Walk in the Shoes event at Hamlin Robinson, 1700 E. Union, Seattle, WA 98122, Wednesday, January 26, 2010
The Hamlin Robinson School specializing in educating students with dyslexia and related learning disabilities invited the community to participate in an event intended to simulate the experience of dyslexic students in a regular classroom with teachers who are not able to accommodate their needs. The audience of about 50 consisted mainly of parents of current Hamlin Robinson students, the staff, and one or two parents of students in the community who have at some time struggled with identifying these resources for a child.
The evening began with a welcome and introduction of the Head of School, Joan Beauregard, and the staff who were present. Hamlin Robinson is very grateful for their great new location and building and hope to become a continuing resource at this site. They love being in this neighborhood and invite members of the community to schedule tours of the school.
The group then divided into three groups which rotated through writing, reading, and spelling (listening) classes. Yes, the simulations did provide at least one or more experiences of frustration for almost everyone. As frustrations grew people, put their heads on their desks, grew silent, gave up, joked with neighbors and teachers; one in my group spent time flattering the teacher. I rather enjoyed the reading exercise where the letters did not resemble the alphabet that we are use to seeing but were consistent in what they represented. As a decoding exercise this was interesting to me, but this was not true for all. The writing exercise required participants to write with their non-writing hands which they could only observe in a mirror; thus normal hand eye coordination was not available. This was surprisingly difficult and a bit frustrating. Here I wasn’t feeling great but remained engaged in figuring out how to do this. I was, however, happy enough to move on to the next class. In the last class the presenters purposely mispronounced words, invented words and odd spellings and rushed through a list. Here it seemed impossible to get it right or figure out how to make a correct spelling, and the teachers did not seem to be in anyway helpful. I found myself feeling angry. This, of course, was to simulate the experience of those whose sensory is in someway impaired.
The staff who were present to answer questions after the exercises were an incredibly knowledgeable and involved group. One teacher is currently President of the Washington Dyslexia Association and directed us to look further at the Slingerland Institute for Literacy, http://www.slingerland.org/ , for more information on the teaching methodology. Multisensory, structured, and sequential were key terms used to describe this complex understanding of teaching and learning. The school emphasizes small class sizes, individual attention, and empowering their students to advocate for themselves and their needs for success here and in future settings.
Students do not have to be current Hamlin Robinson students to participate in the upcoming summer programs.
Information regarding admission to the school, applying for summer programs, tuition rates, and scheduling tours may be found on their web site: http://hamlinrobinson.org/
Hamilin Robinson is currently leases the the TT Minor building at 17th and E. Union from the Seattle School District.