Every child at Atlanta Jewish Academy is headed in the same direction; some just take a different path.
The Matthew Blumenthal M'silot Program provides children who learn differently with an environment enabling them to become empowered learners who develop both a positive self-image and skills to maximize their potential. The word m’silot is the Hebrew word for "pathways," and at the Matthew Blumenthal M'silot Program of AJA, a child’s individual learning profile determines his or her instruction and path to success.
Individualized Learning Plans, Common Goals
Students who qualify for the Matthew Blumenthal M’silot Program, which includes the Running Start kindergarten as well as grades 1 through 8, learn in small classes, with a teacher-student ratio of approximately 1 to 6. The program includes general and Judaic studies, emphasizing remedial strategies to help children compensate for their learning differences. Teachers use direct instruction and multi-sensory learning, and there is a strong foundation in decoding, reading, and written and oral language. The Matthew Blumenthal M'silot program also includes a social skills/social thinking curriculum.
At various times during the day, such as lunch, recess, tefillah, physical education, and grade level activities, M’silot students are integrated with their Atlanta Jewish Academy peers. Progress is continually monitored to help determine the best placement for each child for the following year, which could include transitioning into the general AJA curriculum.
Matthew Blumenthal M’silot Program Learning Styles
The child who is an appropriate student for the Matthew Blumenthal M’silot Program has been diagnosed with a mild to moderate learning disability based on an evaluation conducted by a licensed psychologist. The child who will benefit from M'silot has average to above-average intelligence, but is not reaching his or her potential. As a result of processing deficits and uneven learning profiles, where there are strengths and weaknesses, the following may be exhibited:
- reading disability;
- receptive/expressive language challenges;
- written language disorders;
- mathematical disorders.
A child with learning differences and ADD/ADHD may be a candidate for M’silot. The Matthew Blumenthal M’silot Program is not designed to meet the needs of children with more severe learning disabilities or children with mental impairments, multiple handicaps, or behavioral/emotional disorders.
All Kinds of Minds
A key to the success of Matthew Blumenthal M'silot students is that they ”learn how they learn” and can advocate for themselves. The All Kinds of Minds curriculum teaches students self-reflection methods to understand their strengths and strategies to help them achieve their goals and is modeled after a program developed by Dr. Mel Levine, a professor of pediatrics at the University of North Carolina Medical School. Throughout the year, students demonstrate the self-knowledge they have gained, culminating in parent/teacher conferences where the students accompany their parents and share what they have learned about themselves.
Speech and Language Therapy
Speech and language therapy is offered as part of the Matthew Blumenthal M’silot Program. The therapist provides language remediation to small groups of children and also integrates language therapy in the classroom to ensure that there is carryover. Speech and language therapy is included in the tuition, unless the student needs additional one-on-one intensive articulation and/or language remediation. At that time, arrangements will be made between the therapist and the parents. Our speech and language therapist serves as a consultant to the teachers throughout the day.
Hebrew and Judaic Studies
M’silot educators evaluate each child after they enroll in the Matthew Blumenthal M’silot Program to determine when the introduction of a second language would be appropriate and to what degree (i.e., oral vocabulary enrichment, conversational Hebrew, reading and writing). Judaic Studies is a part of the curriculum and focuses on parsha, prayers, holidays, and text study as appropriate.
The Matthew Blumenthal M'silot Program stays abreast of new technological developments that can help their students learn. Every classroom has an interactive SMART Board, and each student has a school-issued laptop for classroom use. We have helped our students to success using the Read Naturally fluency software, and also use cutting-edge assistive technology software like Read & Write Gold, which empowers students to read and write with greater proficiency on their own. With Learning Ally, every student has access to over 10,000 audiobooks, including student textbooks and novels. Students can access this library from multiple devices, both from home and at school.
Running Start Kindergarten
Many of our students who entered the Matthew Blumenthal M’silot Program in first grade were given a boost through the Running Start Kindergarten, which is designed for children who thrive in a multi-sensory, small, structured curriculum. Running Start helps students reach their potential by offering early intervention in a structured setting, with all the support and benefits of our graded M'silot curriculum. Like our older students, Running Start students receive both direct and multi-sensory instruction from teachers with expertise in the field of learning disabilities, and have a speech and language pathologist incorporated into the program.
Running Start helps students with processing issues in areas including auditory, memory, language, or perceptual-motor. Repetition, visual models, and more in-depth instruction helps them better understand and retain concepts. In Running Start, these students will be able to build underlying skills based on each child's individual learning profile, have their specific needs addressed, and receive early intervention as necessary. Additionally, Running Start students are evaluated by our professionals to to make recommendations for future educational settings. Click here for more information about Running Start.
Parent communication is vital to the success of the students in M’silot. Communication includes frequent parent/teacher conferences, individually tailored learning plans, and detailed, extensive progress reports, based on formal and informal assessments.
Taking the Right Steps
If you think your child is a candidate for the Matthew Blumenthal M’silot Program, please complete an application packet, which includes an application and a teacher evaluation form. We will also need results of a full psychoeducational battery given by a licensed psychologist.
About Matthew Blumenthal, z"l
The Matthew Blumenthal M’silot Program was made possible by the generosity of Saul and Adele Blumenthal, z"l, and Elaine and Jerry Blumenthal in memory of their grandson and son, Matthew.
In 2000, Saul and Adele Blumenthal, z"l, donated the start-up money for M'silot to honor the memory of Matthew Blumenthal, their first grandchild and our son who died at age 24 of muscular dystrophy. Matthew was a student at the Greenfield Hebrew Academy of AJA from the first grade until he graduated. The school did much to accommodate his special needs. M'silot, due to the efforts of its very capable and dedicated staff and supportive administration, has enjoyed immense success. It is now our honor and joy to continue the support of this incredible program. --Elaine & Jerry Blumenthal
M'silot was renamed the Matthew Blumenthal M'silot Program in 2011.
Phyllis Rosenthal, Director of The Matthew Blumenthal M’silot Program
Phyllis has been the M’silot Director for the past 14 years, since its inception, and has been with Atlanta Jewish Academy for 20 years. Previously, she had been a learning specialist in the Resource Room. She holds a B.S. in Elementary Education and a M. Ed. in Special Education-Learning Disabilities and Remedial Reading. She taught developmental reading courses on the community college level in Austin, Texas, and Atlanta, Georgia.
Phyllis has published several articles in local and national publications, such as C.A.J.E. (Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education) and the RAVSAK newsletter, which focused on Special Education in Jewish community day schools. Her public speaking has taken her across the country and has been very well received. She has presented at various conferences including the International Learning Disabilities Association, the International Dyslexia Association, and the RAVSAK Annual Leadership Conference.