Recipe for Success: Tips for Individuals With Language-Based Disabilities
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Recipe for Success: Tips for Individuals With Language-Based Disabilities

by Jacky Cohen

Rona Schwartz, Director of the Katherine Thomas High School

We have all made it through school in some way, shape or form but how did we do it and what advice could we give to the next generation? Today, success is measured by outcomes, results, or grades, but what truly is success if not for the journey? Graduating from school may be the trophy, but the path to that point and the obstacles overcome are the real achievement. The sweat, blood, and tears that go into the recipe for success and the lessons learned along the way are the real measure of victory.

The Katherine Thomas School, located in Rockville, Maryland, is a non-public school for individuals with language-based learning disabilities. Their staff is made up of experts including Master’s level educators, speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and social workers. These professionals come together every day to provide the best opportunities for learning and achievement for their students. Rhona Schwartz, Director of The Katherine Thomas High School, provided some key insights into the recipe for success that play a part in her students’ journeys through school.

Here are the key ingredients

Organization Skills (Executive Functioning)

It’s crucial to stay on top of assignments and allow as much time to complete them as needed. In order to do this, you need time management skills. Try using a planner, and set reminders on your phone to help stay on top of deadlines. If you have trouble understanding time or need motivators, use a Time Timer or the alarm on your smart phone. Keep materials together, use folders or binders, or try color-coding systems.


Knowing your strengths and weaknesses. We all have them. It’s okay to struggle with certain skills but when you know what those are, you can work extra hard at them or find ways to compensate. Knowing your strengths can help you stay motivated and help you find creative ways to combat your challenges.


Knowing when and how to ask for help. You don’t have to know everything but you do have to know what you don’t know and not be afraid to ask for help.

Finding a Mentor

Finding one person who truly believes in your success and can act as a personal cheerleader can make all the difference. This person will remain a positive influence in a student’s life long after their school relationship has ended.


A combination of perseverance, drive, motivation, and work ethic. People with disabilities must be able to persevere despite the challenges they face. They must work harder than their peers but the rewards are even sweeter.


It’s okay to fail, especially with the safety net of family, teachers, and professionals around to help you bounce back. However, failure is only useful if you can learn from it and apply those lessons to life’s next curve ball. Otherwise, it’s a wasted batch of dough that just gets thrown away.

The final procedure:

Combine all ingredients in your life and remember to stir consistently. This means, don’t forget about any one of these ingredients, as they are all crucial to being successful. If you’re running low on any one ingredient, you can always find more if you dig deep and ask for help.

Newsletter Articles – July 2015

Pablo's graduation

Parents live with the eternal hidden concern of how their children will survive when they are gone. It is not lack of faith; it is simple mathematics. We race against time, we race toward wisdom and let life pass us by. However, wisdom alone cannot make our children independent, but a life well-planned and implemented does envision a better future. Imagine now the life of parents when their child has learning disabilities! All we want is to see them independent, prepared and most importantly, aware of what this world entails so that they can act accordingly.

Madeline's perspective on attainment and identity

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

This question is asked to kids everywhere and to teens in their senior year of high school. Even now, in my last year of college, that one question still haunts me. It haunts everyone.

Chase's Graduation - CLE

While graduation festivities for 2015 have come and gone, it is never too early to think about preparing for graduation. Here are the top five things you need to know for successful graduation planning.

Success for students with learning differences

What is success? How do you measure it? Although society, as a whole, has somewhat universal indicators of success (e.g., wealth, prestige, power, love), success is a benchmark that is assessed personally and individually. If you take ten different people and ask them how they would define success, they would give you ten different answers. Success is a vague, intangible term and many variables, such as age, experience, practice of faith, personality, educational level, and family values all contribute to the achievements that we hold most dear. In individuals with disabilities, the relativity of success is even more apparent than in the general population. Due to the individual challenges and personal struggles of this population, we often need to relook at our typical notions of success and make them more realistic. As someone who is in a position to support many students’ success, much of my work is geared toward helping our students set realistic benchmarks of achievement and celebrate their seemingly small, but hugely significant victories.

Stephanie Martin, President CLE

The core of CLE’s mission is to foster independence in the remarkable young adults we work alongside. Our services are individually tailored around the students’ needs and interests which allows our team to ‘Meet You Where Are.’ We pride ourselves in adapting our supports around the varying interests of students and the paths they desire to pursue.

From an academic standpoint, we have students pursuing 4-year degrees all the way to certificates in industries and fields they find meaningful to their growth and development. Last year, CLE had the pleasure of celebrating the accomplishments of students including: 13 students transferred to a 4-Year university; 16 students received an Associates or Bachelor’s Degree; 19 students earned certificates in their course of study; and 13 students received honors.

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This has been a special needs program update from College Living Experience | CLE | Choose Your Future. You may also click here to read the original article on the main program website.