The Meaning of a Diploma for Students with Learning Disabilities
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The Meaning of a Diploma for Students with Learning Disabilities

by Monica Chaves, CLE Parent

Pablo's graduationParents 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.

Pablo entered CLE in August 2012. I was happy to see him ready to learn about the real world in a protected environment different than the one we, his parents, could offer. Little by little, mistake by mistake, success after success, he started recovering his self-esteem, so shattered throughout his high school experience and earlier years. I was happy to see him grow up at his own rhythm, beside his new peers (some of whom would become close friends), and surrounded by professionals who knew about this process far more than we, his parents, could ever know.

We knew CLE would help Pablo find his skills and orient him on how to pursue a career in a college. One day, I received the news that he was already registered in Digital Media Design at McFatter Technical College. I felt like I was in the middle of a Pablo's friends and familynever-ending dream. I realized I had visualized him finishing high school, but never entering or graduating college. Oftentimes, parents like myself feel we are constantly but carefully walking near an abyss with little light to recognize the pitfalls. Perhaps this perennial caution did not allow me to fully accept that his graduation was just around the corner.

With firm direction and expert guidance from Davie`s CLE personnel (who always kept in touch with McFatter College), Pablo completed his studies and became a Digital Media Designer last June. The invitation read “Class of 2015 Commencement” and I knew I had to be there for that special date. Pablo`s father had visited him some weeks earlier and they celebrated the event beforehand. I arrived two days prior to the commencement and contacted Pablo`s high school inclusive teacher who had worked with him for four years and who was now living in Boca Raton. He, along with two of his closest CLE friends, wanted to attend the ceremony held at the War Memorial Auditorium in Fort Lauderdale.

Sharing the Celebration

Proud mom of a student with learning disabilitiesI did not know that McFatter was also a Technical High School and they explained to us that it would all take place at the same time. I was concerned about how long I would have to wait before seeing Pablo graduate. My fears only lasted a few seconds. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the commencement ceremony. Not only were the graduation address, the valedictorian and salutatorian speeches remarkable, the joyfulness and sense of achievement of each student walking on that stage was something I would never forget. I quickly had to admit I was not the only proud parent! My son had not been the only one overcoming obstacles to arrive to the finishing line. I was not the only member of a family bursting with pride. We were all there cheering for what the diploma meant to each and every student and parent present.

And undoubtedly, this all made the moment unforgettable. By the time Pablo`s name was uttered, I had already experienced the value of a teaching community determined to improve people`s quality of life. I felt that the entire auditorium knew how far Pablo had come and how much devotion and commitment he had received from many others in order to make it to that point. Better still, Pablo`s happiness during the entire ceremony confirmed to me how our choice to bring him to CLE had represented the best opportunity life could have offered him. It felt that many more than just the four of us were there to cheer him on! It was truly a celebration of the effort made by the entire team that gathered behind him.

Pablo is now studying webpage design and his confidence has sky-rocketed. He can now say he graduated from a technical college and is now studying to fulfill more dreams. The more he achieves, the more confident he becomes. Better still, this permanent exposure to a student life keeps showing him that life is a never-ending learning process and that we can fulfill our dreams, no matter how hard they seem to be. We just need the love and support of our families, hard work and commitment, and that precious light that comes from those dedicated souls who love giving, teaching, directing, helping and letting others discover their talents.

I was certainly clapping for each one of those represented in Pablo. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

Newsletter Articles – July 2015

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.

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.