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Youngster overcoming learning challenges

Henry Evans, a student at the Bermuda Centre for Creative Learning (Photograph supplied)

Life was chaotic for Chris and Juliet Evans in the early years of school for Henry, their youngest son.

Teachers who worked with Henry as early as nursery school detected learning challenges for the youngster.

As the family grappled with their son’s learning differences, they faced difficult choices.

Mr Evans said: “You can be in denial, and we had many people who said he’s still young, he’ll grow up and grow out of it, but if you have your radar on, you can detect this sort of thing.

“The mistake we made was that we tried to fit this square peg into a round hole and it was too much for him.”

By P2 and into P3, it was clear that Henry, now 10, lagged in his reading abilities.

Mrs Evans said he needed to be “taught differently from the majority of the other kids”.

While they tried several different avenues, it was the advice of child speech and language therapist Yvonne West that led them to the Bermuda Centre for Creative Learning. “She advised us at that time that Henry was pretty unhappy with the current situation and told us to take the pressure off him,” Mrs Evans recalled.

“She advised us that the current school situation was not the right environment and she suggested alternative schools, including BCCL.”

The family chose BCCL after visiting with co-founders Lindsey Sirju and Cindy Corday.

Mrs Evans said: “At that point, we were going towards desperation and they completely understood.

“They were very calming and the environment of the school was unlike anything I’d ever seen.”

The school’s size and its support options for Henry were also beneficial.

While Mrs Evans said she was hesitant to put her child in alternative schooling, she said parents had to do what was best for their child.

Despite his family’s early reservation, Henry has thrived at BCCL and now counts himself as a bit of a maths whizz.

He said: “My favourite subject is maths, and I think it’s pretty easy. I just use my brain to figure things out and my teacher is nice.”

His mother added: “Henry’s learning is tailored to his needs and if we hadn’t gone down the route we did, he would be struggling with something he’s really good at.”

Ms Corday said that developing a rapport with the child and allowing him to work at his own pace had been “significant building his confidence”.

She added: “He is learning how to advocate for how he learns best. This approach has changed the way that Henry sees himself as a learner.”

Henry still lists reading as a challenge, but is set on reading higher-level books.

But he said: “I think that I’m good at maths because it’s easier to work with numbers than letters.”

The family keep him from missing out on outside activities or friends from his previous school.

Henry’s favourite activities include diving, archery, CrossFit, boxing, guitar and computer programming — and he enjoys comic books.

Mrs Evans said her son, now in his third year at BCCL, was “a changed child”.

She said: “It took some time to get to this place and for him to come out of his protective shell, but he has gained so much confidence, he’s with kids like him, he is being taught at his level and they’ve taken the pressure right off him.”

Henry also feels more comfortable socially. “I was shy when I started, but not any more. I can talk to people better,” he said.

For other parents unsure of their child’s path, the family are adamant that early help is essential.

Mr Evans said: “It’s so very easy to be in denial.

“But you have to open your eyes and realise that what you’re doing might not be helpful.”

Robyn Bardgett is a media communications consultant working with the Bermuda Centre for Creative Learning. For more information about BCCL, visit their website bccl.bm