Dyana Rodrigues De Almeida
My name is Dyana Rodrigues De Almeida. When I attended Trillium Demonstration School I was known as Dyana Rodrigues I was there from September 2005-June 2007. I don’t even know where to start; I was born into a Luso Canadian family in Toronto, where growing up at home we mostly spoke Portuguese. The English spoken at home was mostly with my mother while she helped me with my homework she knew how to do and with my much old sisters (18 and 15 years apart).
Right from about grade 2 I felt different than the other kids in my class. I wasn’t learning at the same pace as they were learning.
They were miles ahead and I was falling behind. Being a young child expressing myself was difficult for me to do. My teacher at my elementary school Our Lady of Victory Catholic School didn’t understand that I was having a very hard time reading. She thought I was just being lazy and just didn’t want to read, truth was I couldn’t. She expected me to read books like the others; aloud in front of the class. It was from then onward that the bullying and teasing started. From grade 2-7 were spent in a limbo; jumping from the regular classroom to special-education classroom, and then defending myself to the office staff after I would fight with the bullies who were bullying me. During this time the Toronto Catholic School Bored tried to test me more than once for ADD or now known as ADHD. However my frustration and irritability didn’t come from having ADAHD. It came from teachers and my family not understanding that I was having trouble at school both leaning in the classroom a socializing with classmates. I was the different one in the classroom, and trying so hard and not getting anywhere.
When I was little, my father would read to me in Portuguese before bed about the many voyages of Portuguese historians. Not many 7 or 8 year olds could tell wrote the Portuguese language, and how discover the way to India. My father was educating me about Portuguese history, and he was letting my imagination develop. As I got older my sisters started families of their own and had their children; at about 9 or 10 years old I wonder how I would read to my kids when I got older; would I be an embarrassment, stuttering in the middle of words trying to sound them out because I couldn’t read them. Would my own kids make fun of me like my bullies in class did or would they understand? This haunted me along with conversation that teachers had about me being nothing in life.
My Life changed when I meet a lady named Georgina in my first year of grade 7. After meeting her only two times, Georgina knew exactly what I had and what needed to be done. After many months of testing I was finely diagnosed with a Central Auditory Processing Disorder also known as “CAP” in connotation with dyslexia. She spoke to my parents and came up with my education plan. After many meetings with my school, parents, and Georgina my IEP was made proper. These meetings were worthless because the school couldn’t meet my needs. Georgina wanted to get me a computer with software to help me in the classroom, but the school was stalling in getting my needs met. Shortly after Georgina found a school in the GTA that offered a small class size for kids with learning disabilities and ADHD. My parents held me back for a second year of grade 7 in hopes this school would prepare me for high school.
In my second year of grade7 I started at the new school, new class, and I was hoping to make some new friends too. When I started at James Culnan Catholic School I was at a grade 2 level. Well at this school I did make some progress with my education, but making new friends didn’t go as I hoped. There were still bullies, but I kept myself busy volunteering at the office during recess to avoid them and spent a lot of time in the music classroom writing and singing music. Music was my escape for my dyslexia. When I sang there was no stuttering half way though words, it was like my brain knew every word, as it was on paper. My voice would just fellow to the melody of the song. It was the only thing I was good at and the only thing I got complements on. Georgina was determined on not let me or my parents down, she was my mother’s support system and right hand woman. She wanted to see me become something, and not become a statistic. So early into my grade 8 year we started my application of the Trillium Demonstration School. It was a long process, which entailed long meetings, and testing but all three of us were determined. My teachers; on the other hand made it seem like this was a long shot and I would never get into Trillium. Just in case I didn’t get in to Trillium I applied to local high schools. I graduated grade 8 from James Culnan Catholic School with a grade 2/3 reading level and my math level was at a grade 3. I will never forget Georgina reading my acceptance letter to Trillium to both me and my mother. I was nerves, excited, and anxious. I was going to live on residences and be leavening my parents, the comfort of home, and going to live with people I didn’t know in an environment of stretcher and rules.
On the drive to Trillium I thought of many things, for once I was going to fit into a school where there were kids that had the same problems and struggles as I did. My mother always says “When you start something new, start it with your right foot first.” So when school started September 2005 I walk in with my right foot first. I will never forget that day I was an emotional mess, seems like yesterday but it is going in 11 years this September. I was the oldest of only four girls and the rest boys. I had my mother by my side the whole day, my biggest fan and number one supporter. She helped me set up my room make my bed and gave me the pep talk; be respectful, work hard, and keep your room clean. So I tried to do as told for the following 2 years. Being in residences was hard at times; I am not going to sugar coat it. Nevertheless it was the best thing for me, I had stretcher, proper help with homework, routine, and help emotionally. I was somewhat broken; I had no self-confidence, and no self-worth because of the bullying. The stretchered programs after school taught me to be a leader and not a follower, I learned to listen and respect others as well as myself, and living with my fellow classmates I made friends that would last a life time.
When I started at Trillium I was told I would be short 2 high school credits at the end of two years. The small class sizes gave me the one on one help, which I needed. My first year I wanted to focus on the tasks at hand, be a sponge and absorb as much as possible; I truly felt that I did just that. At the end of grade 9 I was short one high school credit, but I had all 40 community hours done. After residency programs I would volunteer at the school infirmary, stocking supplies and helping the nurses. My second year was just as good or better I played school sports with the local high school on campus, leaned sign languages, I even took on one more extra class; one that was done on my own time. I had received some help from teachers and EA as well as residency staff after school. My grade 9 and 10 years I was top of the class in English, I excelled in math, and I learned to love science and geography. You can say I love school. Even though we were all different we were all the same. That was the way I felt both years.
When all was said and done I walk out of Trillium Demonstration School with a grade 5/6 reading and writing level; and a grade 8/9 math level. In addition to many educational accomplishments I also walked out with self worth, confidences, and the ability to understanding that what I had was conman, and something that I can cope with for the rest of my life.
The summer before I started Trillium I meet my husband. We dated long distance for 4 years. This meant many trips to Portugal, and a lot of long distains phone calls. My last year of high school I graduated with flying colors, and I was college bound. I planned to get into travel and tourism at George Brown College. However life had other plans for me, I took 6 months off school because I was unsure on what I wanted to do. I got married to my long distance love and did some soul searching. During this time everything I learned at Trillium came to surface. I was going to do something in life, and not be a statistic; a failure as many teachers thought in elementary school. I took a Dental reception and treatment coordinator course with the association of Dental Assistant of Ontario. I am now a certified dental receptionist and treatment coordinator. I work full time at a dental office where most of our patient population is Portuguese. I enjoy educating the Portuguese community in my office on oral health. I am happily married going on 7 yrs. I have a 2 year old son named Joseph. I am no longer worried about reading to my son, there is no embarrassment when I reading. I owe my life to my parents, Georgina, siblings, and my Trillium family. Without Trillium Demonstration School I wouldn’t be where I am today. I would have been a statistic, high school dropout, who went down the wrong path in life. But today I am a hard working young woman, mother, and wife; who has been forever impacted by the demonstration school.
In conclusion if you close down these demonstration schools you are taking away the possibilities of many young children. I strongly believe intergrading children with leaning disabilities into the public school system is setting most students up to be a statistic. It is not helping them in accomplishing something of themselves. Instead I urge you keep these schools running to better the future of many young children. Help build a stronger future and awareness for learning disabilities.
Dyana Rodrigues De Almeida