What is dyslexia? Facts and resources

At Kildonan, we meet the needs of students with dyslexia and language-based learning differences

Our mission is to empower students by increasing their self-esteem and motivation. Kildonan is unique in that each of our students receives daily one-on-one Orton-Gillingham language skills tutoring that meets the child at the level of their individual need. In addition, Kildonan offers small, college-preparatory, innovative subject matter classes, an IB curriculum, extensive fine arts, music and design experiences, snowsports and equestrian programs, and competitive athletic teams. 100% of our graduates are accepted to a wide range of colleges and universities throughout the country and Canada.

What are Language-Based Learning Differences?

People with dyslexia, or a language-based learning difference, are those who, despite traditional classroom teaching, struggle with elements of the language system. The dyslexic brain is wired in such a way that the usual pathways for reading and writing language function differently.

At Kildonan, we have developed the academic program to address each student’s language-based needs as well as to develop the special gifts and talents each student possesses. Learning here is structured, sequential, individualized, and student-centered — an approach that recognizes the unique struggles and strengths of each student and enables our students to gain the confidence they need to be successful.

Love learning again…

“Kildonan changed the way I think about school.”

—James, grade 7

We frequently hear these words from our students and graduates. Kildonan believes that students with dyslexia are bright, resourceful and creative, but lack the tools they need to use their gifts and reach their full potential.

We have helped many students gain those tools, build their confidence, and learn how to learn and love school again. With more nearly 50 years of experience, we know what works.

Parent Testimonial
Reflections on a Kildonan Education

by Peggy Tarvin, parent of Annabel ’17

My grandparents, parents, and children are all the products of a public school education. My grandmother taught in a one room school house in Virginia in the 1920’s. Both grandmothers were school teachers as well as my father, my brother and my sister. Two of my older children are newly certified NY state teachers. Education is ingrained in my very being, and consequently my number one priority. And for me personally, reading has been a life long passion. I belong to not one – but three book groups.

It came as a great surprise to me to have a dyslexic child. Although formally diagnosed in 3d grade, though we knew she wasn’t learning to read before then. At first, I was broken-hearted – I mistakenly thought she would never be able to enjoy my love affair with books. Our public school district was a disaster – deeply rooted in mistaken beliefs of earlier decades – that she would “outgrow” her difficulties. They literally raised their eyes to God during one IEP meeting and said “we don’t know why these things happen.” Unfortunately this was all pre-Google – I myself didn’t understand where to go for help and when I did make my very brief inquiries into tutors they were far from my home and of great expense. I sat side by side with my child and read every word of homework out loud to her for 9 years. Her school would accommodate her dyslexia but never provided any remediation.

Finally, and regretfully late, as my daughter completed Middle School, I came to the stark realization that she was never going to learn to read in our public school district. On a whim I googled “dyslexia private school New York state” – and my adventure into LD private school education began. My child had worked 10X harder than her public school peers, but was made to feel insufficient at every turn. Our first trip to The Kildonan School for Dyslexic Children was love at first sight. We traveled on windy upstate New York state roads on a snowy winter day for a Saturday parent Seminar. The setting was idyllic. The students were bright, warm, and welcoming – as were the administration and guest speakers. For the first time in a long time, my daughter was excited about the prospect of school.

My pro/con list leading up to the decision to send my child to Kildonan was extensive – and weighted with 15 variables. The variable assigned the most weight by me was the daily 1:1 Orton Gillingham (OG) language training. OG instruction is a proven methodology of instruction for dyslexics over 100 years old. It is not rocket science – it is phonemic instruction – but it does require extensive professional training for its instructors. Kildonan has expert instructors in spades. All of their faculty is trained and most have extensive experience. My daughter would finally be getting the instruction she so desperately needed – and so late in the game.

As the saying goes, better late than never – Kildonan’s intensive 1:1 instruction paid off – by the Spring of her first year she was able to read with pride out loud to me, for the first time in her life. The summer after her first year, she was able to make it through simple chapter books and sat on the couch each night reading books she had previously only listened to on CD’s. Additionally, she became more proficient with assistive technology at Kildonan. While dyslexia is a life long struggle, my child now has the skills to cope in a literate adult world.

Perhaps more important than learning to read, my child’s self esteem, slowly started to heal. The daily toll of public school feeling “different, stupid, and less than” began to change. She no longer sat in classes wondering “why me?” and was able to focus on her abilities rather than her disabilities. Kildonan’s caring faculty started to lift and repair her wounded self image. And although I never envisioned a child of mine living away from home before college, and sacrificing the privilege of daily contact, the separation was essential. I had become too intertwined with her education, she needed to learn to do things on her own. While some of her extra-curricular public school opportunities were lost in a small private school, Kildonan’s horseback riding, snow sports program, and travel opportunities gave her exposure to skills she never would have found in her public school.

Going into senior year, two years later, I had serious reservations about whether my child would get into college. Again, Kildonan ensured that every child taking the SAT/ACT’s had appropriate accommodations. No longer was my child singled out in class for “special” test-taking – because every one got the same treatment. Kildonan’s professional staff ushered her through the college application process and she was accepted to 5 excellent colleges. She has the same opportunities ahead of her as her non-dyslexic peers.

I am no longer “heart-broken” that my child is dyslexic. She enjoys both “eye” and “ear” reading regularly. She looks at the world through her unique lens and sees the answers to puzzles that others don’t see. She is equipped to step into her adult life in a way that her public school would never have provided. I am by nature, a risk averse person. I’m so glad our family decided to take the plunge into the Kildonan School education.”