Students with disabilities shouldn’t struggle |

Students with disabilities shouldn’t struggle

SUMMIT COUNTY – Learn about your disability, be able to ask for what you need and take control of your education.

That was the main message from LEAD (Learning and Educating About Disabilities) students from Cheyenne Mountain High School in Colorado Springs. The high schoolers spoke about their disabilities Monday to a small group of Summit County parents, teachers and administrators.

All the students have struggled with school, felt stupid and had difficulty making friends because of their learning disabilities, which range from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to dyslexia to cerebral palsy.

But that was before they joined the LEAD program. Now they are well-spoken and self-confident, have a group of friends and have taken control of their education.

“We’ve taken kids that sat in the back of the room and never assumed leadership … (and) we’ve moved those kids to the front,” said Alan Pocock, who co-sponsored the LEAD program with Stan Lambros. “Because they understand how they learn, they embrace learning.”

According to Pocock, the LEAD program started accidentally about eight years ago. Pocock is the department chair for special education and Lambros is a counselor at Cheyenne Mountain.

Both men were working separately with special ed students – Pocock in a classroom setting and Lambros in a support group. After one of their students introduced them to each other, Pocock and Lambros merged their areas of expertise to offer an accredited course for students with learning disabilities.

The course provides students with a support group while also teaching them about their disabilities and how to ask for what they need to learn. Now those students who were once struggling at school are teaching others about disabilities and dispelling myths along the way.

For example, having a learning disability doesn’t mean one isn’t smart. On the contrary, students with learning disabilities have average or above-average IQs but have difficulty expressing or demonstrating what they know, they said.

“Don’t deny your disability if you have one,” said LEAD student David Frost, who has ADHD.

“Don’t wallow in what you can’t do, focus on what you can do,” said LEAD student Rachel Miss, who has dyslexia.

“I thought the presentation was very very powerful,” said Peggy Kastberg, director of special programs for the Summit School District.

“We were very inspired by the kids from LEAD,” said Jim Braun, a special education teacher at Summit High.

Kastberg, Braun and high school principal Frank Mencin all agreed they would like to see a similar program at Summit High School – one that provides assistance, education, support and self-advocacy for students with learning disabilities.

“We really don’t have anything like that – not even close,” Kastberg said.

But, as the LEAD students said Monday, it all starts with the students. Kastberg said she’s afraid local high school students might initially be intimidated by such a program, but believes they, too, would be inspired if they had the chance to visit Cheyenne Mountain and view the LEAD program.

Kastberg said she plans to meet with students, parents, teachers and administrators to help them determine the feasibility of introducing a similar program locally.

“Frankly, getting the time to do this is the only reason that it doesn’t already exist,” Braun said.

For more information about the LEAD program, visit the Web sites at or or call Alan Pocock at (719) 475-6110 or Stan Lambros at (719) 475-6155.

Lu Snyder can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or

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