Demystification of Learning Disabilities
At Churchill, demystification is a core part of our philosophy, and it begins the moment a student walks through our doors.
Demystification is a process in which adults talk to children about their learning disorders and strengths.1 This process is based on the belief that students can’t work on their problems if they don’t really understand them. 2 The demystification process is rooted in the work of Dr. Mel Levine, a developmental pediatrician who focused on the learning process and introduced the idea that students benefit from a deep knowledge of their own weaknesses and strengths in the classroom.
“You really see them perk up. Over time you begin to see a burst of empowerment, intrinsic motivation, and optimism.”
– Susan Howison, Wilson® Partner Trainer and Tutorial Teacher
For each student, demystification begins with a direct and open conversation about the learning disabilities that brought them to Churchill. This dialogue continues throughout the student’s time here, and is something they carry on with them to high school, college, and their careers.
These informal conversations between students, faculty, and parents are supplemented by formal demystification curriculum, which includes one-on-one and class discussions, literature, and student presentations.
Demystification in Individual Tutorial
Demystification is integrated into our daily individual tutorial classes. Teachers work with students one-on-one to develop a deep understanding of who they are and how they learn.
Depending on the student, this may include:
- Talking about why you struggle with certain tasks and what is different about the way your brain works
- Identifying your strengths, including things you are good at inside and outside the classroom
- Identifying a weakness, or something that is hard for you
- Developing a list of strategies for overcoming specific challenges
- Identifying a list of allies who can help you through a challenge
Each year, with assistance from their tutorial teacher, the student creates a project that tells his or her own demystification story. This includes current strengths, a weakness, strategies, and allies. The possibilities here stretch as far as our students’ imaginations. We’ve seen books, dioramas, poems, paintings, videos, and so much more.
“Watching my daughter’s first demystification conference, I felt total joy. I had an experience. I mean, she’s talking in front of people. That’s a big deal.”
– Churchill Parent
Parents and family members are invited to attend the student’s demystification conference. In this student-led presentation, the child will guide the audience through the project, using the piece as a prop to talk about his or her strengths, weaknesses, strategies, and allies.
Below are a few recent examples of demystification projects from Churchill students.
Demystification Across Churchill
All of our teachers are experts in demystification and encourage students to talk about the process in every class. For example, in auditory visual class, students use literature as a guide to start class discussions about their own strengths, weaknesses, strategies, and allies.
“Demystification means you understand that you are either dyslexic, you have ADD, ADHD, or those other shenanigans. It’s where you accept this and make an example, but you can do it in a fun way.”
– Churchill Student
The demystification process is the foundation upon which our students build the self-advocacy skills they need to become engaged learners.
- Levine, M. D. (2002). A mind at a time. New York: Simon & Schuster.
- Levine, M. D. (2002). Educational care: A system for understanding and helping children with learning differences at home and in school. Cambridge, MA: Educators Pub. Service.