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I faked it

I faked it. Okay it was only kindergarten but still, I faked it. I tried to read the words across the pages but as hard as I tried the words were blurry. I sat in my chair wondering if I sat there long enough would people think I could actually read? For the next couple of years I faked it. I would stare at the pages for hours, hoping the jumbled letters would come together and the words would make sense. Most of the time, they did not. I felt alone. I felt like I was the only kid who could not read. I had other difficulties when it came to learning. 

Years passed and my difficulty with learning only progressed and became even more difficult. In the seventh grade one of my teachers suggested that I be put on medication to help my learning process. I was tested for dyslexia, ADHD and auditory processing and by no surprise I had all three. I was afraid people were going to label me “stupid” because I did not learn the same way that every other student seemed to learn. My peers often told me I was not smart and would never get into a good college. These statements although untrue, stuck with me forever. They filled my head with doubt and sadness. Like a CD booming in my head, each time I had difficulty the songs would speak and say “might as well give up, you aren’t going to be successful.”  I would replay these hurtful words spoken to me over and over until I started believing them.

The day I switched to a school for kids with learning differences was the day that changed my life. We were all overcoming the same obstacles but could come together and build up each other. I was finally in a place where I no longer felt like the old building being demolished by my failures. The Winston School gave me the confidence and skills I needed to succeed. The environment I was in modeled a safe zone like one in a game of tag. When I was in the safe zone no one could “tag” me. I was free of all my failures and I began to gain confidence that I could indeed succeed. 

With the immense amount of positive encouragement and success I gained at Winston, I felt I was ready to move into a more traditional learning environment. At the end of tenth grade I made the transition to public school, entering a sea of unsafe waters. Upon enrollment, the counselor suggested I be placed in remedial classes. I was faced with my biggest fear, being labeled again. I was not stupid; I knew I could handle advanced placement classes, but Argyle High School did not. After many long meetings with the principal and my counselor the decision was made to put me in all advanced classes. As the year went on I had to work much harder than most kids. One bad grade would make the administration believe I was misplaced in advanced level classes.  

The constant struggle to prove to people that just because I learn differently does not mean I am less than capable is an issue I face every day. I was anxious all year to see my report card. I scanned every inch of the piece of paper like a perfectionist. I had been working all year for this and it finally paid off. I received all A’s for the first time in my life in a mainstream school with rigorous coursework. This moment in my life was so important to my confidence. I had proven not only to myself, but also to others that I am capable of academic success. Regardless of my learning disabilities I could do it and this time I did not have to fake it. I continue to amaze everyone at school and at times even myself that I really am a bright, smart kid.  -Lizzy Levine 

Overcoming Obstacles

Our main obstacle for attending The Winston School was just getting our son through the admissions process.  We pulled our son out of his public school a few months into the 3rd grade school year.  Like so many kids looking at Winston, my son was at the end of his rope.  He had struggled for several years in world that was hostile to him.  He was a square peg with the battle wounds of having been repeatedly beaten into a round hole.  His confidence was low and his frustration was high.  He was 10 years old and full of such sadness.  As his mother - my heart ached for him.  I too was at the end of my rope.  How do you help a child in such pain.  Every day I felt him slip a little further away; a little less able to reach.  I worried that I would lose him all together. 

I toured The Winston School.  Ms. Powers told me that "everyone is different so no one is different".  Her business card said "Bright kids who learn differently".  Ms. Frei, the art teacher, explained to me that the word CAN'T doesn't exist in her class.  She said that she uses art as a safe place for kids to try new things.  Failing or messing up in art is impossible so she encourages kids to find the strength and confidence to try.  My son had quit trying a very long time ago.  I left that tour in tears, but for the first time in a very long time, they were tears of joy and of hope.  I thought, just maybe....

My son came for visitation days and that's where the obstacle came in.  New schools are intimidating and challenging for even the most outgoing kids.  My son faced those visitation days on the heels of being on a battlefield.  He didn't show Winston his best because he had lost his best a very long ago.  The boy that Winston observed for those 3 days was unrecognizable as the boy that I had raised for the last 10 years.  Again - my heart broke and I wondered how I could help my son.

At this point, and understandably, The Winston School decided that they were not the best fit for Wilson.  I never attended Ms. Frei's art class, but the word CAN'T has been dead to me too for a very long time.  I had seen a light in the possibility that was Winston.  I struck out on a mission to get my son into the best place for him.  I toured every other LD elementary school in Dallas, and Wilson visited several of them.  I may never be able to pinpoint what it was about Winston that to me seemed like the right place for us, but I never lost sight of that.  As I explored my other options, I wrote to the admissions board at Winston.  I had Wilson's past teachers and counselors send letters.  I begged Winston to reconsider my son for admission.  He is the Winston mission statement incarnate.  He needed their help. 

The Winston School allowed my son to come back for second round of visitation days.  At this point, time had passed and allowed him to heal and settle into his skin a little more.  He was invited to attend The Winston School as well as other LD schools, but I had known from my first encounter with Winston that there was something miraculous going on inside those walls. 

And so my son started in November of his 3rd grade year at Winston.  When I talk about his experience there - it's very simple.  The Winston School saved my son's life.  No question.  Today - you wouldn't believe that this boy is the same on that I pulled from his previous school less than a year ago.  He is going to make it.  He is so special and precious, but he's not like every other kid.  He is truly a bright kid who learns differently.  The Winston School understands that.  And at Winston learning isn't limited to academics.  Many LD kids also require a different approach to learn things such as confidence, social etiquette, organization, and impulse control.  He gets all of that at Winston.

I think the teachers are the biggest benefit of Winston.  They are the heart of Winston.  Ms. Frei really does use art to help kids find their lost voices without fear.  Mrs. Frasier made my son feel loved and celebrated after years of feeling like a burden.  I know years from now, Wilson will look back with gratitude on the team of support that created a safety net for him just in time.  He would miss whole weeks of school in the past due to anxiety attacks, but I don't know that he came home even once since starting at Winston.  He participated in the school performances instead of discarding the permission slips before I could sign them, like he used to.  He is excited about school.  He wants to present his projects in front of his peers.  And he has friends. 

I cannot recommend The Winston School highly enough.  I cannot imagine what my son would like today had we not found Winston.  Miracles really do happen there every day.  I know - I'm the mother of one of those miracles.