Eliza sees the light through creative learning
There was a time when Hans and Martha Olander believed that their youngest daughter, Eliza, would never be able to read or write.
But that all changed three years ago when they found out about a new school due to open that would specialise in teaching children with learning problems.
Eliza had been out of school for a year when the Bermuda Centre for Creative Learning opened in 2015 and her mother said the school has been a blessing for the family.
Ms Olander added: “Eliza never learnt to read in primary school and in less than a year she learnt to read at BCCL.
“She now reads all the time. We never thought she would learn to read. When we see her reading now, we still can’t believe it.”
Eliza, 15, said reading was one of her favourite hobbies.
She added: “I love my reading time at school. Sometimes we get independent reading time, so I can sit there with my book and read.”
A brain tumour was diagnosed in Eliza when she was a baby, affecting her eyesight.
She is now in remission but has been through a lot of chemotherapy and must have check-ups every six months.
Her doctors are unsure of how much it has affected her vision and her ability to focus.
The teachers at BCCL worked with Eliza to find the best way to help her to read her schoolwork.
Cindy Corday, co-founder of BCCL, said: “When Eliza first came to BCCL her teachers photocopied and enlarged all of her work, so that she could follow along in lessons.
“Eliza later expressed that she wanted to have workbooks like the other students had. We knew that we needed to research and find an alternative for her.
“Working with the Bermuda Society for the Blind and later with Eschenbach Optik, in Connecticut, we were able to source a device that meets Eliza’s needs.
“A specialised video magnifier enlarges text in workbooks and has a built-in camera that can be used to allow her to see what is displayed on classroom white boards.”
Eliza added that reading became even easier after she began using a Kindle because she can enlarge the text on it.
Mrs Olander said: “We didn’t have a lot of options once Eliza finished primary school.
“The only option was to send her overseas, but we weren’t in a position to do that.
“She is a very smart person and she wants to learn. She was very excited to start at the school.”
Eliza added: “When I started at BCCL they looked at me and said, ‘OK, what level do you need to be at and let’s help you get to the point where you challenge yourself and learn something new every day’.”
She said that the school and the teachers are like her second family.
Eliza added: “When they find out that you need help with something, they will do as much as possible to help.
“The teachers are always there to answer questions or they are there for you when you’re going through a rough time.
“They get to know those things about you. If teachers know what is going on in your outside life, they can support you.”
Eliza’s mother said in primary school her daughter concealed that she didn’t know how to read so that she wouldn’t be teased.
But she added that, now that she is among other pupils with similar problems who all need different levels of support, she doesn’t feel different.
Eliza said: “This is really the place for anyone who has learning difficulties — no matter what their age or level, this is the place for them to be.”
Ms Corday said: “Addressing the social and emotional needs of students is crucial. Ensuring that their self-esteem is intact, is important for other learning to occur.”
Mrs Olander added: “Any child that goes to BCCL, they’re going to be OK.
“If you know that your child has learning issues, don’t wait until they are older. You can save a lot of stress in your life. For us, they saved Eliza.”
• Robyn Bardgett is a media communications consultant working with the Bermuda Centre for Creative Learning. For more information about the Bermuda Centre for Creative Learning, visit its website at www.bccl.bm