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Empowering Students with Learning Disabilities

Wired2Learn Academy helping to create positive, independent learners By Jillian Chandler

After spending 15 years working as an educational therapist in Post Falls, providing skill-based remediation to children with learning disabilities (LD), Alyssa Pukkila was inspired to create a new—and improved—learning environment, where children with learning disabilities would receive the remediation they needed at school.

“Despite many wonderful, compassionate teachers working in the school system, I noticed that these bright, capable students with LD were frustrated, depressed, and their self-advocacy was very bad. Many students with LD begin to feel like they are failures and not capable of academic success due to the mountain of poor grades and lack of success—despite a tremendous amount of effort,” recalls Alyssa. “In addition, there is a lack of understanding within the education system and among parents and the community about what is an LD, what causes an LD and what can be done to help children with LD.”

Alyssa’s answer to this? Wired2Learn Academy (W2LA), which she established in 2018. “I started W2LA to provide students with LD a learning environment that would empower [them] to remediate and become independent, eager learners.”

Wired2Learn Academy serves children from the greater Spokane and Coeur d’Alene area, and has also served students from other states such as California and Minnesota. All learning coaches (teachers) have degrees in psychology and specialize in learning disabilities, and cognitive and neuropsychology.

“All the academic work we do is through a therapeutic perspective, where we work on weak academic areas, encourage areas of strength, and allow students to practice using the strengthened areas of their brain in a highly engaging academic environment through project-based learning,” affirms Alyssa. “These children with LD are bright and capable, and we need to see their potential and help them reach their potential!”

The therapeutic school is set up to empower students with LD to change and grow their brains and to provide research-based remediation and interventions to help grow W2LA students into positive, independent learners. This is done through “rewiring” the brain, known as neuroplasticity—the brain’s ability to form new neuropathways to rewire and restructure itself.

Parents of children with LD, who believe a specialized educational program could benefit their child, are encouraged to visit Wired2LearnAcademy.com. “After reading about our program, parents can call us to get further information and talk to us about their student. From there, we schedule parent tours, [which] allow parents to see the academy in action, meet our learning coaches and talk to our students,” Alyssa shares. “The last step of the process is for a student to take a student visit, where he or she can meet us and see our program.”

Once the child is enrolled, both cognitive and academic testing is done, with the results assisting the staff in building an individualized program for the student. The student will attend the academy 8:30am to 4:10pm Monday through Friday.

“The most rewarding thing about helping children with … LD is watching a child blossom into a positive, excited, independent learner who is proud of the work they are doing. Watching them feel good about themselves. Watching the pride they feel in the work they have accomplished. This is absolutely the best part!” Alyssa smiles.

She goes on to share several heart-warming and inspiring stories of students who attended the academy: one struggling student spent three years in the program and moved on to Post Falls High School, where she is now a straight-A student; another who came to W2LA with failing grades and after three years with W2LA is now back in traditional high school for his junior and senior years, earning all As and Bs; a graduate of W2LA who is now enrolled at the Coeur d’Alene Hockey Academy is taking advanced classes and earning all As and Bs.

Wired2Learn Foundation, which is a separate entity from Wired2Learn Academy, was set up to help students with learning differences receive the help and education they need through the academy, through grants. The foundation aims to raise awareness, and funds for scholarships, for under-served kids with learning differences. Their biggest fundraiser of the year is their immersive glow experience for all ages—Neon Jungle, which is held over two weekends in October.

According to the Wired2Learn Foundation Board, they are working on a fundraiser called Bike4Brains, which will consist of a family scavenger hunt on bikes throughout Coeur d’Alene. They are hoping to kick off this event for the first time this summer in conjunction with W2LA’s student-driven fundraiser, the Midsummer Festival. All monies the students make go straight back to the students to help them purchase supplies for their projects in PBL. Additional fundraisers include Beer4Brains, a rare beer festival, which they are hoping to do again in the winter of 2024.

Alyssa wants parents of children with LD that there is hope; that children with LD have normal to gifted intelligence, and that more can be done to provide accommodations and teach these children to compensate for their cognitive weaknesses. “We need to help them strengthen their brains, to rewire their brains, so they can have a bright future.” And that’s the purpose of Wired2Learn Academy.

Wired2Learn Academy is located at 1800 North Highway 42 in Post Falls. To find out more about W2LA, visit Wired2LearnAcademy.com. To stay up to date on upcoming events, with proceeds benefiting students of W2LA, visit the Wired2Learn Foundation’s website at W2LFoundation.com.


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