A.J. Imbach is one of the lucky ones. Until last year, the 30-year-old resident of Trexler Park Apartments had suffered the psychological and social consequences of a learning disability. A problem that handicapped his ability to perform his potential both in school and in life.
“I tried college in Canada ended poorly“ he reveals “I didn’t do well in high school either. In high school I was a good kid, a nice kid, so they wanted to keep me going not hold me back, even though I barely passed,” he continues. Imbach laments that “I never learned; I missed out on the learning process.”
Diagnostic and remedial measures failed him. “I was tested by a psychologist in high school," Imbach recalls. “We thought I had dyslexia, but it was more than that. I had a learning disability.”
Imbach explains that he had trouble processing information. "I couldn’t get out what I wanted to say.” Nevertheless, he persevered. Even in adulthood he never gave up trying to overcome his problem. “I had been going to the learning specialist who is teaching me how to accept my disability and get around it,” he discloses.
Then one day he heard a radio ad that he says he dramatically changed his world. That radio spot was for the Essential Learning Institute on Cedar Crest Boulevard. ELI’s solution was to “get to the root of my problem and take care of the process of learning” according to Imbach who maintains that “I agreed with the approach more I wanted to attack the root problem”.
After for five months of intensive individualize work at the clinic, Imbach raves that the results were “amazing” he says he first became aware of his progress “about halfway through the program; I remember the telephone number” something he had not been able to do. Not only did Imbach markedly improve his processing ability and his long-term memory, but he “saw a positive impact on his self-esteem and attitude,” he notes.
He credits his success to ELI’s supportive environment as well as the excellent computer enhanced program.
“It was a positive atmosphere, they encourage me; they wouldn’t let me get down on myself.”
With obvious delight and a touch of pride Imbach, who is married and employed, announces that he currently is working toward a liberal arts degree at Lehigh Carbon community college and later plans to transfer to a four-year college.
His coursework is rigorous but Imbach is now up to the task. “I want to computer degree with a business minor or a business degree with the computer minor” he explains. And his grades? “I’m getting all A’s” he declares.
Dr. Robert Salzman, president and director of ELI understands Imbach newfound elation. "Some kids have been through the mill; they’ve been in special ed programs all their lives and still cannot read,” Salzman points out, noting that the self-paced program is as much for adults as it is for children. "We work with students in their 60s, 30s, 20s," he says providing a few heartwarming antidotes. "One student was with us about six weeks when on his 17th birthday he went out to a restaurant with his family and friends. And for the first time in his life he could read the menu and his birthday cards”. Salzman has seen illiterate adults “in about 14 weeks go up to a fourth to sixth grade reading level.” He observed another student “go up 4 1/2 years in math ability.”
How does the ELI approach differ from other organizations programs that are designed to assist academically deficient students?
“We do educational therapy rather than tutorials for academic gaps. Tutorials improved a particular subject. Our therapy goes into the cause of the learning disability and addresses the problem area,” Salzman replies. He explains that “you don’t have learning until least 4 steps take place: a) input through the eyes or ears, b) integration, i.e. properly sequencing information, c) memory, and d) output.
Dr. Salzman, an educator, administrator and former classroom teacher, notes that learning disabilities can occur at any of these levels.
Bonnie Lee Strunk – Parkland Press 1995