Recently, our middle school students had the opportunity to attend our first in-person middle school meet-up of the year, a nerf war, on the TJS playground. Middle school meet-ups offer students the ability to practice social skills in a fun, real-life way, so it's a true JOY to offer these events in-person again. Read through this Q&A blog post with Program Director Elyse Trusell to learn more about the unique benefits of our middle school meet-ups for students, how we're keeping students safe at these events and plans for future meet-ups.
Rising TJS 6th Grader
I did okay in school for a while, but then second grade hit. We had more homework, bigger books and harder math. Chapter books were really tough for me. The words would just become garbled – it was like they wouldn’t stay on the page. The words were also typed so small that I had trouble reading them. My parents thought I needed glasses, but later we learned that I have dyslexia.
How did you feel when you learned you have dyslexia?
I remember that “dyslexia” just seemed like a really big word that I didn’t understand. I just thought I was dumb.
I used to feel like I was the only kid who was struggling. I had to get a tutor, and other kids at my old school wondered why I was different.
Because of tutoring, I had to miss PE. I didn’t get my exercise, so I wanted to move around a lot even when it was time to focus. It was really hard to pay attention. I wanted to run around and touch everything in the room!
After a while, my parents realized that I needed to go to a school for kids like me. That’s when we found The Joy School.
How did you feel when you first came to The Joy School?
On my visit day to TJS, I was really scared. I didn’t want to have to come home and tell my mom that another school didn’t work out.
But when my mom asked me how my day went, I told her, “I’d love to go here mom. I feel like I belong here.”
In the past, kids made me feel bad for being different. But on my first day at The Joy School, I made a friend named Audrey right away. Since then I’ve known I can talk to people here.
What do you think is The Joy School’s purpose?
The Joy School tries to make kids feel more comfortable in their environment. There are so many kids just like me here. Outside TJS I can feel lonely. I’m so glad this school exists.
I learned fast that The Joy School is a very happy place. At The Joy School, when something goes wrong, you can still see the light. You feel like you can make your way through it.
How have things changed since you started at The Joy School?
I used to think I was dumb, so I didn’t talk a lot. I didn’t know how to be social. That all changed at The Joy School. Now I know there are lots of people like me. We just think differently.
Some kids need more time than others. Some flowers take longer to bloom. If you rush them, they'll end up wilted. I love that TJS teachers work with me at a pace I can handle.
How do the teachers at TJS help you?
Mrs. Scott makes math easier. She puts it in a way that I understand and remember. She uses real life examples like recipes.
Mrs. Donovan has helped me so much with reading. We use “word chunking” to break up new words into syllables. We also get to act out new words. It’s awesome to get to move around, and it helps me remember what the words mean better than if someone just tells me to memorize it. It’s a lot less boring. I used to get all Fs, but now I may only get a few spelling words wrong.
It used to be really hard for me to read and do math word problems when I first came to TJS. Now I can read smaller letters without getting overwhelmed. The words aren’t falling off the page.
TJS teachers have time to prep you for when you mainstream to a new school. They don’t rush you. You’re learning a lot of the same things other schools teach, but in a better way – a way that makes sense for you. There is still homework, but the teachers know your ability, so it goes smoother.
It's not that it's easy. There are still challenges, but now I know how to face them. When we take standardized tests, I am more relaxed because I don’t feel pressured.
The teachers here are kind – people are always smiling. They open up your days to new possibilities.
How do you feel about starting middle school at TJS next year?
I’m excited, but also a little scared. It’s a big step. There are teachers I don’t know yet. Still, I can’t wait to have more opportunities that come with being in middle school. There are more electives you can do, and other students will stop seeing me as a little kid.
Do you think having gone to TJS in elementary and middle school will help you in high school?
It is hard to imagine going to high school if I hadn’t gone to The Joy School. I wouldn’t have the social skills I learned here. At TJS I have a chance to speak up in classes knowing that people won’t taunt me because I’m different.
What do you want kids who have dyslexia to know about The Joy School?
If you have dyslexia, The Joy School is awesome. You don’t have to be scared. I was scared before I came here. But the teachers are nice and care about you. I used to have a really hard time in a lot of subjects – I still have work to do, but I have made progress. If you come here, you will have things to work on, but I think... no, I know you will improve.
Don’t take short cuts. It may feel like you’re getting done faster in the moment, but when you take the next big step to middle school or high school, you’re going to get stuck. There will always be bumps in the road, but if you take your time and learn the skills you need, you will know how to face those challenges.
How do you feel now about having dyslexia?
People misunderstand dyslexia a lot. It really just means that you think differently, and you might have a hard time reading and focusing. Your brain just works differently. It used to bother me, but I don’t care if I have dyslexia now. If I didn’t have dyslexia, it would change who I am. I would be quieter.
Dealing with a learning difference can make you more accepting. If someone says that I’m weird, I say, “That’s just who I am.” Some of the best inventors in the world were laughed at because they had different ways of thinking.