. I do want to learn, and I choose to work hard. Sometimes I miss out on special activities because I study so much. When this happens, I feel as if I don’t belong.
Mom can usually tell when I’m feeling bad. She says, “Dan, the way you feel about yourself is important. When you feel good about yourself, you can do better at everything.”
I sometimes feel bad when I compare myself to my classmates. Besides learning differently than they do, I learn many things at a slower speed. At other times, I remember the things that I am good at.
My strengths are music and art. Mr. King, my music teacher, says that I have good rhythm. I couldn’t read all the words in my music book, though. Mom helped solve that problem. Now I have a music book at home. My sister, Pat, helps me read and practice the words to the songs. I used to pretend that I was singing by moving my mouth. Now I really do sing!
In art I can use my imagination. I like working with clay. In a school art show, I won a gold ribbon for a pot I made. Mr. Rand calls me creative.
Another one of my strengths is my attitude. My attitude is how hard I try and how well I behave. At report card time Mr. Rand told Mom, “Dan is polite and kind to his classmates. In art he’s creative and he’s doing well in music. Most important, he tries hard and cares about school.”
It’s nice to know that I’m good at certain things. When I am successful, I feel proud of myself. • I’m not always successful. Certain things are tough, no matter how hard I try. Mom tells me, “For every person, some things are harder than others. These are weaknesses. Everyone has them and has to learn to cope with them.”
I think that I have more weaknesses than most people. Not only are reading and spelling hard, but sometimes I feel like a real klutz. It took me extra time to learn how to ride my bike, and I still can’t skateboard. Most eleven year olds can. I trip easily and seem to run into things a lot. Thank goodness I can play soccer pretty well!
At times my weaknesses get me down. I feel depressed. Other times, I feel angry, and I want to punch out at everything. I wonder, “What’s the use?” I even think about giving up.
Grandpa is a help then. He says, “Only losers quit. A person who keep trying is always a winner.” • My learning problem pops up everywhere. Scouting is a good example. I love camping and outdoor activities, but I can’t read the scout handbook by myself. Because of this, it’s harder for me to earn badges. Ken, my older brother, helps me out. He was a scout, so he can explain the handbook and work with me on my badges.
People try to help me by talking about my strengths, but sometimes it’s hard to be different. • Once in a wile I still feel nervous at school. Sometimes the bigger kids act like bullies. They call me names and make fun of me because I go to my resource class. They don’t understand how my special class helps me. It’s quiet, and I always know what is expected. I feel smart in my resource class.
Having two classrooms and two teachers is sometimes a problem. Mr. Rand’s room is my homeroom. I spend a part of my day there, and I like it. At first, when I would come back from the resource room, I felt strange. It was hard to figure out what the rest of the kids were doing. Mr. Rand solved that problem—he gave me a buddy who let me know what was happening.
Some other ids in my homeroom need extra help too. A boy who has physical problems takes occupational and physical therapy (OT/PT). Still another kid has trouble speaking clearly. He goes to a speech therapist. A few kids go to my resource room for their learning problems. We all come and go to our own special educationclasses.
It makes me feel better to know that I’m not the only one who leaves the classroom for special help.
Other kids need another kind of special help. My younger sister, Pat, leaves her classroom, too. She is one of the kids who is in special education for gifted children. In her special class, Pat does extra science and math projects. She also got to make a movie once. Even though Pat is only eight years old, she can read much better than I can. This is very hard on me. Sometimes I feel like she is showing off.
Grandpa helps me when he reminds me, “Just remember, Pat isn’t much of an artist, but you are. We all have special talents.”
I do have talents, but there are some things I may never be able to do. Mom says, “Everyone can learn to compensate.” To compensate means that you use other ways to get what you want. If you can’t learn addition and subtraction facts, you can learn to use a calculator. If you can’t read a story, then listen to a tape of the story. If you’re handwriting isn’t good, you can learn to use a typewriter or computer.”
Compensating is a way that I can cope with my learning problems and reach my goals. • When I don’t reach my goals, I sometimes get upset with myself, but I try not to get discouraged. My life is mostly positive and good. I have a family who loves me, teachers who care, my own special program at school, and some good friends. I know my learning difference is not my fault. I’m not dumb. I try hard and I do many things well.
I’m not a quitter. I believe I’m a winner! “Winners never quit, Quitters never win!” - Vince Lombardi Main Menu
Learning Disabilities video This video provides information to students to answer some common concerns they may have. VideoJug.com. User: CarlyRaby Main Menu
Vocabulary • School psychologist- a licensed (school) professional who can perform research, testing, and therapy. Return to Main Menu Locate word in story Previous Word Proceed to Next Word
Vocabulary • Learning disability- a disorder that impairs an individual’s ability to perform specific skills. Return to Main Menu Locate word in story Previous Word Proceed to Next Word