By Megan S. Willman

Amy Ayres does not shy away from conversation about dyslexia and attention-deficit disorder. Diagnosed with both at an early age, Amy was part of ECE (Exceptional Child Education), a JCPS program designed to meet the needs of students with educational disabilities.

Because of her own classroom experiences, Amy knew that she wanted to become an educator who would focus on individualized instruction. In March 2017, Amy opened the doors of Lyndon Learning Childcare Center. “I believe that parents need to know how to educate and advocate for their kids and then be able to teach those children how to do it for themselves as they get older,” Amy says.

These students catch bubbles and sing during music time in the toddler room. Photos by Trina Whalin 

Often, parents fear that the designation of a learning disability will stigmatize their children and limit their future success. Amy contends that such labels actually enable educators to give students what they need in order to learn. “Parents worry that labels are forever, but I am proof they’re not,” Amy says. “It shaped my experience but didn’t limit me. If there hadn’t been a label in my file, no one would have suggested the accommodations they did, and I would not have the knowledge, confidence, and experience that I have today.”

The students help Amy water plants in the school’s outdoor classroom garden area. 

As mom to Sam (2 ½) and Silas (11 months) and as executive director of Lyndon Learning Childcare, Amy offers a education to ages six weeks through pre-K.

Amy shares her top survival skills for learning:

Identify personal learning styles.
“We offer a variety of options so children can naturally gravitate to their preferred style. My son Sam is a tactile and sensory learner. As he works to learn his alphabet, he uses our sandpaper letters. Other students may be auditory or oral learners. As they play, our teachers observe their habits and can personalize their experiences.”

Build self-sufficiency.
Amy believes students need to learn to ask for help early on. “Even at their young age, I want our students to discover what they can do and know they can be proud of those accomplishments. We offer opportunities for them to challenge themselves and teach them how to ask for help when they need it.”

Learn through play.
Lyndon Learning Childcare has two outdoor playgrounds, one indoor “slide room,” and a “messy play” area that has a garden as well as water and sand play stations. “If one of my teachers needs a suggestion for a sensory learning activity,” Amy says, “I can come up with something from my own experience.”

Set high expectations.
Amy never let her diagnoses hold her back, even when she had to go about the tasks differently than some of her peers. “There is no one right way to reach our goals,” Amy says. “I want to develop an ‘I can do this!’ attitude in all of our students.”