Dys·lex·i·a = Extraordinary

Rawson Saunders, a Beacon of Hope

Article by Corey Mercke

Photography by Lesson Medrano

Originally published in Austin Lifestyle

Tucked away inside Tarrytown lies a gem of education built unlike any other surrounding it. The children who attend Rawson Saunders from the beginning of their education form structured yet intimate and trusting relationships with their teachers—some even more than the adults in their life thought was possible.

 "This school is a model, not just for children with dyslexia, but for all children," says Laura Steinbach, the head of the school.

Laura believes that success is self-perpetuating and begins with not only the size of the classes but the connections made within them. The connections in the school are clearly visible through the white stone walls leading out to the wooden boardwalk. It connects the main facility to its sister classrooms, each with their own specific roles.

"We believe in our entire school being completely departmentalized," Laura says. “This allows our teachers to truly teach their passions best and [is] instilling even further trust in our student’s abilities.”

Reading comprehension is the biggest challenge for a student with dyslexia—so how does Rawson Saunders overcome this? With practical applications of subjects and a more intimate setting, they are able to achieve greater results.

 “We don’t simply read about science because our students’ intellectual abilities are far ahead of their reading ability, so we use applied science for true interface,” Laura says.

A motto at Rawson is "easy reading makes reading easy," and it stands for what they describe as a full-interaction learning system. With smaller headcounts in the classroom, no child is able to hide or fade in the back. All of their peers are struggling with the very same issues, so they have less fear while learning.

The students learn with a hands-on, multi-sensory approach that is catered to their individual styles. They use visual stimuli versus mere textbooks, so they are able to grasp a better understanding of the subjects. This accelerates their learning process immensely.

Each student has every opportunity to flourish, purposefully pushed to surpass their own self-images from yesterday into the accomplished decision makers of tomorrow.

“I don’t feel like I’ll always be last there,” a former student says.

With the class structures like Academic Language Therapy (ALT), the students are driven to collectively put the pieces together for each subject and connect with the story behind the lesson, thus making their reading comprehension of the subject itself that much easier.

The community at Rawson is another integral part of the learning. They start with the students and invite even the head cook of the school to join in. From yoga and meditation electives to survival skills and vegetable gardening, all are invited to participate. This allows both adults and students alike to thrive in full practicalities of knowledge while engaging again with the stories behind the lessons.

Every parent wants the best for their child, yet what can they do if their child internalizes their frustration, not knowing how to describe the struggle itself? After all, they were told everywhere else to just "dear" (read) about it.

Rawson Saunders, as I personally feel being dyslexic myself, is not just another school setting the bar. Rather, it is an ever-changing community of leaders, teachers and guides at the helm of a daily redefining of what dyslexia really means to the children who come face to face with its struggles. One might even call the team at Rawson a new beacon of hope in the eyes of those families asking for help for their children who will be changing the very story of dyslexia into tomorrow.

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