Admissions to Kildonan
The first steps start here
Our school has been a beacon for families of students with dyslexia and language-based learning differences since 1969, and we continue to offer dyslexic students one-to-one pure Orton-Gillingham daily language training, along with a multi-sensory academic curriculum, athletics, community service, an active residential boarding experience, and more.
We invite you to come and explore our campus, to experience first hand what makes our students successful. At Kildonan, students learn to love school again.
We look forward to meeting you and your student!
The Kildonan School and Camp Dunnabeck accept students of average to above-average intelligence with a diagnosis of dyslexia and/or a language-based learning disability.
Despite the fact that I earn a living as a communications professional, there are still moments where I’m at a loss for words – like now, when I want to express how grateful I am for The Kildonan School (“Kildonan”).
I learned that Hunter was dyslexic when he was in second grade. He had moved from a Catholic school into the public school system, and was referred to the Committee on Special Education (CSE) due to concerns with new student screenings and teacher reports of weaknesses.
In one of his evaluations, the Speech-Language Pathologist wrote, “Hunter’s processing weaknesses demonstrate in all settings of his educational day and impact his ability to attend to and develop academic skills.” It was a fairly grim assessment.
Since the public school had diagnosed his issues, I naturally assumed that they’d be able to provide Hunter with adequate support and guidance. I was wrong. Instead, they put him in Special Education classes with kids of varying disabilities – a virtual alphabet soup of acronyms (ADD, DD, PD, etc.) – so he didn’t receive instruction tailored to his needs. I watched helplessly as he fell further behind academically.
I ended up pulling him out and we ran through a number of private schools, never really finding a good fit. Getting the right help is not easy. By this point, a normally effervescent Hunter was showing signs of depression. And then, through a twist of fate and a chance meeting with Kevin Schutz (Yvonne’s son), we discovered Kildonan.
Kildonan has been a Godsend. It is so important for a child to have teachers help them to recognize their own potential to be amazing. Kids think that their parents have to say nice things, but teachers are viewed as unbiased third parties. When young people believe in themselves, you can hear it in the words that they speak and see it through their body language.
This sense of confidence and motivation is what I’ve always hoped Hunter would feel within himself and thanks to the everyday actions of the staff and faculty at Kildonan, he is beginning to. He’s also learning to live independently, understand the nature of his learning differences, be able to describe the accommodations he may need, and to advocate for himself.
As a frequent visitor to the campus, I have seen firsthand the multi-faceted approach to learning that sets the school apart: fostering children’s curiosity by asking questions rather than providing answers; valuing the different ways kids learn; setting boundaries in positive ways, and caringly holding them accountable for their actions; and perhaps most importantly serving as a model on how to lead with empathy, gratitude and kindness.
You have given Hunter a future; I don’t say that lightly. Kildonan took away the limitations that were placed on him by more traditional organizations. Because for every “no” and “can’t” he got at other schools, you teach him to find a “can” and a “will.” And in doing so, Hunter now knows he can be anything he wants when he grows up. Whether it’s a police officer, an actor, a doctor, an engineer or a pro snowboarder; the sky’s the limit.For all of us, where we may not be the best, we can always be better, and though we may not set a world record, we can set a personal one. So I look forward to the moments when Hunter proves the hurdles he’s encountered were just leading him to the finish line.
Kildonan is for students who learn differently
At Kildonan, we change lives…
The Kildonan School is a leading coeducational, independent college-preparatory school for students with dyslexia and language-based learning differences in grades 2 through 12/PG, offering both day and boarding options. Kildonan’s founder, Diana Hanbury King, was an educational pioneer. She established Kildonan for students with average to above-average intelligence who struggle with dyslexia and language-based learning differences in 1969, a time when few understood the meaning of these words. While Kildonan has grown to meet the changing needs of our students, we are as committed to Diana’s singular mission today as when the school was founded nearly 50 years ago.
“Kildonan has helped me with my confidence in the classroom. Now I am not afraid to ask how to spell a word or for a teacher to repeat what she just went over. I often wonder where I would be if I had not come to this school.”
—Jack, grade 10
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.
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.”
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