Feeling those College Blues?

Get back on track with Semester Off!

Dr. Ilan Goldberg of Semester Off

Last year, ILD began a partnership with Dr. Ilan Goldberg of Semester Off, a comprehensive program designed specifically for struggling college students.  Semester Off aims to empower students to return to college, if they so choose, or to define another, alternative path that is more in line with their talents, future goals, and objectives.

Given the vast overlap between the goals of Semester Off and ILD, a number of our staff members have begun teaching a weekly course, How to Succeed in College, at Semester Off.

Sitting down with Dr. Goldberg, we learned a bit more about why he started this innovative program and the void in post-secondary education which this organization fills.

What inspired you to start Semester Off?

IG: The idea for Semester Off emerged organically from sessions with struggling college-aged students in my private practice. It became clear that these students lacked the resources to navigate through this challenging time and that time away from school was filled with loneliness and stagnation. I believed that the creation of an academically rigorous and comprehensive group experience would teach the skills needed to succeed, while reducing the feelings of shame and isolation many of these students experience. I also wanted to destigmatize the experience of taking time away from college and bring fun and joy into these students’ lives during an otherwise dark period. Our goal at Semester Off became to help students taking a break from college to get back on track and regain self-confidence. 

What distinguishes Semester Off from a “semester on?”

IG: Semester Off students are taking a critical look at why college didn’t work out and learning the skills they need for the next phase of their lives. While we do have lectures, they are interactive ones. But Semester Off offers incredible depth beyond the classroom experience. Students integrate wisdom from Eastern philosophies by participating in meditation and yoga sessions in addition to cardiovascular exercise. They take part in group team-building, group study sessions, and trust-building exercises in order to understand themselves more deeply and bond with their fellow students. They receive individualized career counseling and perform community service. It is our alternative approach to education that makes room for a partnership with ILD as well! Your talented and experienced educators who teach How to Succeed in College present critical executive functioning skills that are reinforced and practiced in countless ways throughout the rest of the Semester Off curriculum. 

What are students saying about Semester Off?

IG: Our students and their parents have been our most vociferous supporters since we began. A former student recently shared what his Semester Off experience meant to him, simply and elegantly:

“Semester Off resembles the training ground for life, and by the end of the program, students should feel capable of making their own decisions and acting upon them.”

Stay tuned for Part II of this blog post, written by an ILD teacher of the How to Succeed in College course!

Ed Therapy at ILD

Why it’s worth it…

Every once in a while we receive a reminder about why we do what we do. Recently we received one such reminder in the form of an email from a thankful parent. What a nice way to celebrate the new year! It seemed an important one to share with our readership, especially that’s partially to whom it is addressed:

To the Staff at ILD – and all potential parent clients:

I am a parent who used the services at ILD in Lexington. 

We have seen more tutors, therapists, educational consultants and neuropsychologists than a family should have in a lifetime – and it was when and ONLY when we went to ILD in Lexington that my son began to make some progress. Not only did he make progress at a very difficult time for anyone (college application pressures, essays, nightmares and college deadlines) – he enjoyed going there and felt totally supported by his tutor, Donna Kincaid.

Never have I seen someone as effective, as patient, as professional, AND as warm and intuitive as she.  The entire organization is run so professionally – yet has the delicacy and warmth of walking into someone’s home. 

ALL the staff were engaged in my son’s progress – and it was obvious that a lot of communication and collaboration occurs behind the scenes between staff to find ways to support your child.  When I came in, it seemed that the entire staff I engaged with were aware and supportive of my son’s progress AND strengths. 

It’s pretty hard when a student is very resistant to help, to find the place of engagement and recognition of that student’s strengths. Staff are only human after all.  I always left feeling so hopeful and so supported. I was incredibly thankful every single time we left – AND even the few times my son just couldn’t make it in.  They were hopeful and had the kind of optimism we all need as parents.

I recommend this organization stronger than I have ever recommended anyone who has helped my son; when a parent finds this treasure, you can’t help but want to spread the word.   Your kids, not even knowing who they are, I’m convinced, would be met with an engaging, professional staff – and most importantly the warm support they thrive on.

Robin, Parent in Lexington MA.

To all of our parents (and potential parents): emails such as this remind us that our work is so critical, not only for the students who benefit from increased self-confidence and strategy use, but also for the families who have suffered alongside them. We are happy to have the opportunity to  make an impact on your lives. You and your children have certainly made a difference in ours!

ILD Student’s Film Brings Hope to LD Community

Edited Headshot 2 Color correct 1
Joshua Berman, Former ILD Student (click photo to view Josh’s film)

Joshua Berman, a former ILD student, recently began studying film at Santa Fe University School of Art and Design. This past year, Josh won the prestigious “Emerging Artist” College Scholarship, funded by Robert Redford. Because of his connection with ILD and his inspiring message, we sat down with Josh both to examine his thoughts on school for students with learning differences and to see if he could pass on any words of wisdom.

Q: Tell me a little bit about your journey. When did you discover you learned differently? What components make up your learning difference? How did you view them as a child/young adult? How do you view them now?

JB: I first realized that I learned in a different way when I was in middle school. I started inventing all of these incredible things; I designed and built things out of my basement, started my own successful computer business, and also published my first book, all when I was in middle school. Yet I would go to school every day and the teachers would make me feel like I was broken. The other students would make me feel as though I was worthless, as though there was something wrong with me. There was this sharp contrast in my life between all these successes I had outside of school and this constant feeling of worthlessness I had inside of school. So as a young kid it was very confusing for me because I didn’t know what to believe: am I incredibly successful, or am I a total failure?

 As I grew up, I started to turn these interests into possible career opportunities and build off of these successes.  At that point, I was able to reflect upon what I had gone through. I realized it wasn’t me that was broken, but rather the system. After years of questioning, “Does this really matter?” I recognized that yes, it really does matter. It was off of those ideas that I began to build my life. Now, as I grow older, I feel confident and proud of the way I think. ADD and any of the learning differences I possess are not disabilities but rather the elements of what made me who I am today.  It’s really less about what specific label and more about being proud of yourself, no matter what your diagnosis. If I didn’t think the way I did, I wouldn’t have been able to create this film. I wouldn’t be talking to you now. I wouldn’t be 2,000 miles away from home, studying film.

Q: When did you start working with ILD and what did that help you to discover?

JB: I started working with ILD at a very unique turning point in my life. All throughout my time in school I knew I struggled, and I always questioned: “How can we fix this? How can I make school work for me?” Year after year I would try to fix school for myself. But I’d fall flat and hear “oh. Well we can’t change the system.”

It was during my time at ILD, towards the end of my time in high school, when I started to realize that everything I was going through wasn’t just about me. It was about a broader issue. I stopped thinking about how I could make the system work for me and started thinking, “now that I’m pretty much done with the system, how can I use my experiences to help other people who are currently going through what I went through for years?” That was with the help of ILD.

Q: How did your interest in film begin and do you think it has anything to do with your own knowledge about the way you learn?

JB: That’s a very good question. I think it’s important to note that when you’re younger, you don’t consciously know “oh! I think in these ways, so I’m going to pursue these certain interests.” But I was drawn to film because I knew on some gut level that it was the way I learned. It clicked. It felt right. I succeeded at it.  I see a lot of young kids having things click for them. That’s a beautiful thing. With education, the best thing we can do is explore those areas where it just “clicks.”

Q: Can you tell us about the video? What inspired it? Why did you go this route? How did it feel to win the scholarship to film school?

JB: The video was a real transition for me. For years and years, every time I was struggling, every time I was bullied, I felt like I was alone. The video was a real turning point because I had a chance to start interviewing other people in my life: my friends, my teachers, my co-workers, even some famous people like Temple Grandin and Dr. Ned Hallowell. I realized that there were countless other people who went through the same thing that I did.

That became my hope with the video. For other kids who are now where I was years ago and who are sitting and feeling that “I’m alone. I’m worthless, there is no one else,” to be able to see this video and realize that there are other people like them. They are not alone.

As for the scholarship? It’s amazing to receive this award, but really what it comes down to is being able to spread the word; being able to come here to college where I’ll be able to make more films that can actually influence people’s lives. At the end of the day, that’s really what it’s all about. 

To view Josh’s film, click here!

College: Ready, or Really Ready?

What your students need to know before they go…

ntrautmannBy Nancy Trautman, M.A.T., Reading and Educational Specialist

Almost launched.  For students with reading disorders and attention challenges, the whole long process of school is one enormous struggle, often supported by a succession of tutors, special educators, and parents.  These students might feel as though they are in the back seat, but college presents them with the challenge of being in the front seat and in charge for what might be the first time.   While this challenge isn’t unique to students who have received support at school or at home, students with learning differences are more likely to be at-risk when they arrive on their college campus.

Here’s some advice we’ve heard from students who have been there:

  1. 15450498811_a4034af487_kUse a planner. It can be a little black book, a Google calendar, a smartphone, or a spiral notebook, but whatever you adopt, use it for anything that you need to keep track of.  It will give you more control over your time, free your mind from worry, and in general improve your quality of life.
  1. Find out where the resources are. Know where the writing center is, and when they are open.  Get to know someone there who seems like a good fit for you so that when it’s time to write that long term paper, you are ready.
  1. Triage your assignments. This is also called prioritizing!  Look over your syllabus carefully, and identify the most important readings or assignments.  Do these first.
  1. Stay healthy! Don’t become a freshman lump or gain that dreaded freshman 15. Staying active is a critical part of your mental health and it will help you keep all the other stuff (organization, motivation, interest level) on track.
  1. Reach out for assistance. Most of all, don’t hesitate to reach out to your network of support people who helped you get there. Just because they (and we!) aren’t there with you, doesn’t mean they’ve fallen away entirely. It is good to push yourself to be independent and take on challenges by yourself. But keep in mind that you are not alone.



BethanyPicBy Bethany Roditi, Ph.D.

Co-Founder and Director of Education, ILD

Thank you for visiting our blog!  As professional psychologists and educational specialists, we are dedicated to improving the lives of students with learning differences (LD). We are excited to offer a forum where we can share our knowledge, our reflections, and provide information about our students’ challenges and achievements. While many of our examples emanate from the Institute for Learning and Development (ILD), we will also incorporate information from our sister not-for-profit educational research organization, ResearchILD. Our two organizations provide an environment for a dynamic interchange of theory and research that interlinks with evidence-based best practices.

As Director of Education at ILD, and Co-Founder of both ILD and ResearchILD, I welcome you to our blog space, and hope you will join us in fulfilling ILD and ResearchILD’s common mission – to transform the lives of children with learning and attention differences and assist them in finding their unique pathways to success.  We will discuss ways in which “learning differences can become learning opportunities” by creating optimal learning environments that enhance self-confidence and self-esteem.

We hope you will regularly check out our blog to stay updated on the latest trends in the LD community!