School offers reading help

TRACING the narrow path between two thin lines while wearing an eye-patch may seem like an odd antidote to dyslexia, but for Trevor Bestwick, it worked like a charm.

Bestwick is currently studying civil engi-

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neering at the University of Calgary, but just a decade earlier the odds seemed long against the former West Vancouver resident going to college.

"When I was in Grade 4 and I left public school my reading level was probably at the Grade 1 level," he recalls.

Bestwick left Caulfeild elementary for a specialized program. The new school stressed memorizing specific rules to compensate for dyslexia, a program that left Bestwick struggling.

"For something like bad spelling, I would learn a bunch of techniques, how to remember how to spell certain words, or just some words that didn't follow the fundamental rules of the English language," Bestwick says. "A great example I can give you is the word 'laugh.' When I was really young the way I learned to memorize it was, 'Look At Us Giggle Happily.'"

The program didn't seem to change anything except Bestwick's personality.

"Because of my poor school skills I was heading in the direction of the class clown because I loved getting a laugh out of people and it was a great way to hide my weaknesses," he says.

Having taken a Lucas Centre course with Howard Eaton, who currently serves as director of Eaton Arrowsmith school, Bestwick and his mother opted to make a change.

Located near University Hill in Vancouver, Eaton Arrowsmith specializes in helping students with learning disabilities and social difficulties. The school offers a slate of programs designed to improve a student's cognitive functions until they can return to a public or private school.

"It was clear at the time I still had some struggles. Nothing I'd done at that program could make my writing speed faster or increase my productivity on writing an essay or getting better at spelling," Bestwick says. "We took a leap of faith with Howard Eaton."

Bestwick says he was heartbroken to leave his friends for a new school that championed methods that, at first glance, seemed peculiar.

"Eaton Arrowsmith would give you an exercise that might seem a little abstract at the time, that has nothing to do with spelling, but the reality of it is actually isolating the part in your brain that helps the way your brain actually learns to spell," he says.

Tracing patterns while wearing an eye-patch turned out to be a useful exercise.

"When you're doing this exercise they don't want you using one side of your brain because the part of your brain that has trouble with the exercise needs to be isolated," Bestwick explains.

The school's drills served the same general functions as rehabilitative exercises, according to Bestwick.

"These exercises might have nothing to do with social studies or English class, but they're engaging the brain in a way that makes it stronger and learn faster, and no longer do you have to compensate," he says.

Learning to quickly read six-handed clocks also benefited Bestwick.

"Those exercises help you with anything from having to co-ordinate a bunch of tasks to staying organized, it helps you with math."

Understanding the interdependence of each hand on the clock can help in comprehending the ripple effect of social relationships, according to Bestwick.

It wasn't long before the program seemed to be working, and in Grade 7 Bestwick was able to dive into the Harry Potter books.

"I'm not reading an entire page and forgetting what I'd read because I was focusing so hard on what words were on the page and not the actual subject," he says. "Life gets a little more interesting."

Rather than struggling to graduate high school, Bestwick earned a scholarship for academic excellence.

"I want to do anything I can for Eaton Arrowsmith because I think it's a great school," he says. "They're just really open and understanding and want kids to do the best they can in life."

jshepherd@nsnews.com

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