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Dec 9, 2020

Today I speak with Joulé Bazemore and Barb Coleman, Co-Coordinators of The Bridge Program at Wooster School, a program designed to address the needs of students with Language Based Learning Disabilities.  We discuss what these are, how they impact students, and how the Bridge Program has found a successful way to remediate these challenges for students within their typical classroom.  You can learn more about Wooster School and The Bridge Program here:

TRANSCRIPT (not proofread)


students, learning, program, teachers, language, bridge, talking, worcester, work, disabilities, reading, parents, classroom, special education, area, dyslexia, meeting, wooster, adhd, educators


Joulé Bazeman, Barb Coleman, Dana Jonson


Dana Jonson  00:02

Hello, and welcome to need to know with Dana Jonson. I'm your host, Dana Jonson and I'm here to give you the information you need to know to best advocate for your child. I'm a special education attorney in private practice, a former special education teacher and administrator, a current mom to four children with IPS and I myself have ADHD and dyslexia. So I have approached the world of disability and special education from many angles. And I'll provide straightforward information about your rights and your schools obligations, information from other professionals on many topics, as well as tips and tricks for working with your school district. My goal is to empower you through your journey. So if there's anything you want to hear, comment on, join our Facebook group, it's aptly named need to know with Dana Jonson, or you can email me at Dana at special ed dot life. Okay, let's get started. Today we're going to talk with Julie bass Moore and Barb Coleman, who are the coordinators of the bridge program at Worcester Academy in Danbury, Connecticut, that is a private school. It's not a public school. And it's not a Special Education School. It's your typical college prep private school. But why I wanted to have you guys on Julie and Barb is because you have an interesting program, which addresses language based learning disabilities through the bridge program at Worcester. So the reason I have the two of you on was to discuss language based learning disabilities, because the program that you coordinate at Worcester is directed specifically for students with language based learning disabilities. So before we get into what those are and how we address them in the classroom, could you guys just do a brief introduction of yourselves and how you got here and why you are the people that I need to talk to about language based learning disabilities,


Joulé Bazeman  02:00

zillo speaking, what landed me here was, sir, I for the last, I want to say 1514 years, I'm having working with students with learning disabilities across the spectrum. So formerly, I was a learning specialist as a private school in Connecticut, for students on the spectrum. But my work has always been with students who learn differently. So I came to Worcester headed to Ohio to start a program there, by love was there so much that I decided that definitely I want to stay in Connecticut and in redesign, so the bridge program that it had already existed for a year before I before Barb and I came on board, but it looked very differently than what it looks like now, I really want the opportunity to redesign that program to make it more inclusive for our students so that they can participate across every area of the of the Wooster program. And Barb, how did you get here, my journey was a little bit, I would say, more convoluted. I taught for many, many years in public school in Westchester County. And during that time, I always had a co teacher in my classroom. And I always really was so amazed by the relationship and the possibilities that could you know, happen for students who learn differently. I did become from there, a staff developer and the head of gifted and talented program, which is kind of the other end of the spectrum of students who learn differently as well. And all along, my interest just grew about like neuro diversity and neurology and learning. So I started just taking course after course, I amassed almost 60 credits in in Science and Learning and the brain and I and then I had children.


Barb Coleman  03:44

A little detour planted up at Worcester, as the beginning of what is now their tutoring program, where I was working with students who just needed something a little bit different during their school day, mostly in the STEM areas. And we were just looking at how we could accommodate learners in that way. And then when the bridge program opportunity presented itself, and delay was on board for the literacy and they asked me if I be interested in the stem end, and really kind of refurbishing and making this program is something that we thought it could be that we always hoped we could be involved in something like this. We just jumped at it. And we've just been working at it consistently ever since together. That's great. And that's a wonderful segue into what are these language face learning disabilities that we're talking about? Because I think when people hear language based learning disabilities, the first thought is language, can they not understand me? Is that an English issue an English language learner issue, which it is not at all. But can you guys talk a little bit about what language based learning disabilities are? I know, they encompass reading disabilities and writing and they touch on math. There's so many areas that we address through language based components. So what do you guys see as the primary issues or or disabilities that come through that impact that language based component.


Joulé Bazeman  05:04

By the time the students come to us, many of our students have already been in an intensive program to address their language learning challenges. So we're like to transition to that piece, they're not fully ready to jump right into a particular program. So we're like right in the middle for them to take that next step. But what we see with our students, students, who we primarily work with are students who have been diagnosed with dyslexia, seeing a lot more students with a diagnosis of auditory auditory processing issues, we have students who have graffia, as well as one of their main diagnosis. Many of our students come with code morbidity. So we're looking at executive functioning, we also have students who may have some level of anxiety, given their experiences with their language learning challenges,


Barb Coleman  05:54

I think it's important to explain what pole morbidity is, and many of these disabilities that we're talking about have other disabilities that come along with them, though, for example, ADHD, and anxiety go hand in hand, it's almost, it's one of the most difficult things to tease out whether that anxiety is from the ADHD or standalone. And when you're talking about reading disorders, and other forms of learning disabilities. In my experience, if they are not properly addressed, they do turn into emotional components. Yeah, often, by the time you get to middle school, high school, particularly with girls, you end up with a lot of emotional components. And, and those other pieces that, again, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, all of those components that can go along with not being properly programmed for us, I find that when we have children, particularly who are very bright and are able to sort of mask a lot of the learning component, but the emotional piece builds up such that we get to middle school, high school, and we think we have an emotional disorder. And what we're realizing is we had one of the language faith issues going on address.


Joulé Bazeman  07:03



Barb Coleman  07:04

And we do see that and, you know, as much emphasis as we do want to put on, you know, identification of the deficit, or the disability and, and proper accommodation, we spend a tremendous amount of time on the whole student. So we're really thinking about this social being this emotional creature, this student in our environment, knowing that if they feel understood, if they feel safe, if they feel strength based, if they feel supported and partnered with, then many of those things that we're really kind of shutting down opportunities for them are going to be alleviated, or at least not going to be the beacon that was taking most of the light of the room for them. So we really do emphasize relationships. And we do emphasize this partnership, as we are working through the lblv with these kids.


Joulé Bazeman  07:54

Yeah, and I want to add, I just had a not too long the conversation with the student, we were talking about LD SD, the invisible disability, because our students, they're going to walk you just don't walk in a row, say, hey, there's a dyslexic over there, right. And our students have been masters of coping, they have learned to find ways to not showcase their challenge. So that's where you get a lot of the anxiety and a frustration on their part because they there is something that they're struggling with. But they've coped in a way that it's challenging for the teacher or someone who's working with them to pick up on it. And so the teacher or the the instructor, whoever's working with them, may see their challenges being there. They're just lazy, you just need to try harder, or you're just not paying attention. If you put more effort into this work, you'll you'll be good and students are already working at their level best there are students who tell me before they've worked with us, Miss Bay's more Miss Coleman, before I would get a reading assignment, it would take me two and a half hours to get through that reading. Now, I've learned some other ways to address that. But that's a lot of work on their end. So we want to be mindful that these challenges are not so very evident within a student and it is going to take a few teachers to really push me on labeling behaviors as other being lazy, or I want to say avoidance, and really asking this question. So what could be a play here with these students?


Barb Coleman  09:23

as a as a student who I grew up with undiagnosed dyslexia and ADHD, so I was a master at compensating for myself and not realizing that that wasn't something you were supposed to do. I just thought that's how it was for me. And I didn't understand why the other kids didn't have to work as hard as I did. Or even when I worked really, really hard and I didn't get something. I didn't get it. So I got a lot of that you're lazy, you are not putting in the effort. And for me, one of the things I tried to do was I was working but I was trying to make it look like I wasn't working because if I was gonna fail, I didn't want people to think I put the energy in. So it takes a lot of energy to be studying and pretending you're not studying. And then. And then when you don't do well trying to explain that you actually did study it. It's a very, it's a lot going on for a teenage kid. And so I totally see it. And it's my seat with my daughter who has dyslexia, ADHD, but she has supports and she was identified early on. And sometimes I get irritated. I'm like, ah, she just needs to toughen up. We're on how to accommodate her. So now, it's a completely different skill sets. But as you said, the level of stress. And for me anyway, there was fear, constant fear that someone would figure it out, you know, somebody would figure out that I was just a complete fraud. You know, and I think one of the things that was interesting was once it was determined that you know, and I was 19, I was in college when I when I was diagnosed, so her actually no longer in college. It took a quick detour. But one of the things that I found interesting was, then there was this concept of, well, that's dyslexia that shouldn't impact your memory. Or, you know, what does that have to do with history? Well, in order for me to learn the history, I got to do a lot of reading. So talk a little bit about how things like language based disabilities do impact, as you said, the whole child through the whole curriculum, everywhere that they are, I know, for my daughter, one of the issues she had was an inability to navigate the playground. So when kids were running around shouting rules to games, they were making up as they were playing, which is very typical, and very chaotic, she could not follow. And that was her brain not being able to to navigate around an unexpected situation, and then the ADHD and the attention. So how do these language based disabilities play on other areas outside of sages reading? Well, I think I can speak to that firsthand as the part of the partnership here that works with students in the math and science areas, in particular, besides academics, and there's also others, I think, one of the first things we see with all students is that teenagers already feel like everyone's looking at them. And then to have to actually take that risk, and ask for something maybe different a different pathway, maybe to ask for an accommodation that's been identified, or maybe that hasn't been in a need. So that already is a challenge. And that impacts students across every, whether it's sports, whether it's academics, whether it's anything that's going to impact them. So there's there's the competence tied to that in their math and science classes, there are so many steps that are a part of a process, think of like a typical chemistry class. And if you have a student who might struggle with language, or has a deficit in that area, to sequential ordering of things, especially if it's only given verbally, going to be really, really challenging, and then to have to stop and, and maybe be the only one who asked to have the directions repeated or maybe to not be able to do anything and just stay and wait and maybe pick up on a visual cue from a teammate or appear. That can be really challenging problem solving and math because a lot of language that can be almost foreign to students who if they can't verbalize and visualize, it won't even know what a reasonable answer might be. So we're constantly looking and trying to predict and preview what might come up for you in these occurrences, where might language actually be a barrier or an obstacle for you to be able to do something that we know that you're going to be able to do, we just might need to get you there in a different path.


Joulé Bazeman  13:39

Because there's such a move for students to show their thinking. So one of the things I was surprised that we are big in in having students share out we do thinking visible type of routines. And so even in the math and science, we're asking students to, to write down to even talk about their processes. So our students, many of our students get stuck with that because they're like, okay, so where do I start? And how do I start to explain to someone the steps I took for, let's say, this math problem. So strategies, we've had one senior, we were just talking to him the other day, and he brought up a memory that he would come in our office and lie down on the ground on the floor, and just talk out as we scribe for him that helped to relax him. He didn't feel the pressure of having to put word to page because once he stares at a page, then he loses the thinking. And so that that was one of the out of box strategies we did for the students, you know, giving you more specifics in terms of how this plays out, particularly in language, the expression of language, knowing when to start knowing how to, you know, go deeper. So what is the next step? What is was the next thing that I need to say here? So we teach them a lot about questioning, using questioning techniques so that they can have a scaffold that when they're working on their own, they have something that they can fill in as they go along.


Barb Coleman  14:57

Yeah, and I see that with my own Daughter in that, that inability to organize those thoughts. And so when you have so many thoughts, and you have to pick one to start with, but they all seem equally important, exactly, you can't narrow them down and get them out. And it's really hard to explain how that that process works. And what I've heard people say is, but that's not the real world, he's not going to get to sit down on the floor, someone's office at work and dictate his report. And my answer to that is, that's true. But this isn't the real world. This is this is what we are learning how to manage the real world. So when you implement strategies like that, what is the ultimate goal is your ultimate goal that this is the only way the student can present his work? Or what are you doing by allowing that student to relay the information in the best way they can, I think it's important to go back to the examples your les was just mentioning about the student who was fine on our office floor. Now, even within his own time, it was Sir, he wasn't lying on the floor and other classrooms to do his work. So he was meeting, you know, the expectation of the quote unquote, real world in terms of that space, it just happened to work where we were because of the, you know, the intimacy of our group. But I think the idea is that, you know, find strategies that work, and then find ways to apply them in the broader scope of things. And then as you kind of grow in your skill set and develop more confidence, and also advocacy, because this particular student is at a university in Connecticut, and he is accessing support at that level and doing very, very well, you just continue to kind of evolve and grow with whatever is working for you use strengths that you have used your relationship skills, use the tools that you've put in your tool belt from a program that's designed to work with you as an individual, and then see how you know, you can kind of manifest that in the larger area. I know that's very broad, but there's not a one size fits all for Ldlt. So it's going to look different for everybody


Joulé Bazeman  17:07

want to add to because the student going back to the example, he was able to say, and this is how I can do the same thing that lied on the floor somewhere. But he knows that being able to talk out his thinking works best for him. So what he's done, even at college, is to record himself, that's something that he's done. And he also has a person that he can go to, and they could talk out and do some back and forth. So our main goal in our program is one is to let students know that they do have choice, I think that that's the very first thing that we teach them other than this is what all this means this is what LD means. And then this is how it manifests for you. But you also have choice. And these students are very creative, and they're going to choose to be environments in their adult life, that's going to work best for them, they're not going to be the ones that go into a situation and say, Okay, now I have to redesign this to fit me, they're going to be thinking about what is going to make them happy, what is going to be in their best interest to get their smarts out no matter where they are. And I think that that's the beauty of the of the program.


Barb Coleman  18:16

An interesting point about the self advocacy piece, I was recently speaking with a man who is legally blind, and he was from a very young age, but he could still see. So he didn't realize he was legally blind. He assumed that how everyone else was seeing as well, and wasn't clear on why he was having a harder time than other people. And I want to say he was like nine or 10. Before this was recognized. And and so I think it's important for people to recognize that you can go and he was legally blind, and nobody knew it until he was about 10. So it really is possible for students and children to naturally accommodate their deficit, and not recognize that they have the deficit. So then you get to a place where How do you self advocate, if you don't know what your deficit is? And even if you figure out your deficit, if you don't know what it is you need? How are you going to self advocate? And what I love about the students, you're talking about who's lying on the floor talking out loud? Who's to say that that isn't how he could do his own work? As you said it with technology today to for him what works is to lie down and relax and dictate. I know for me when I'm driving, if I have a long drive, you know before COVID we I drive all over the state. I turn on my dictation software and I talk and I just get out all the words and a lot of them don't make sense. But I get them out and then I can go back and refine it. And I think it's a matter of figuring out as you said, What work and you have to start somewhere and sometimes that's laying on the floor in your teacher's office.


Joulé Bazeman  19:53

And one of the things that we we do in our program is that many of our students, they have our They already come with tools that work for them. And we give them an opportunity to share with their peers, because we feel that they are the best teachers like that. The kids listen to us, because we're adults, and we hold the title, but they really listen to each other. And so we've had students share assistive technology, how to use Google more effectively, or the Google suite more effectively, to address a need. We had students bring in smart pens and show that to other students and how to annotate using other software's these are the kids teaching each other think that we do we do a good job, pat ourselves on the back, provide that and provide a environment where these kids can do that they become a teachers and they actually share with kids who are not in our program. That's another great thing, though, with what's going on in the in a bridge program is that they take like, our expectation is that what you learn here, you have a social responsibility. And so what what you learn here will work for you, it may be beneficial for other students, and so they're able to take that back into their classrooms and say, Hey, I know we're working on like a lit circle here, this is what I've learned, I think it works best for me, I think will be beneficial for the whole group. And that to get feedback from your peers is amazing.


Dana Jonson  21:17

And that goes back to the choice, right? Because if there's only one way to do things, and there is no choice in how you do them, then there's nothing to teach, right? There's nothing to share. Yeah, right. And you're saying, Oh, you have to do it that way. Because you're different, you're different. And, you know, I would say that with students with disabilities, that there are things we can do, that the entire class would benefit from. And there are, I had a student who took a medication that made them thirsty, so they needed water, but the classroom rule was no water bottles, and only students who had this is not the public school. So I should clarify that it was not a public school. It was a parochial school. But the concept was, if you have a medical note, you can have a water bottle on your desk. Well, what third grader wants to do that? Right, what fourth grader wants to be the only kid who has a water bottle and every other kid knows, it's just because there's a medical note, why can't we have a water rule that accommodates that child that is manageable within the classroom, that doesn't mean every kid can jump up and run and get water whenever they want. But as you said, being creative, coming up with choices and looking at what might work for the entire room, instead of saying, I know that this works, so I'm sticking with it just like that.


Barb Coleman  22:33

But I think that it becomes additionally powerful in our relationships with our neurotypical teachers. So our students in our program, our Western students, first they participate in everything across the board. And then they have bridge as an added part to their schedule. So we work really closely with the teachers. But one of the things that we have found has been really successful for us as a community is how open and willing everybody on our campus has been to utilizing strategies and just having an understanding that people learn differently. And whether it's an lb LD, or whether it's just somebody without an lb LD that has a pacing issue, or whatever it is, these best practices, these strategies are good for all learners. So by by our students coming in and informing us what really good pedagogy could look like, we can then help inform others and it just becomes inclusive and accessible to all the learners in the space.


Joulé Bazeman  23:29

Yeah, and it's interesting little stigma tied to that, like we and that's the systemic,


Dana Jonson  23:33

what's the right word, it's a, it's a social issue. That's the environment. That's everyone around them saying, and that comes in many ways from the top down. So if you're saying, the students who don't learn this way, they have to go over there, that sending the message. And that's where I think we get those comments like, but you can't do that in the real world. No, you can't. But you probably also don't have a restriction around your water bottle in the real world. You know, there are a lot of things going on in school that have nothing to do with the real world. The goal is to teach students and I think it's important to recognize that for some students, just because they can't naturally obtain the skill doesn't mean they can't attain the skill. You know, My son was a was a premium. He had some issues. So he had to have PT for his first two years of life so that he could learn to crawl and walk. And now he walks just fine by himself, and he got all that but he needed that additional teaching Pacific to him so that he could get to that place where everybody else was. I think we forget about that, too. When we're so busy thing What about the real world, which I really want to know what this real world is we're all preparing Yeah, cuz


Joulé Bazeman  24:49

I don't. I don't get that because I know that. I mean, my experience with the world real world, particularly as accounts to the students that we're working With like the fear of shaking things up, right, they're out there. They're saying, you know, because because many students were LBL de Vere, like your next entrepreneurs, right, and they're designing spaces where there's that those barriers don't exist. problem solvers, they're problem solvers, they want to shake things up, they're going to be very thoughtful about including other voices, because they, they have that like, really deep sense of empathy all of our students do. And I feel that maybe when people were talking about the the real world, they're stuck in, like, the 70s, or 80s, or whatever that looks like. But going forward, we're seeing a lot of changes. Where are you seeing colleges that are saying that you know what, we have to do something differently. Because it's not only in the best interest of the student that's coming to their campus, it's in the best interest of the whole community. Right, yeah. To be for thinking to think outside the box to reimagine what a learning experience can be. And so we are excited to see, when we hear our students who have graduated, come back to us and tell us what they have been up to like, we have one student who is on the board of trustees at his college. And he's asking these questions. So how can we be more forward thinking in terms of how we address the needs of students who learn differently? So that's very powerful to hear,


Barb Coleman  26:19

taking those lessons learned to the real world, to be able to add someone in the real world and say, It's okay, if this isn't your process for presenting or learning, like, yes, the end product needs to be a certain thing. But how you get there, it's only if you get there your own way. Even the idea that it's the you know, we're using the term disability to talk about a difference. So you know, it's scientific, it's clinical, however, you know, so But, but when we're talking with our students, we're not really talking about disabilities, we're talking about what strengths are they bringing? And what differences do they have in terms of how they're going to access opportunities, or information or skills or concepts? And how can we creatively, maybe find a pathway that's not the same as everyone else? Because we know that average is really just a social construct. It doesn't exist, what is average? So wait, we're looking at people's individuals, and we're looking at people as as different and unique than then let's honor that jaggedness and meet them where they are, and help them go where they want to go. Right. And I love that. Yeah, the jagged profile when you talk about, and I love the visual that comes with it, it for anyone listening, who I've mentioned this many times. So if you're not familiar with that, the jagged, the jagged profiles, something that came out of the end of average, from Todd roses work, but I think it's a lot of people's work. The idea that you may have two students with the exact same IQ, but they may not have a single strength or weakness in common. And so that being the idea that we have these Jagat profiles, but we're treating our children as if they are all we're basing them against this one average student, and I don't know who they are. And I don't know where they are. But that's the norm against which we are measuring everyone, if not a fair or accurate representation of students, I look at myself, I have myself evaluated again, before I went to law school, I went when I was in my 30s. And, you know, I have dyslexia and ADHD. And I do have a master's in special education. So I'm familiar with a lot of my strengths and weaknesses. And I had a reading rate of 8% when I entered law school, and I still finished, and I'm still a lawyer. And that was because I spent a lot of time working on strategies that work for me, and figuring out what I needed. And the law school didn't have to change, but I had to be aware of what I needed. And I went to a school where that was feasible. And I think, first teacher when I was in college, who I went to and said I have these issues. And their response was that's your problem, not mine. That was in 1990. So a long time ago. But it's different now. And one of the things that I always say is, the only place that special education exists is in the public school. Because the public school in order to educate on mass, they have to educate in one way. And that one way has gotten wider. Since when I was little that one way now encompasses many more students. But if you're not in those in that lane, then you're over here and you need something special, and it has to be done differently. Whereas when you remove yourself from the public school world, yes, we have schools specified for disability, but in other programs, like say yours, it's just education. You're just learning it in a different way. And you've signed up for this bridge program because while you are a typical student at Worcester, you require these additional support. Is that an accurate way to say it, do


Dana Jonson  29:49

you think?


Joulé Bazeman  29:50

I think at some level, I was thinking about, you know, we try we really focus on on students is that you're beyond your label. You are, we always say person first. And the label itself helps to identify practices that can be used in your in your setting. But you're beyond that. So when we talk about s practice, we're working with dyslexia, like there's research methodology, it's out there, like we know, by doing x, we're going to, we're going to guarantee y, based on that research that's out there. Now, and the student layer to that is that each student is going to have their own type of expression. So we have to figure out, okay, from this list of things, we know work for this particular diagnosis, what's going to be in the best interest of this particular child, so we have to individualize, we have to personalize, we get the students evolve, they give us feedback, they reflect, they'll, they're very honest with us, like, that didn't work for me, let's try something else. So we really try to move them beyond the label and think about again, like what Barb said, What are their strengths? And how can we leverage their strengths, to address the other things that may be going on? Oh,


Barb Coleman  31:01

you're gonna add to that, even when we think we have a plan, they'll change it because, you know, we, you know, we're, we're knowingly, we are small, which is a gift to be able to do what we do, because you did mention, you know, public schools, and they do have huge medical students to handle and, and to personalize an individualized at the level that we do, I'm not sure how that would would work from what they are, their constraints are right. So we do have a very ideal situation, in that there's a very low pupil to teacher ratio. And we also have people who are really committed and dedicated to this particular understanding for these cohorts. But even once we have a plan in place, a lot of times the students will advocate for what they think needs to happen. So we're in a constant feedback loop. We're very, very flexible, we leave our egos at the door, because what we think we might know, might not be what they need at the moment. So we really have to constantly just rely on the the trust and the relationships that we're building with the students and the cohorts, to know when to say yes, we're gonna push through this because we know kind of like a mom or a dad, this is what you need. And this is going to be good for you. Or are we more of a peer and a partner that day, and we're going to take your feedback, and maybe acquiesce or maybe shift or change yours, because you might know a little bit more about what you need that at that day. So it's just constantly evolving. And I think the key word there is trust. I have a meeting with my daughter, where she actually said when they were talking about her extra time, she raised her hand, seventh grade, I was really impressed. And she said, Can I get some of that extra time in advance? And we all stopped and looked at her and said, What? And she's like, well, if I have to take English, is there any reason I can't read the books first over the summer, so it's not the first time I'm reading them. And I mean, I, as a parent, and a former educator was so embarrassed, it never occurred to me. Everyone at the table, we're all sort of like, Yeah, that makes sense. None of us could come up with a reason why not. But I think we were all surprised to have the seventh grader turn around and be like, Hey, guys, I have a thought. And what I've learned as a parent, is that my kids have a lot of really valuable input. And I think that for some reason, and then maybe it's the way we were raised, but I don't think we naturally go to the students for their input, we say we do we want to I never met an educator who didn't think that was important. But I'm not sure we do. And whether that's just not. There's no availability, maybe it's not feasible, depending on your program. But I found that I always assumed that given given a choice children would not go to school and not want to be there. That that's just what I assume. Probably because my education growing up was so challenging. For me. That was just my assumption. But I'm learning that's not true. Yeah, exactly.


Joulé Bazeman  33:57

I mean, I want to go back what you said earlier, is that I think most of the challenge for adults asking students is that the system was are already telling us that the students broken, right? As an adult, you feel like you take that on and feel that you have to fix something and you're the only one it becomes that like that savior complex. Yeah. And, and I think that I know for both Barb and I, we've talked about this, too, is that that's not where we're coming from. We always tell the kids, you're not broken. There is nothing broken about you. What we're going to work on is for you to really understand how best you learn and implement those things. But there's nothing broken about you. We're not saviors. We're very deliberate in terms of the link the language that we use with our students, we say we are partners in learning with you. Because as you learn, we also learn, right? Every student that we work with, we take something away and we're like, yes, that that was a great one. lesson for me as an educator, definitely great lesson for the student. And then how can we pay that forward to another experience that we'll have. But we don't use things even we don't even use the language support. Right? We don't tell the student we're supporting them. Because some students they've had experiences with support, then has not been supportive. But you'll never hear say that we we've already spoken to our faculty about not using the language mainstreaming the language. Again, as partnership, we ask questions, we're always question we always deliver with a question like, how's this working for you now? What else do you need? What can you do when you don't know what to do? Like that? That's one of our costs and questions for our students. And that helps us to have that deeper dialogue. And I think that as educators, if educators can get at the mindset that we have to fix these students, and that they're broken, you can make some better choices as an educator.


Barb Coleman  35:57

And I like that point about, you know, mainstreaming, because because mainstreaming, indicates that you were segregating them in the first level, right? So if you have to take a step to include them, then that means that they're separate in the first place, versus some students might go to this classroom to do one thing in this classroom to do something else. And these students are simply going here to do what they need to do. And it's not a separation, it's, it's part of the whole educational environment, it's part of learning. And think that when we have classrooms that are so huge, and it is so difficult, and it is such a shame, that in order to be able to go to those places, whether it's support, or whatever it's called, a lot of times students are missing out on other aspects of education, they're missing out on social opportunities, whether it's lunch, and you know, yeah, well, you have lunch, lunch, during lunchtime, sure. But that is eliminating another area of social interaction, or art, or a foreign language, or all of these things that are so important, and all pieces that children with language, face disabilities are often good at, you know, and we're eliminating the components that they're good at, so that we can help them with the parts they're not good at. So now they're just spending all day only doing stuff that's difficult for them that they can't do that fun, when not fun and told that that's what they have to do, they're being punished for while everybody else goes to art, you're going to go work on this thing that you don't like and isn't easy, and might not be with somebody who you work well with exactly. We do. Part of part of, I think another part of bridge that works well is our ability to work within the higher campus classes and different events. And like we're, we're always present as the the staff, the bridge staff, and also our students, of course, our fully Western students first, but we also make an appearance in classrooms, all throughout the week, every level of class, every type of class. And when we are in there, students have equal access to any person in that room as a partner in their learning. So sometimes somebody from bridge might be leading the entire class instruction, sometimes they might be splitting a class and taking a group breakout group for smaller skill sets. Sometimes they're just teaming up with that particular lead teacher that day to, you know, kind of help with an assessment, whether that's authentic, or you know, whether it's a summative, or formative, but we are so fluid that I have students, and so does July all the time, who are not part of our bridge program, who are sending us papers to ask for feedback, who are asking if they can meet with us during office hours. But so we are truly community oriented. And that comes with that idea that we don't pull out and separate students in bridge in unless it's because we have a specific skills area that we're working on with them in a bridge specific class, but it doesn't come at the expense of art or music or participation in sports or lunch, or the culture. It's part of the culture, I guess. I mean, I hear what you're saying. And it's very difficult to do in a large building with a large body of students. And, you know, we could talk all day about how we should revamp the entire public schools. We have enough time for that today.


Dana Jonson  39:18

Though, I really appreciate you guys breaking this down. Because I think it's so critical to understand that these language based learning disabilities that so many students have that are just specific learning disability is the largest used


Joulé Bazeman  39:33



Dana Jonson  39:34

disability category for any child with IEPs. Right That's, that's the the largest category use. So the vast majority of our children in special education have language based or some form of specific learning disability and language based learning disabilities. And so to evolve the culture of our schools would simply make sense. So hopefully, hopefully we'll get on that soon. But in the meantime, for anybody listening to us, who says, Well, clearly, I only need to talk to Barbara Julia because they know exactly what I'm talking about. They know exactly what about my students. And I need to look into the Wister program. How would they find you guys? Where do they go?


Joulé Bazeman  40:18

Well, you can, we do have on our Wooster website, a section just for bridge. And I'll give some more information about the program our philosophy, remembering that we are in align with the Wooster whole philosophy as community first. So you'll find information there. And there's also information in terms of what type of documentation will need if you want to start the process for application. So everything's there on their website.


Barb Coleman  40:41

Yeah. And that's something I wanted to ask to for parents who are saying, you know, this sounds like my kid, what kind of things do you do tell parents to look out for? Like, I think my kid might have a language based learning disability, where the types of things that you would listen for today? Yeah, that might be you might want to look into the bridge program. You mean, if they haven't been documented, right? If they haven't been documented, like the parents, or you're talking to someone, and the parent says, You know what this sounds like a program my child would benefit from, like, What are the signs that parents can look for that maybe it is a language based learning disability that they're dealing with? Are there any specific red flags that you see? Yeah, I mean, it depends also on the age level, but around the time when we're looking at students who might be interested at the middle to upper school level, you know, anytime students are really struggling with reading fluency, if they have difficulty with comprehension, or popularity, you like, Can you think of


Joulé Bazeman  41:35

Yes, so, like word retrieval, like what we're doing, that can be a challenge. My students have word retrieval, we have students another red flag would be if they're really struggling with comprehension. So if they read something, and then you ask them questions, and they can't sequence that information, or figure out like, what actually did I read? That could be a huge flag. Some people think that if kids just start writing their alphabet and reversals, that's, that's a sign that there's a misconception around that it may be a sign, but not all students do that sometimes. There could be some other things at play.


Barb Coleman  42:13

But I'm asking because I hear sometimes, you know, when parents say, well, they don't write their letters backwards, or that wasn't an issue, or they can remember numbers. Well, those aren't the only signs. Yeah, no, no, they could also just be simply, you know, verbally being able to follow a set of directions that are maybe greater in length than two or three, like just stranding things. So there's a lot of different things to look for, if you go super far back to when they're even toddlers, it could be as much as, you know, milestones that they may or may not be meeting and you've excluded possibilities for like hearing or vision issues. So I would say definitely, for parents, you know, keep up on those milestones, they're, they're there as a reference point, they're not a hard stop, but they're definitely there as a reference point. Always consider your genetics because, you know, there tends to be a link Yeah. No, actually, no, keep close relationships with teachers and and with your own children. If you have other kids in your family, and you can kind of do a little comparison without letting them know and just kind of be like, Oh, well, you know, this seemed to be okay. And third grade, but I'm not seeing the same thing happening for, you know, this particular Yes. Daughter, you know, so there's lots of reference points up until that point. And then when they get a little bit older, we've had students who weren't diagnosed until they were 14 1516, because they had such great coping skills. So think about how much time are they spending on task? Is it successful time? Or is it frustrating? Or is it just meeting basic bar levels in terms of expectations, so there's lots of different things, but I think a lot of it is communication, and observation. And then when you're ready, if you have, you know, a concern, then testing will really help you to kind of understand what's happening between cognitive and academics.


Joulé Bazeman  43:57

Yeah, and I remember what my my youngest daughter, when we realized something was going on with her, she sat down with me and she just came out and said, Mom, something's happening in my head. I said, Well, what do you mean? And she said, is, when I read I get this. She described it as like a crunchy sound. Like a crunchy so I said well, with your teachers, but the younger kids will give some clues, right? They'll tell you like, this is what what I'm what I'm struggling with, they may not have the language, but it's definitely something you want to follow up with a teacher and say, okay, so can you what teachers can do is to create an observational record and know the number of teachers in their in early age, they'll do like the Dr. A's and running record reading records. That's something that you can look at, as well as a parent, you know, keep in contact with the teachers, definitely. And then you can make some recommendations, whether that's gone to, you know, speech and language pathologists, maybe there may be an OT who may get involved if it's just you know, discraft tea or something like that, but definitely keep those lines communication open with the persons that are working directly with the studio. Yeah.


Barb Coleman  45:05

The last thing I just want to ask is what sparked Worcester to do this? What what made them think, you know, we need this component in our program, were you part of the inception of that, I know you're a part of the revamping of it so


Joulé Bazeman  45:20

I don't work there were a couple of things going on. So we'll start head started a program called prospect which was for our younger friends. And that that was actually like a school within a school. And so students were coming to Worcester with with a an educational plan, often those students who are dyslexic, but there were others who fell under the LD LD realm. And they worked with the specialist and and her team in in that program. Like I said, it was a school within a school because it was you know, they very rarely participated with the with the non prospect students, but that school in design was meant to be as intensive as like a school like, like self for Eagle Hill, it was like blisters version of, of Eagle Hill. Now in terms of bridge, now how bridge came apart, there was this lovely woman, I don't know, their name on, on a podcast, this lovely woman, one of her children from had been diagnosed with dyslexia, and he was transitioning to the high school and there wasn't a prospect at the high school level. And so she worked with with a team of teachers who designed bridge and bridge, much like prospect was a school within a school. So two students, they had two teachers, and they're only two students at that time. But they spent their whole day with these two teachers, they did participate in sports, but their whole academic day was with only these two teachers. So when we came on board, our main thing was like, we're gonna we're gonna have to change that we want the students to be fully integrated into the program. And we also want to be fully integrated in the program, we want students, we don't want that stigma on a student and also the educators. And so while the students were integrating, going to all the courses and Opera school, we were also pushing those boundaries, and we were interjecting ourselves in the classroom. And that would really caught on for our program. Because now, you know, in that regard, the program, we're not a school within the school, but we are a part of school in every aspect. We just have these other classes that we, you know, work with our students. And so it's been a huge transition.


Barb Coleman  47:35

And it's a huge transition. Did you find that the community came on board fairly quickly, once you really pushed into everything and and made it the norm? Yeah, I think that that's one of the strengths for why the program has done as well as it has. And and just to add to the the origins, we were only a nine and 10. program at first. And then these same fantastic parents and families who said how can we adjust this to meet you know, the the needs of students as they're evolving and growing? So we we developed in 11th grade model, and then after 11th grade, they said, How can we keep this going from 12th grade so that we are really working toward it more autonomy and independence and agency. So we developed a transitional college model for 12th grade. And then we had parents who were like, how can we start sooner, so we planned and started the middle school program. So we really have been a response to our community and what they're telling us that the the needs are for these cohorts. And we are really just taking a lot of what we think and know would be really important to have in place, and then taking feedback from what families are telling us they can't find and they really would like to see. And we're just you know, making this recipe together all the time. And it shifts and changes according to you know, who we have in our cohort, but but our basic philosophy and our practices are solid within that.


Dana Jonson  49:05

And one of my favorite things is that what the bridge program shows is that it can be done, okay, that that this can be done as a full cultural systemic solution from which all students benefit. And I think that really is the most important message as we've touched on it. It's difficult to do in larger buildings and larger programs, particularly the public school, but you got to start somewhere. And I think being able to look at the bridge program and understanding that it is fully integrated, that this does apply to everyone everyone is having their needs met and no one is losing because if you have these students I hear that a lot. Well these students get so much more attention. What about the other kids you know, my kid would benefit from extra time well, then maybe your kid has a learning disability. But that but it really is a demonstration of what can be done and and how we really can be All Inclusive,


Joulé Bazeman  50:01

it has to start at the top to like we came on, we made sure that we clearly understood the vision of Western, because we wanted to make sure that what we did with the bridge program align with that mission. And I feel that this program truly shows that we are inclusive, we talked about breaking down systematic barriers, and there was a systematic barrier before we got on board. And we've broken that barrier, right. And the beauty we always come back to this point that Wooster has done for us as educators is that they have given us the space and they have trusted us to make the decisions that we have made. And we have partnered again with barsa, with the parents and the student, and like this is the students program. And along the way we've adjusted, we made some decisions. But each decision was based on what the student needs at that time, the core things are always there. We want students to feel valued. Again, they're not broken, they are celebrated. They have the tools, we're just providing them the environment to do the things that it's necessary for them to do. Like it's a part of their, their, their soul. So we're over the hills thankful and grateful for everything that we have at Wooster, and the students. I mean, every time that we get to see them, we're just like beanie. It's not it's not I don't want to make it seem like all rodeo is in a lot of hard work. It is it's exhausting. It's hard work. But we're partnering with some really great people. And we're excited every day to come do the work that we do.


Barb Coleman  51:37

And I think just to add one last note to that, you know, yes, there are bumps in the road. And it's not perfect. And of course, we're focusing on everything that works well. And, and when we fall down, we have to get back up. But I think delay mentioned Worcester has been incredible in providing us the opportunity to do that, and and the belief in us and the willingness to partner with us, and also the parents, parents have put huge amounts of trust and effort into working with us to all do what's best for these learners. The proof is in the pudding. The proof is in the students that you are putting out who are meeting their goals and their dreams and pursuing their education or whatever it is they want to pursue next. And taking these skills and actually making them work in the real world.


Joulé Bazeman  52:24

zactly we have our this year, this school year is pretty significant to us. Because the two students we started with in 10th grade. They're graduating from college this year. Here, yeah. So it's pretty exciting for us to see where they where they go. That's sort of full circle. Yeah, exactly. Well, maybe


Dana Jonson  52:45

not yet. They might not be finished.


Joulé Bazeman  52:49

They might be gone. You know, going back to school.


Barb Coleman  52:52

That is a great. That is a great measure, though to be that must be exciting to see the first two students and say, Yep, it's working. Yeah. Yeah, it absolutely worked. Well, thank you both so much for joining me and explaining these pieces. And talking about the bridge program. I don't think it's as well known as it needs to be. And I think it's a wonderful model for any other schools that that want to try and incorporate language based learning strategies that benefit all students. So I appreciate it. All of your contact information. And the Wister website that we discussed will be in my show notes. So anyone listening to this, who wants to go back and find Julie and Barb or Worcester the bridge program, go back and read the show notes. They will all be there. And thank you both so much for joining me today. Thank


Joulé Bazeman  53:36

you so much. Thank you. Thank you. I


Dana Jonson  53:38

really really enjoyed our time talking with you. Thank you so much. Thank you so much for joining me today. Please don't forget to subscribe to this podcast so that you get notifications when new episodes come out. And I want to know what you want to know. So join our Facebook group also named need to know with Dana Jonson or you can email me at Dana at special ed dot life. But definitely reach out with your comments and questions and I'll see you next time here on me to know with Dana Jonson have a fabulous day