Level playing field: Joshua Burcher, right, lost his confidence when his dyslexia meant he was unable to keep up with his classmates at Saltus Grammar School. He now goes to school in New York and his parents say he ‘strives to do well’ because there is no longer a stigma attached to his learning difficulty. *Photo supplied
Level playing field: Joshua Burcher, right, lost his confidence when his dyslexia meant he was unable to keep up with his classmates at Saltus Grammar School. He now goes to school in New York and his parents say he ‘strives to do well’ because there is no longer a stigma attached to his learning difficulty. *Photo supplied
Some parents feel the only way they can get a good education for their children with dyslexia is to pay thousands of dollars for an overseas boarding school. The Bermuda Sun’s Sirkka Huish today speaks to two moms who have taken their teenage sons out of Bermuda’s school system to pay almost three times as much to have them educated at a specialist school in New York. They say little was done by the island’s teachers to help their children who were falling behind with their work.

Joshua Bucher had trouble learning his alphabet and always wrote his letters backwards.

He struggled to grasp the basics as a young boy but his parents Daniel and Karen were told not to worry as he “would grow out of it”.

Joshua was given extra learning support in pre-school and primary school but he continued to struggle with reading and writing.

He had the ability to do well academically but he became increasingly frustrated as “something was stopping him from learning”.

Diagnosed

Joshua slipped a few grades behind with his schoolwork but did not understand why.

It was only at the age of 11 that he was diagnosed with dyslexia following tests at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

Joshua continued to attend Saltus Grammar School but he began to lose his confidence and self-esteem.

Mrs. Bucher said: “School was quite difficult for him, he was struggling with his reading.

“He was very good at sport and quite articulate but something was stopping him from learning.

“He was being stigmatized and we could see he was losing his confidence, he was not getting enough for his needs.”

Mr. and Mrs. Bucher, who both work in the insurance industry, did not want to send their son to school overseas but they felt they had no choice.

They believe there is a limited number of specialist teachers in Bermuda and in the classroom “everyone is taught in the same way”.

Mrs. Bucher said: “At first he wasn’t happy about going. We never wanted to send our son to a boarding school that young.

“It was hard for us all but we now know he is in the right place.

“Bermuda just could not give him the help he needed.”

Joshua started at the Gow School, which is just south of Buffalo in New York, when he was 12.

The all-boys college prep boarding school is for young men, grades seven to 12, with dyslexia and similar language-based learning difficulties.

Students attend lessons six days a week with a focus on multi-sensory learning in small classes. Mrs. Bucher said: “We realized he needed to be taught in a way that is successful for those with learning difficulties.

“He needed something more structured.”

Joshua, who is now 15, is in his third year at the school and is “a different person”.

He “strives to do well” in his academics and is excelling at sport, particularly squash.

He was recently selected to play in a schools squash tournament in Ohio. Mrs. Bucher said: “At Gow we are very impressed with the faculty and staff.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled at how Josh is doing. There is a level playing field, all the boys know they have a learning difficulty and they all know that they can do well.”

Joshua, who has an 11-year-old brother, Christian, will stay at the Gow School until he goes to university.

He plans to “make lots of money” in his future career and is interested in being a pilot as he loves to travel.

'Our son used to come home in tears but in the U.S. he is thriving'