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Oakwood School Blog

The Foundation of Oakwood

Lane McIntyre, Head of School

Everything in life benefits from a solid foundation. Whether it is the homes we live in or the skills we use in our daily lives - they all are built upon a foundation set years ago.

50 years ago, Oakwood was built on the foundation of great people with great hearts who genuinely wanted to help others to grow and learn and succeed. Their mission was to provide a multisensory educational program in which students with learning differences were guided to achieve their unique academic and social potential in a nurturing community environment.

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Implementing Structured Literacy

Jeanine Cyrwus, M.Ed., CAGS
Academic Coordinator, Reading/Language Arts

Structured Literacy is a term adopted by the International Dyslexia Association, and refers to reading programs that are rooted in evidence and research. Examples you may be familiar with are curriculums that follow Orton-Gillingham (OG) methodologies. Programs that follow Structured Literacy are known to be beneficial for all learners and are not only effective, but essential for students with language-based learning disabilities. Oakwood’s approach to teaching reading, in part by using an OG-based curriculum, follows the content and methods in Structured Literacy. As such, it is based on the principles that lessons are explicitly taught in a sequential, systematic, and cumulative way, and are diagnostic and responsive.

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Holding Hope

Deborah Cohen, Ph.D., Oakwood School Counselor

Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all the darkness. --- Desmond Tutu

This month at Oakwood School, we are reflecting on the idea of hope. Hope is the belief that things can get better in the future, that there are good things ahead, and that something you want to happen will or can happen. Hope is what enables us to get out of bed in the morning and to put one foot in front of the other. Hope is what helps us to surmount obstacles and get through difficult times because we are propelled by the belief that there could be something better on the other side. In the face of challenges, hope can give rise to motivation, inspiration, determination, grit, persistence, and resilience, all qualities that move us ahead in our lives.

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Oakwood Does What it Takes

Lane McIntyre, Head of School

This year has been like no other in our 50-year history. Over the past year, we have been faced with more challenges than ever before.  From remote learning last spring -- where we had a crash course on ZOOM -- to the current school year where we have navigated the challenges of physical distancing and mask-wearing.

But we are Oakwood School

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Oakwood's Story

Lane McIntyre, Head of School

The Early Years...

I don’t really have any memories from before Oakwood was founded.  It has basically always existed in my mind. The year was 1971, and I was six years old when my parents, Bob and Mary McIntyre, founded what we now know as Oakwood School.

They saw a need for a school to educate students who learn differently and who were being lost in the current educational environment. Families were being told their children ‘could not learn’ or ‘were not trying hard enough’. Oakwood was founded to change that.

This year we will celebrate 50 years of teaching students with learning differences to succeed in school and life. Where other schools have failed, we succeed. Every year we do what was once thought to be impossible.

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Books: Exciting Stories and New Adventures

Kim Hiday, Oakwood School Speech and Language Pathologist

I’ve always been impressed with people who can remember the first book they read, and even more impressed when they can choose a favorite book. The books I’ve chosen as my “favorite” have changed as I’ve changed and are now specific to genres, an age group, and authors.

A dear friend of mine not only keeps a leather-bound journal of all the books she has read but also notes her opinion of each one. She has extended her love of books by obtaining advanced degrees in Book Arts and Book Conservation and now works for a nonprofit that brings authors and illustrators into under-served urban schools. Participating in book clubs with her has taught me not only to look at the basics of “is it a good story?” but things like “how does the typeface affect the story?” or “why did the author number the chapters instead of title them?”

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Keep Doing What You’re Doing!

Deborah Cohen, Ph.D., Oakwood School Counselor

Over the summer, I worried a lot about our students. I wasn’t sure what life had been like for them since we left school or how COVID had impacted their families. I could imagine, but didn’t know what kind of trauma, grief, or anxiety the children would be bringing back with them when they returned to school. I wondered if the kids would show up at Oakwood, manifesting COVID stress as visible angst or acting out. I also wondered how our students would manage wearing masks all day. Having experienced first-hand the exhaustion of continually wearing a mask, and knowing that many students have sensory issues, I felt uneasy about the feasibility of this necessary protocol. In short, as September approached, I was apprehensive that Oakwood students would return to school stressed, strained, and struggling to make sense of world events that they couldn’t easily understand or put into words.

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Importance of Early Identification of Learning and Reading Difficulties

Jeanine Cyrwus, M.Ed., CAGS
Academic Coordinator, Reading/Language Arts

What are learning disabilities? Learning disabilities are caused by differences in brain function that affect how a person’s brain processes information. They are not an indication of a person's intelligence; people with learning disabilities are just as bright as others. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) estimates that between 12 and 20 percent of individuals have some type of learning disability, of which, Dyslexia is the most common. “One of the most compelling findings in recent reading research is that children who get off to a poor start in reading rarely catch up"; 74% of students who are poor readers in 3rd grade remain that way without intensive intervention. (Torgesen) (Institute of Multi-sensory Education).

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Top 10 List: Help Your Child Cope in a Pandemic

Deborah Cohen, Ph.D., Oakwood School Counselor

The current pandemic has brought drastic changes to our daily lives that are unprecedented in our lifetime. Many adults have said that this time is “surreal”, which Webster’s defines as “unbelievable and marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream.” If the “new normal” seems surreal to us, it most assuredly is creating stress and confusion for our children. There is a plethora of advice on the internet and in the media on how to best support children through the pandemic. To minimize stress, I have boiled down child-centered advice into a Top 10 List of ideas that I think are most applicable to the Oakwood student body. I hope you will find something here that will help your family cope with the pandemic!

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Six Antidotes To Screen Time

Michele Dausman, Occupational Therapist at Oakwood

I would not be saying anything new to remark that these are unusual and challenging times. In my own family, we have worked to be mindful in establishing new routines, to try new and creative cooking options, to stay safe, and even to make sure that we still like each other from day to day--there are a lot of “together” minutes! In addition to all of that, we are working from home, and teaching from home, and learning from home. Though valuable, this amounts to a great deal of sitting/screen time.

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A Time to Practice Gratitude

Deborah Cohen, Ph.D., Oakwood School Counselor

The practice of gratitude – actively reflecting on what one is grateful for –has been shown to have many emotional, social, and health benefits (see “31 Benefits of Gratitude: The Ultimate Science-Backed Guide” www.happierhuman.com/benefits-of-gratitude/ ). Specifically, an intentional gratitude practice can lead to increased feelings of well-being, decreased stress, improved sleep, and improved physical immunity – all benefits we could use right now!

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New Year’s Reflections (Not Resolutions!)

Deborah Cohen, Ph.D., Oakwood School Counselor

The practice of making New Year’s resolutions – vowing to do better and be better  -- dates back to the ancient Babylonians, 4000 years ago. In our culture today, January is when many of us do the same. We commit to eating healthier, exercising more, giving up bad habits, acquiring good habits, etc. The list can go on and on. Often our New Year’s goals are ones that we’ve had for a while, but just can’t seem to make happen.

What if, in the New Year, instead of focusing on ways we need to improve, we reflected on what we have already accomplished in the past year?

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