We live in Liberty Twp., just north of Cincinnati, and have two school-age boys. Our eldest, Chris, thrives in the Lakota school system (Liberty Elementary, Liberty Junior, LEHS). He is a 15-year-old sophomore, and is at this moment in San Diego as part of the Lakota East Marching band that will play in the pregame parade and half-time show of the Holiday Bowl this Thursday. He does well academically and socially, belongs to several bands of excellent quality, and plays on the school tennis team. Although his classes can have as many as 42 students (French), he always keeps his attention on what is important, and will make full use of the LEHS Guidance Department’s efforts to help him find a good college to attend. In short, he is exactly the sort of child that the Lakota school system is well designed to handle. My second son, Nick, spent his first 5 years in the Lakota system (LECC, Liberty Elementary, Independence Elementary), but the results were very different. While he has solid cognitive skills and an above -age vocabulary, he gets distracted easily, and requires a larger share of teacher attention in order to stay on task. We had ADD evaluations done on two occasions, and the results were non-conclusive. As the years went on, the material was becoming more complex, and Nick started to get left behind in some areas. With some eccentric behavior and a less than grade level maturity, he began to feel increasingly isolated socially.
Last year, after a particularly difficult few months in fourth grade at Independence Elementary, we were told by his teacher that she “didn’t know what to do with Nicholas”, and that she had 5 boys in her class of 30 that were requiring more attention than she had to give. Up to this point, my wife and I had a strong preference to keep Nicholas in Lakota as it had worked so well for my older son. We had been doing a lot of work at home with Nick to help him keep up, but in fourth grade, this effort was no longer sufficient. He was becoming increasingly unhappy about going to school, and his teacher was no longer able to get him to do any work in class. we had similar challenges at home. We decided to seek another ADD evaluation, and Nick’s Lakota teacher also mentioned a school in Middletown that specialized in kids who have ADD that might be helpful.
We then got in touch with Summit, and started learning about their methodology. After a positive ADD diagnosis and several months of communication with Summit, we chose to start Nick there in 5th grade last September. At Summit, he exhibits the same tendency to distraction, but with one teacher and an assistant for a class of 11 students, Nick gets the attention that he needs to stay on track. because the teachers are trained to deal with kids like Nick, they are more flexible to the different ways that kids can learn. They purposely don’t have the kids staying in one position for more than 15 or 20 minutes, and they mix passive and tasks in order to keep everybody engaged. They appear to handle a considerable variation in skill level within a single classroom, and yet are able to challenge all of the kids. Nick tends to be academically a little stronger than most of the kids in his class, but because he doesn’t easily stay on task, he doesn’t operate as independently as some of his classmates. The main change we’ve noticed is that Nick is happy to go to school. He does not feel as socially isolated, and appears happy to be learning. Is he progressing as fast as he would if were a perfect student at Lakota? Almost certainly not, because with the challenges that Summit deals with, they don’t go into as much depth as they would at Lakota. Summit works off of the same fifth grade rubric that the State of Ohio issues to all schools, and our hope is that Nick is keeping up academically. We don’t know how to evaluate whether or not he is keeping up, and it remains a concern of ours. The reality is that Nick is not a perfect student, and if we had him at Lakota, his self-esteem would continue to plummet as a greater and greater percentage of the school day would be wasted on him. The Lakota classroom was not able to accommodate his special needs, so he was marginalized. At Summit, he feels that he belongs, and the teachers are trained to look for the kinds of problems that Nick has. The daily martial arts class is a particularly beneficial activity. It gives the kids a chance to let off some energy in a structured environment, and we find that Nick responds well to the rules that are enforced there. Any time that Nick responds well to rules, we are happy about that.
We don’t know exactly what our best option for Nick would be if it weren’t for Summit Academy. We would likely still have Nick in Lakota, and we’d be trying various kinds of intervention while watching our child fall through the cracks. We remain hopeful that Nick is headed to college or vocational training, and it remains to be seen how well Summit has prepared him for that. The attitude that Nick has now about school allows us to dream about his future.
I don’t see exactly how a public school system like Lakota can fully deal with children that have the kind of problem that Nick has, given that all of the pressure that exists to cram so much material into the school year. I think that the public school teachers are doing a commendable job with the resources that they’ve got to work with, and I’m grateful to have my eldest son, Chris, thriving in that system. For kids like Nick, and there seem to be a fair number of them, we need an environment that is designed to protect and regenerate a self-esteem that may have been damaged previously. We’ve only been involved with Summit for four months, but it appears to us that they understand their mandate well, and are doing many things right. We sincerely hope that this school is allowed to follow its plan to offer a quality education right through to the end of high school.