Makes Children Blossom at Brooklynís League School
had no idea how my students would react to chess when I suggested
we start a team. I teach at a school for children with a classification
of serious emotional disturbances who are too impaired to attend
Board of Education schools. The League School serves 135 children
diagnosed with autism, Aspergerís syndrome, attention deficit/hyperactive
disorder, childhood psychoses and developmental disabilities so
I was completely overwhelmed by the effect chess had on the youngsters.
I began the team in 1999 with three boys whose difficulties included
maintaining focus and remaining on task, which, along with cognitive
delays, translated into poor academic performance. I felt special
needs children could benefit from chess, and the results, two
years later, exceeded my expectations. The team now has 12 youngsters
whose behavior, concentration, self-esteem and schoolwork has
The boys loved getting individual chess instruction, and they
began to feel that they were special, in a good way. I was thrilled
that they wanted to learn, staying focused for extended periods
of time, and devising strategy beyond the basic moves.
In June 2000 we entered our first competition against a team of
comparable age and ability from a Queens school. I was proud that
all my students remained focused and well behaved for two hours
of play. After several competitions, our first victory came on
May 14, 2001. Then at the All Brooklyn Scholastic Chess Championships,
one student won a third place trophy and another took a fourth
As word of the prowess of the players spread throughout the school,
the boys came to be held in high regard by the other students.
For many youngsters at the League School, the world is basketball.
Thanks to chess, academic achievement is now accorded status once
reserved only for children who excel at athletics. Everyone at
League School roots for the chess team.
The team continues to flourish, and the boys would like nothing
better than instruction from a chess master to take their play
to a higher level. They deserve nothing less.
author is a teacher at the League School.
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