Learning-disabled reach heights at Summit School ANNE ARUNDEL EDUCATION

November 30, 1992|By Monica Norton | Monica Norton,Staff Writer

Five years ago, Jane Snider had her own private practice i Annapolis devoted to helping children with learning disabilities. Many of the 50 to 60 children she was seeing every year couldn't learn in traditional schools and needed more specialized settings.

Such schools existed. One school was in Washington. Another, in Baltimore, was overcrowded.

"I was referring one of my clients to the Baltimore school when [officials there] said, 'Look, Jane. We've got a waiting list that is too long already. If you want these kids in a school, then you've got to start one yourself.' "

Not a bad idea, she thought.

So Dr. Snider began The Summit School, for children with average to above-average intelligence who have difficulty reading and writing.

Located just across the Anne Arundel County line in Prince George's County, the school opened in 1989 with 25 students. Accredited by the state Department of Education, the school serves children ages 6 to 14.

The Summit School's 47 students are served by 18 staff members, allowing for classes of no more than 10 students. Reading and writing classes have no more than three students, to ensure added individual attention.

That attention, which Dr. Snider calls "active learning," is not "quiet teaching where the teacher talks and the students listen," she said. "There is a lot of give and take. We want our students to ask questions."

Last week, students, alumni and family members visited the school for a program to honor grandparents and see what the student body has accomplished.

Fourteen-year-old David Hanson stood in front of about 90 people and read his paper on grandparents.

There is my grandfather who tells me stories about when he was young and growing up on the ranch," David read.

"Then there's my grandmother, who gets lost a lot while driving to the mall."

NTC David, who lives in Annapolis, continued to read flawlessly about the characteristics that make his grandparents wonderful. The crowd applauded. Hap Hanson, David's "Pop-Pop," smiled from ear to ear.

"I think this is an outstanding school," Mr. Hanson said. "They have helped David tremendously. He has slowed down in his talking. He's much more confident. He has a very positive attitude of what he can do.

"I've always known he could do it," Mr. Hanson added. "Now, he knows he can do it."

Douglas Ewalt, 13, also read his paper. Douglas said it was a major accomplishment for him.

"I used to have trouble just raising my hand in class," he said. "Now, I raise it all the time when I don't understand something.

"Without this school, I don't know where I'd be. I'd say that because of this school, I've improved my reading at least 100 percent."

About 70 percent of the students live in Anne Arundel County. Tuition is $12,900 a year, but some financial aid is available. The ,, county school system pays for some of the more extremely handicapped students to attend Summit.

All the students come from schools where they have had negative learning experiences, Dr. Snider said.

"When they come here, they're very apprehensive," she said. "They've had very bad experiences in the traditional school setting. And in one way or another, they've been told they don't measure up.

"But after a few weeks here, you start to see the change," she added. "They know this is different from anything they've ever had."

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