A Mother’s Words:
I remember the excitement when my son Shmuel came home with his Alef Binah (beginning reader) in Pre lA and began to learn Alef Bais; Shmuel’s goal from a young age was to learn Torah. By the middle of the year it became apparent to us that something was wrong. He would spend 2-3 hours reviewing his reading and he could not remember a thing. His frustration and ours pained us. He wanted to learn so much. To tell you the truth, we were a little ashamed that our son was so slow. By the end of the year, against the advice of his rebbe and principal, we left him back in Pre lA. Everyone we consulted told us he was a smart, good boy (0f that we had no doubts) who would eventually understand.
We had him tested by a psychologist, who said he had a mild learning disability, but that he would compensate for it by himself. By the end of Shmuel’s second year in Pre lA, we took him to be tutored. He was beginning to learn now – but very slowly. For the next several years he was tutored by special education professionals (people who are specially trained to teach the learning disabled child). It was beginning to work. However, for every step forward that Shmuel took, the rest of his class took five steps- and he was still way behind.
Eventually the routines of the entire family revolved around Shmuel. The driving back and forth to pick him up from school to go to tutoring, from tutoring back to school, etc. was time consuming. We spent time.. all our spare time helping him with his regular school homework, his tutoring homework, his reviewing, etc. (Most of the time we neglected helping our other children because of Shmuel’s special needs.) There was no coordination between his tutors and his school, so Shmuel was taught several different educational methods at the same time, (sight reading, phonics with short vowel sounds, phonics with long vowel sounds) which confused Shmuel even more. As the work became harder, and Shmuel more frustrated, we resorted to coaxing, bribery and fighting. My husband and I became experts on special education. We knew the terminology, methodology and techniques, to very little avail. All the other children had time to play, ride bikes etc. Shmuel had to go to classes and do homework. The situation was getting worse and we were getting more discouraged until, with the help of the Al-Mighty he was enrolled in P’TACH.
Now if I go on and on about P’TACH it may sound like a love affair with an organization, that’s good, because it is. In only the five or six months my son had been in P’TACH, I saw the boy he was before his learning difficulties began, not to mention the extra time we now have because we do not have to focus on Shmuel alone.
The dedication of the teachers who spend time with both parents and students in and out of school is greatly apparent. The first thing P’TACH attempted to do was increase Shmuel’s badly damaged self-esteem. They gave him work he could do, so that he would no longer be afraid to try. At this time they rewarded him continuously so that he became proud of his accomplishments (yes, he was beginning to accomplish things in learning!) Subtly they gave him harder work, taught him to organize his thoughts, books, work, etc. One of the things I like best is that they are now rewarding his achievements with the ability to learn new things. In other words they are teaching him that learning something new, in itself, can be rewarding and exciting. (I believe this is something all schools should teach – but don’t.) I do have complaints about P’TACH but they are pale in comparison to almost every other school I have been involved in. The innovations, creativity, excitement and teaching that is done there makes me almost regret that my other children do not need P’TACH.
The purpose of my writing this article is three-fold:
1. To thank the professionals at P’TACH for the interest and care they give my son.
2. To ask the principals of regular yeshivas to visit and confer with P’TACH professionals as to those innovations which can be implemented in the regular yeshivas so that changes becomes a reality.
3. Financial – Because of the small classes, specially trained staff, rent and cost of materials and supplies, P’TACH’s expenses per child run very high. To continue the development of new P’TACH programs across the country, I would like you to think of P’TACH when it comes to giving away your Maaser. Give the P’TACH children, and all those who have the need for P’TACH, a chance.