Programs accommodate all types of learners
NASHUA – The day his son kicked a teacher in the face, Charlie Collinson knew it was time to take him out of the Hudson schools.
Collinson’s son has Asperger’s syndrome, an autistm spectrum disoder that impairs social interaction and communication skills.
It was 10 years ago when Collinson decided to homeschool his son. A retired English teacher, Collinson is now education director at the Greater Nashua Boys and Girls Club.
Apart from a range of sports, the club offers kids a series of learning programs related primarily to science, technology, engineering and math. Through these programs, which include homework help, robotics and photography, Boys & Girls Club employees can take note of kids having trouble in certain areas.
Barbosa is the clubhouse director at the Boys Club. “You can feel it, you know some of the kids are suffering from it, but you can’t talk to them like you would any normal kid,” he said. “You (give them instructions to follow) and they can’t. They need more explanation, they need more time.”
Learning difficulties aren’t exclusive to kids with learning disabilities. Barbosa said kids living in poverty sometimes suffer from the same problems as autistic kids, such as a lack of manners and accountability.
Jenny Peña is the mom of two club members, a fourth-grader and junior in high school. Her boys don’t have learning disabilities, but they feel the subjects are taught too slowly for them, and their need for accelerated learning sometimes causes them struggle with learning and behavior.
“My fourth-grader is getting bored to the point where I’ve had to come in and talk to the teacher because he’s acting out, and every time we get to the bottom of it, he’s just bored,” Peña said.
Peña said that No Child Left Behind rules have compelled districts to focus on struggling kids, leaving less resources for those who want to advance more rapidly.
“There’s no funding, there’s no time, there’s no resources,” she recalled being told. “No, we can’t give him anything special because all of our one-on-one people are (working with other kids).”
For a $35 annual membership fee, Peña’s boys are involved in the robotics and cyber programs at the club, allowing them to engage intellectually in a way they can’t in school.
In the education room, Collinson strives for ways to challenge kids like the Peñas – most recently he gave them an assignment on the Higgs Field, widely considered the most important discovery of 2012.
“They’re a V-8 running on six cylinders,” Collinson said, making a smile filled with both empathy and hope for the kids he works for.