Cheyenne Mountain HS program helps educate others about learning disabilities

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Studies have shown teens with ADHD need extra emotional support from their parents and teachers. That’s why Cheyenne Mountain District 12 has implemented a program to help kids with ADHD, and they’re hoping other districts follow their lead. 

“Study for two hours, and then the next day when it comes to a test, I will literally forget,” Peyton Walsh told a crowded conference room at the Broadmoor earlier this month. 

Walsh and other upperclassmen from Cheyenne Mountain High School are sharing the challenges they face with a learning disability. 

The teens are part of the school’s Learning and Educating About Disabilities (LEAD) program. They were speaking to a group of local educators at the Courage to Risk Conference, sharing their experiences of growing up with a learning disability. 

“I was diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia in the third grade, and in the seventh grade I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression,” Dillon McElroy said.

McElroy has been with LEAD for three years, and is one of the program’s many success stories. He is headed to the University of Colorado Colorado Springs next year, and hopes to go to Trinity University in Ireland after that. 

“One out of five students with a disability drops out of high school, and LEAD has proven that those kids are graduating,” Jeanine Charlton said.

Charlton is the school psychologist at Cheyenne Mountain, and she heads the LEAD program. She works with 10th through 12th graders in managing their learning disabilities. 

“A group of students went to the counselor and said, ‘hey, we know we’re smart. We don’t think we’re dumb. But we work so hard and don’t get the results,'” Charlton said. 

The group, which meets four days a week for school credit, has been part of Cheyenne Mountian High School for 20 years.

“I find out I’m not alone with dealing with all this stuff,” McElroy said. “I have people here to help me who are going through very similar, if not the exact same, things I’m going through.” 

Now, they’re sharing their experiences with other school districts, like they did earlier this month at the Broadmoor. 

They’ve also traveled outside of Colorado, including to Reno, Nevada, last month.

“I went from seeing a classroom full of people who are struggling with what I did to a whole room filled with them,” McElroy said. 

This week, they head to the National Learning Disabilities Association Conference in Texas, to share their experience with their biggest audience yet. 

“Just telling them, ‘hey, here’s what it’s like,'” Charlton said. “We are smart, we are capable. Helping teachers understand how to help us.” 

By helping spread the word about LEAD, the students hope others like them will get the help they need. 

“This LEAD class has helped me realize that I can do a lot better than that,” McElroy said. “And it’s just raised my expectations for myself.”

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