#inden {text-indent: 25px }

Friday, July 07, 2017

Draft: Academic Coach or maybe: Dyslexia, Redux

I'm listening to a ball game (Go, Nats!) and thinking about pitching coaches. Today was the first day I'd heard of academic coaches. And I think my daughter needs one, stat.

(This is the second profession I never heard about before this week. The first such profession came two days ago at an annual July 4th potluck, I learned about the existence of processing engineers. These are engineers that teach other engineers how to talk to each other about projects. I kid you not. [I tried to check that I got the title right just now and was confronted with many engineer titles, most obscure to the ordinary type person.])

Academic coaches work one-on-one with people to teach them what they need to know to succeed in college. Much of this success depends on "executive functioning skills."

About My Daughter
My daughter is 22 and a college junior, more or less. She has taken time off from academics for depression and anxiety. This summer, she enrolled in a lot of online courses through the community college and gradually dropped all of them. "Maybe I have dyslexia," she said. "Maybe I'm an idiot."

I know she is not stupid, so I chose to investigate the dyslexia angle. We tried this before, when she was in middle school, so I was not hopeful. Mostly, I was desperate. Until you have a problem that seems insolvable, you have no idea how attractive finding a cause is.

In middle school, when Nora wondered if she had dyslexia, I doubted it, but I asked the school counselor about it. A meeting of school personnel was called. They said there was no text specifically for dyslexia--DEFINE term briefly--and she was doing too well to worry about it. I let it go.

Then I had other things to worry about: she started skipping school, staying out late and for days at a time, and trying drugs. She had a psychological evaluation her freshman year and was diagnosed with such severe depression and deep social anxiety that she ended up spending nine months in a residential therapy program. Her academic life was catch-as-can.

She got into Sweet Briar College, was miserable, took a semester off. Went back, was miserable, tried to kill herself, stayed in school, made the dean's list. She switched to Mt. Holyoke, was miserable, muddled through, took another medical leave, losing another academic year, and is headed back to Sweet Briar in the fall.

I tried to get her to visit the Mt Holyoke Access-Ability office. It made her feel stupid to ask for help.

blah blah blah.

Now, I'm back to investigating why she's having trouble understanding textbooks. Today, when I was trying to figure out if there IS a test for dyslexia or other processing problems, as they're called, I learned that there's a growing call for academic coaches. These people help students with metacognition--understanding how each student learns best, along with how to handle college life's other stuff (like doing laundry).

I'm certain there's more to Nora's problem than not understanding textbooks. She does not have what we think of as dyslexia. She reads novels. She writes well. She even spells well. But she still has to hold up her hands to figure out which way is Right and which way is Left. Is this a clue to how her brain processes information? Will two days of testing provide a way to struggle out of of the tangle of learning? There's no chance that it will give her a magic bullet. The woman I talked to today said that since Nora has done relatively well, she has probably learned coping mechanisms that will need to be unlearned. No doubt. But if we can find a way to make college a success for her--instead of a morass of questioning her intelligence--that's a good thing.

Find academic coaches to interview.
The various manifestations of dyslexia.
How learning disabilities feed into depression/anxiety.
Was it malpractice that we were told there was no test for dyslexia?
What students are entitled to, testing wise, from schools.
Transitioning from the world of high school IEPs to private/public institutions of higher learning.
When did we start talking about "executive functioning"?


Post a Comment

<< Home