Is your child struggling in school or having a difficult time learning? If so, they’re not alone – more kids than ever are dealing with learning challenges, some brought on by the pandemic. That’s why we were excited to sit down with Samantha Brand, MSEd and Lauren Rubey, MSEd, ET/P, to learn more about edcahoots, a fantastic local resource new to Greenwich.
Founded in 2010, edcahoots provides students with the strategies and skills needed to overcome their learning challenges while growing their confidence, independence, and love of learning. Their comprehensive service includes a parent consultation, tailored evaluation, one-on-one sessions and other help, such as collaborating with your child’s school.
edcahoots began in Los Angeles and is now also right here in Greenwich. Samantha (who goes by Sami) and Lauren work in the Greenwich office with children in grades K through college. We spoke to them about the amazing resources they have available to parents, what they love most about working with kids, their lives as moms, and more.
Can you please share a bit about yourself?
Sami: I recently moved to Old Greenwich after many years of living in Manhattan, where I worked at an independent school for children with language-based disabilities. As a classroom teacher for grades K-5 and Lower School Math Coach, I developed and adapted curriculums to meet a wide range of learners. During COVID, my husband and I moved out of the city in hope of finding more space for our growing family. My son, Cole, is now ten months old. We love Greenwich because we are closer to family, and my commute to our office is now only 10 minutes! Greenwich has proven to be the perfect mix of city meets suburb. There is a ton to do, especially with little ones, and an increasing need for educational therapists!
Lauren: I moved back to the Westchester area this summer from Los Angeles. After having my daughter, Stella, in September 2020, my husband and I wanted to be closer to my family. I was also really excited about the opportunity to expand our practice to Greenwich. For most of my teaching career, I worked at schools for students with learning disabilities, including Windward in White Plains. Over five years ago, I decided to become an educational therapist because I loved working 1:1 with students with dyslexia, ADHD, and other learning differences to help support them and grow as learners. When I joined edcahoots, I realized I had found my dream job, and I will soon be the only Board Certified Educational Therapist in Connecticut.
For anyone who isn’t yet familiar, what is edcahoots and what separates it from other similar businesses?
Lauren: edcahoots is an educational therapy practice providing one-to-one support for children and young adults with learning differences in Greenwich and Los Angeles. Our goal is to provide individuals with the tools and strategies they need to achieve their full potential.
Sami: What separates us from others in the field is that we are all endorsed by the Association of Educational Therapists for having met a set of academic and experiential criteria that qualify us as Educational Therapists. We are trained in and have extensive experience in evidence-based reading, writing, math and EF programs, specifically, The Wilson Reading System, Lindamood-Bell Programs, Orton Gillingham, Preventing Academic Failure (PAF), Jane Schaffer, and Judy Hochman’s The Writing Revolution … just to name a few. We believe educational therapy is not a quick fix, nor is it a forever process. Our work is done when students are able to take control of their learning.
What can a family expect when they come to you for the first time?
Lauren: A sigh of relief! We want parents to know from the moment they’ve walked in our doors that we’ve got things covered.
Sami: At our first meeting with parents, we want to learn about their child, including what’s working…and what’s hard. We want to help parents understand their child’s strengths and challenges and give them information about how we can help.
I love that you treat the “whole” child – can you expand on what that means?
Sami: Unlike a tutor who primarily focuses on academic content, we analyze the social and emotional aspects of learning and set both academic and psychoeducational goals for children. We work to improve a child’s self-advocacy, frustration tolerance, motivation, and self-awareness. Our work extends far beyond the academics; we want to help children utilize their strengths and grow to become confident and competent learners.
Can you liaison with schools/Special Ed staff/healthcare providers like psychologists?
Sami: We believe a team approach is most beneficial in supporting our students. We work with all members of a student’s team — teachers, psychologists, neuropsychologists, speech and language therapists, occupational therapists…etc. It’s important that we are all on the same page so that we are doing our best for the student and the family.
Lauren: To help families, we are always willing to manage this important piece with the parents and be a sounding board when they need advice or support. Our goal is to help families navigate the process of getting their child the right support team, which can be a difficult and stressful journey for many.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Sami: Supporting both the family and child is equally rewarding. I love being an advocate for families and building a nurturing relationship with my students. The sound of relief when a family recognizes I understand their child and am equipped to support them is incredibly fulfilling.
Lauren: Additionally, I love watching my students recognize their own growth, especially being able to see long-term gains with students who I have worked with for years. Supporting my students to become active, confident learners is the ultimate reward. Students may walk in unable to read, write, or do math, and they leave doing all of the above and enjoying the learning process more than ever before! We are more than just educators, we are mentors who invest in the success of each and every child.
How has being a mom impacted the way you see your work?
Sami: Prior to being a mom, I felt that my conversations with families only provided one perspective, that of the educational therapist. I always listened and tried to understand a family’s struggle, but I never fully understood until I became a mother. I feel I have a much richer perspective now that allows me to connect with families in a deeper way.
Lauren: Many times, families come to us after they have been confronted with a recent diagnosis, such as ADHD, Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, etc.; as a mom, I feel more equipped to empathize with their fear and connect with them over the journey we will take as partners. We are committed to helping each child achieve their full potential.
How has COVID impacted your work?
Lauren: COVID has allowed us the opportunity to work with students throughout the country! Learning virtually is not for everyone, especially the population of students we support; however, for many of our students, particularly our college students, it works! We feel lucky to be currently seeing students virtually in California, Texas, Connecticut, New York, and even Canada! We are even able to continue to hold sessions with families on vacation, and it’s much easier than ever before to zoom in to a parent/teacher conference at any time of day. Virtual sessions also provide us the opportunity to check in more frequently with our students. If a child is struggling with a particular assignment, we can jump on a Zoom to support them in that exact moment. We also find we are more involved with school communication. For many of our students with executive functioning difficulties, we are able to oversee their Google Classroom to support them with time management and task completion.
Sami: With that said, we would love to see more students in person! While families are able to save time by not traveling to an office, virtual learning does not always suffice for the interpersonal relationship built in the one-to-one in-person setting. We have a great space where students can work with materials that cannot be replicated in the virtual world. We also love to push into schools during the school day to provide one-on-one academic support. Seeing students during the school day allows kids to enjoy their after-school activities. Every school has different COVID policies regarding visitors, and luckily our team is fully vaccinated and masked at all times with students. We have a beautiful office at the top of the Ave on East Putnam, and we can’t wait to share it with our students!
Anything else you’d like to share?
Lauren: We really want families to understand the difference between educational therapists, learning specialists, and tutors, as we want to make sure that individuals with learning differences are getting the best services possible from the most experienced providers. We encourage parents to reach out to us with questions or to go to our website at edcahoots.com or the Association of Educational Therapists website aetonline.org to learn more.
Sami: We want to make sure each child is connected with the best possible support system available and receiving the most effective interventions possible. We are so grateful to be in Greenwich and look forward to helping students in Fairfield and Westchester counties, and beyond!