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Academic Coaching Empowers Neurodiverse Learners
Helen Waldron is inspired by neurodiverse learners. “They are truly out-of-the-box thinkers,” she says, “who with encouragement are innovative and profoundly creative.”
As The Bertram Group’s newest affiliate, Helen adds specialized academic and executive function coaching to our range of services. Helen offers her professional expertise to students with executive functioning challenges and those who are twice exceptional—meaning they are both intellectually gifted and struggling with learning or attention. “I began by offering traditional tutoring,” she says, “but I shifted to the academic coaching model to help students understand themselves as learners. I partner with each student around their personal strengths and challenges to strengthen their confidence.”
After three decades of working in independent schools, Helen has a unique background that includes extensive experience as an educational therapist, academic coach, boarding school teacher and administrator, speaker, and writer. During her tenures at Forman School, The Frederick Gunn School, and Rumsey Hall School, Helen served as dorm parent, coach, tutor, teacher, director of admission, dean of academic affairs, learning center and outreach director, and associate head of school. More recently, Helen is director of admission and financial aid at Oxford Academy in Connecticut, a school for individualized learning for college-bound students with learning differences. Alongside working with students directly, Helen also guides schools to support and foster achievement by diverse learners. She has led professional development courses and consulted with schools in the U.S., Canada and Bermuda.
With an undergraduate degree in psychology and a master’s degree in special education and learning disabilities, Helen makes a point to incorporate positive psychology into her approach. “Often these students have been misunderstood by well-intentioned educators and not found success,” Helen says. “My process is to give them insight into their learning so they can own it. We talk about how learning works, peppered with some neuroscience and mindfulness to increase capacity.” Developing self-awareness and self-regulation, she explains, enables students to see how they can plan, prioritize, maintain focus, and manage time—the skills that ultimately grow their academic prowess.
For example, a ninth grader recently came to Helen due to organizational challenges. This student struggled with attention and felt consistently overwhelmed. The work began with a focus on self-regulation, helping the student recognize important clues to rising emotions. Success there led to work on goal-setting and time-management. Similarly, a rising senior with dyslexia was frustrated with her lack of comprehension from increasingly complex school texts. Working with Helen led to a discovery—this student was skimming to answer questions but not reading the full chapters. With new strategies to offset the avoidance tendencies that are common in the face of learning challenges, this student is off to college this fall and ready to soar. This self-awareness work is often overlooked but is crucial to future success. “I create a safe space for students to express themselves and to grow into effective and efficient learners” Helen says.
Helen is delighted to join The Bertram Group as an affiliate as she has long known of our firm through the admissions process and professional events. She often shares with us her insights on the nuances of finding excellent educational environments to support neurodiverse students. “I’ve long admired The Bertram Group,” Helen says. “When they come to visit a school, they ask deep questions and look closely at school culture. I respect that.”
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