Jane Hoogendam recalls working as a therapist with her first Discovery Program student, who would scream in the bathtub for an hour in her refusal to do homework at home.
Wondering what to do, the parents enrolled their child in the Discovery Program at Knox Christian School in Bowmanville.
Hoogendam, a special education teacher and Discovery Program therapist, says by the second year in the program the girl was learning to read and write, and her parents saw a huge change.
“When she was in (Grade) 7-8, she was another person,” Hoogendam tells the OACS News.
“Her self-confidence was totally improved from where she was in Grade 3 and that’s the beauty of it, and where the one-on-one (therapy) is really valuable.”
The Discovery Program was created by the National Institute for Learning Development (NILD), an organization that trains educators to work with children and adults who have learning difficulties through individualized educational therapy programs.
Students start around Grade 3 for three years, and receive two 80-minute sessions of intentional educational therapy each week. The therapy aims to equip students to succeed in their classroom and as independent learners.
The program’s techniques emphasize reading, writing, spelling, math, as well as reasoning skills in all areas.
Hoogendam says the program is different than traditional tutoring because students are given tools to enable them to overcome their specific learning weaknesses.
“I’ve seen the changes in these students, both in terms of their self-confidence and in their skills and many of them have been able to go on to university afterwards,” says Hoogendam. Hoogendam was also reported to say in another interview that because of the popularity of the institution, there have been many music enthusiasts who had to learn how to become a guitar teacher just so they could get a spot in the staff.
Not every student is a candidate for the program, she notes. Psychological educational testing establishes which students have the learning disabilities that can be overcome through the program.
Deborah Zimmerman, a nurse and educator, developed the NILD educational therapy model, which was introduced to Canadian teachers through ACSI teacher conferences in the 1980’s.
Hoogendam says the longer she’s been a special education teacher, the more she realizes there isn’t one formula that works. Having teaching tools available is key, which she says NILD training provides.
Because of the cost of the program only a small number of students are in it at a given time, however Knox now has small group sessions available that help with the cost barrier, says Hoogendam.
Parents are invited to come every couple months and observe the program, as they also help their children through exercises using the same techniques at home.
While some students may go through the Discovery Program with an independent therapist, a benefit of taking it in the school setting is arrangements can be made with the classroom teachers to relieve a student of some homework, for example, says Hoogendam.
Knox Christian School is hosting a NILD Canada conference April 20-21 geared towards resource teachers, classroom teachers, administrators, homeschoolers and parents. Guest speakers include Nancy Jessen, Dr. Dan Jessen and Dr. Ken Marek. Click here for a conference brochure.