Rocky Road Slice and…’Severe Learning Difficulties’

If you believed everything I’ve been told, you would have great concerns for Archie’s level of intelligence.  This is because someone who had never met me or Archie but who was the Registrar at one of Sydney’s elite private schools, said to me over the phone in a very matter-of-fact tone, ‘Your son has severe learning difficulties’.  And I did wonder how this had never actually occurred to me.  And she didn’t say ‘Slight learning difficulties’, or ‘We’re concerned he may have a learning difficulty’ or, ‘Have you ever had your son assessed’; she was instead very clear that Archie was in the ‘severe’ category.  I’ll tell you the story.

Rocky Road Slice

Rocky Road Slice

Towards the end of Archie’s primary school education we started applying to private schools for his high schooling.  One of the schools, (the school that will be the subject of today’s post), sent a letter advising Archie needed to attend that school on a Saturday morning and sit some tests that will then be forwarded to an accounting firm to be marked and graded.  ‘Fair enough’, we thought and so one wet and soggy morning we trekked to the school and waved goodbye to Archie as he was led away with a large group of other boys to sit around and endure four hours of tests.

We weren’t at all concerned about making Archie sit these tests because he’d been going to school at least six years and although his reports were never of the kind you would frame and hang on a wall, they were okay.  We were aware he wasn’t good at maths, just like his father (and his mother for that matter), but at age 11 he was reading and spelling at the level of your average 17-year old so we thought he was your typical child displaying strengths and weaknesses.

Archie walked out of the tests with not too much to say except, ‘They were okay.  I think I did okay’, and we thought nothing more about it.  We went home and waited for him to be offered a place in the school.  And we waited.  And we waited and waited.  Finally it was nearly the end of the year and we realised we still hadn’t received the enrolment forms.  We rang the school and were put through to the Registrar who said, ‘Oh, no, we don’t have a place for your son.  Your son has severe learning difficulties’.

White Chocolate Rocky Road Slice

White Chocolate Rocky Road Slice

Clearly Archie hadn’t done well on those tests that were sent to a bunch of accountants for assessment.  And based on the feedback from those accountants the staff at this private school had decided Archie has severe learning difficulties.  I have a problem with this school for looking upon a child in such a narrow way.  Those tests were looking for future academics; students who excel in learning traditional, non-creative subjects; students who will bring recognition to the school by the school being able to maintain or push forward its position as a school that graduates the top students in the State.  So they didn’t want my Archie bringing down their average.

Never mind.  Because the story has a happy ending.  A few days later, Carl was driving along a road and saw a sign for a school we hadn’t considered.  He turned into the school’s driveway and after parking his car, walked into the reception area where he was warmly greeted by the Registrar.  ‘Bring Archie in and I’ll give him a tour of the school’, he said enthusiastically.

Rocky Road with Marshmallows, Raspberry Licorice and Coconut

Rocky Road with Marshmallows, Raspberry Licorice and Coconut

A week later we took Archie to the school and he was given a tour by the Registrar who asked him lots of questions about himself and the subjects he’d like to do and did he have any idea of what he’d like to do when he graduates.  Then we bumped into the school’s principal who invited us into his office for a chat.  He talked to Archie for about half an hour and then he asked the Registrar to take Archie on another tour while he talked to us.  After Archie had left the room the principal said, ‘That’s a very intelligent young man you have there and we’d love to have him in our school’.  I just burst out laughing.  I think he wondered what I thought was so funny but just a few days before some accountants and a Registrar at a different school had said Archie had ‘severe learning difficulties’.  It was hard not to think that was funny.

We sent Archie to the school where the principal said he was an intelligent young man.  Archie was never the kind of student to be awash in prizes on Speech Day but in the HSC he passed all his subjects with his highest mark being 94%.  And that was for Drama; a subject the other school excluded from its assessment program.

When someone tells you your son has severe learning difficulties in the same casual manner as being told your son has blue eyes, you need something sweet and white chocolate is always good for sweetness.  Here’s a white chocolate rocky road to help you recover from any insensitive remark.

_B1I7340White Chocolate Rocky Road

Makes:   24

Degree of Difficulty:  2/5

Cost:  Depends on the quality of white chocolate.  I bought Lindt but there are cheaper alternatives.

  • butter for greasing
  • 250g plain chocolate biscuits
  • 124g unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 x 375g pkt white chocolate melts
  • 1 x 250g pkt mixed marshmallows, halved
  • 100g raspberry licorice, coarsely chopped
  • 15g (1/4 cup) flaked coconut
  • 1 tbs flaked coconut, extra

Brush an 22cm x 22cm (base measurement) slab pan with melted butter to grease.  Line the base and 2 long sides with non-stick baking paper, allowing the sides to overhang.

Place the biscuits in the bowl of a food processor and process until finely crushed.  Add the butter and process until well combined.

Spoon the biscuit mixture into the prepared pan.  Use the back of a spoon to press the mixture firmly over the base.  Place in the fridge to chill.

Meanwhile, place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water making sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl.  Add chocolate and stir until melted.   Carefully remove bowl from the heat.

Place the marshmallow, licorice and coconut in the bowl with the melted chocolate.  Stir until just combined.  Use a spatula to spread the marshmallow mixture over the biscuit base.  Sprinkle with extra coconut.  Place in the fridge for 30 minutes or until firm.  Cut into small squares to serve.

This recipe has been adapted from Taste.





  1. He’s a brilliant young man, and he’s going to go far.

  2. I’m sorry I can’t help but giggling over this pompous school! I can’t believe their insensitive comments – and Archie showed them wrong with that amazing HSC score! Mmm rocky road is a fave of mine and this one looks brilliant 🙂

  3. Unbelievable story…

  4. How horrific! Shame on that school. Good thing you and Carl saw past their narrow mindedness. I can only imagine the ‘education’ that first school is handing out.
    These beautiful bars would soften any miss informed bad news, in fact I’m sure they would erase all ills! Lindt chocolate is so lovely. I’ve never seen licorice used in Rocky Road, must be an Australian thing, but I’ll take it, one of my candy weaknesses!

  5. You gave me a good laugh this morning. Thanks. I needed that.

  6. Archie is SO lucky to have such wonderful parents who have his back. I have one with obvious learning difficulties, but her schools focused on the positive. I’m so glad Archie is in a school that allows him to shine! Thanks for the sweet treat to brighten my day 🙂

    PS…you beat me by one sister! Just 4 of us total…I have no idea how my parents got through our teenage years. My roots are gray from dealing with just one daughter…LOL

  7. Amazing what certain schools think of themselves. Many kids don’t do well on tests not because they have learning difficulties but because they are quite brilliant. I had to put up with a few remarks like that with my eldest too. I wish had these white chocolate slices then to drown those remarks! They look fabulous.


  8. Yes, Archie is so lucky to have a wonderful parents… And he is very nice young man. Dear Charlie, your artistic touches is great, I love your presentation and recipe and then finally the photograph. Thank you, have a nice day, love, nia

  9. Testing is a major issue of debate in Minnesota schools with standard testing required of students periodically throughout their public school years. Some students test well, some don’t. It’s difficult to be good in every subject.

    So happy that Archie found the school most suitable for him and that he has wonderful, supportive parents like you and Carl.

  10. Ugh, some people are so narrow minded. I’m glad you didn’t let their stupid comment get you down. You know, everything happens for a reason and the school Archie ended up at was probably the best one for him!

  11. Ugh. I’m so glad my kids are grown and I don’t have to deal with schools and teachers any more. They really didn’t like the fact that my kids didn’t want to conform. And, of course, my girls are very successful, highly educated young women. Hang in there !

  12. And since I know which school you’re talking about, I’m even more appalled, Charlie. Thank goodness we both managed to get our sons into fabulous schools that looked after them! xxx

  13. Ugh ugh ugh. We need to get away from an economic model of education based on percentages and students getting high marks so that (private) schools can charge higher fees. Ugh in every way, except for the awesome school that saw Archie’s talent and your creativity in the kitchen. Raspberry licorice yes.

  14. Finding the right place is so important. My elder son is only in second grade, but I heard nothing but complaints from his schools from day one of pre-school. Then we found a school that accepts him for who he is, and he is doing great and is really happy. It’s pretty shocking how quick people can be to pigeonhole kids. The next time I run up against this trouble, I will be sure to remember your rocky road recipe!

  15. That school’s ridiculous dismissal of Archie was certainly a blessing in disguise – what a smart man!
    And LOVE this slice today,t hey look delicious 😀


  16. that’s an unbelievable story… archie is very lucky to have you guys as his parents 🙂
    your rocky roads look delish! can you pass me one? 😉

  17. Exams are an inexpensive way of grading people in relation to the curriculum that the ruling classes want to be taught. They are so culturally biased it’s not funny.
    That school sounds terrible and clearly they were very wrong, not to mention insensitive and plain rude not to even send a rejection letter.
    PS I can think of lots of reasons I need that slice too.

  18. Private schools are notorious for this, so I guess you are lucky you found the right one in the end. That school would have killed the Archie we know today. When you are creative you will never fit that horrible mould. Lovely slice charlie

  19. It’s incredible how dismissing people can be… but happy the story had a happy ending! And chocolate indeed is the best remedy from anything. 🙂

  20. That would have made me so angry. What a callous way of talking about a child they’d never met. I’d need two slices of rocky road and a bottle of vodka to recover.

    Archie is wonderful. He’s bright, charming, talented and pretty pleasant to the eye as well. 🙂

  21. Wow, how good that you were led to the right place. He didn’t need that snooty (first) school at all; he needed someone who would respond to who he was. So glad the story had such a positive ending.

  22. I bet you’ve been tempted to go to that school and shove his report cards/progress reports in that Registrar’s smug face. As to the bars, mouth watering, though I’m a little hesitant about the raspberry licorice.

  23. He’ll show them when his band is world-famous!

  24. Horrible! It is just horrible the power some educators have and the ability to use it ill. So damaging to kids. Good for Archie that he turned into the success and delight that he is. The slice looks great!

  25. I am so glad you had that positive experience (and, of course, that Archie found a school that suited him) to counter out the negative one. I think the first school summarises everything that is wrong with private schools, and the second everything that is right!

    This rocky road would go a long way to soothe school rudeness, and much else besides xx

  26. How wonderful that Archie found the right school! No wonder that his highest score was in Drama. I so enjoy watching his performing career take off. Lovely bars, too!

  27. Chocolate sure makes everything better doesn’t it Charlie? 🙂
    We were offered the chance of getting littlej into a fast-pace academic program for highschool, and decided to give it a go despite her dyslexia and ADD. Thank goodness the school was able to see past her terrible writing and spelling and see her potential without labelling her with ‘learning difficulties’. A very important part of the process was an interview where I’m sure her ambition of being an astronaut was surprising, but in the spot where the child had to discuss a trophy/award or some such acheivement, littlej proudly showed off her prize posession of a Private Personal Business Card of Dr Karl that he had given to her after she had impressed him at a public lecture she had insisted on attending. I think littlej proved that there are many types of ‘intelligence’ and they can’t all be neatly stuffed into a box . BTW, she has been an honour student every year, won prizes in international academic competitions, is on the student council, attending state student government and student UN conferences, and still manages to be a normal, happy kid.
    Go for it Archie, the best revenge is to make a complete sucess of yourself, then mention to the world that that schoolknocked you back, when you are up there receiving your Oscar Award! 🙂

  28. Melissa says:

    My blood boils that my taxes go towards supporting that school!

  29. It’s appalling that people like that Registrar are in positions that will affect the futures of children. Archie was far better off attending the school he did. He’s a talented young man who’s just starting to write his life’s story — from the influence of that insensitive jerk.

  30. The worry is that the first school did not consider it important enough to ring and discuss your childs severe learning difficulties with you as concerned educators should, even though he would not be accepted. You had to ring and find out for yourself. Things do have a way of working out for the best though. Cut me a slice of that rocky road…….it looks delicious.

  31. Not always easy to see the light at the end of the tunnel or the other door opening when you are in the middle of a dilemma but what a fantastic end result and Archie is going to make a huge success of his band, his tenacity and talent will carry him to achieve everything he wishes.
    Have a super weekend Charlie.
    🙂 Mandy xo

  32. It was definitely that school’s loss! Wait until he becomes famous! 😉

  33. You are so right in your assessment of the reasons for the first private school’s reasons for rejecting Archie. Many of the elite schools are really all about maintaining a high grade average to attract the kind of fee paying parents to whom this is important. They aren’t interested in exploring the student’s potential at all.
    And Rocky Road is brilliant any way at all.

  34. What a wonderful ending. He would have been sorely unhappy at the other school even if they did realize his potential. What a warm reception. Those bars look yummy and who would have though to put licorice in them? Only you. Yum!

  35. So the school thought he had severe learning disabilities and, first of all, they were never going to contact you to let you know?!? I think that’s pretty irresponsible. not to mention the way in which they told you. Sheesh!

    These bars look A.Ma.Zing. rocky road is just a perfect flavor combo.

  36. Finding the right fit makes all the difference! Sounds like he’ll be very happy at the second school. By the way, white chocolate and raspberry licorice in the same place sounds like heaven!

  37. What delicious looking slices! But, I’d sub in the licorice for nuts because I’m not a fan of licorice. Yum!

  38. This is so sinful, I love it! I wouldn’t mind helping myself to 3 servings =)

  39. I think you have the schools number yourself, there, Charlie.And aren’t you glad Archie didn’t end up with that (low) class of people; no matter what their own opinion is of themselves? I can’t believe that they would say such a terrible ting.What is wrong with them?
    We have an exclusive school here.I told my grandson that even if I won the lottery, he would never go their;I don’t like their lack of class, although they are certain that they are so superior..NOT!

  40. What a ass of an school!! You should actually name such schools so that other people also know about them and become careful. You are great parents, Archie is lucky. But not all kids are this fortunate.

    Love the rocky road 😀

  41. WOW!! That is really harsh! Lucky it was complete fiction :/ Love the look of the rocky road, yum!

  42. I am sure you are happy Archie did not go to that narrow-minded school and instead went to one that allows him to develop his potential.

  43. I really like how your story ended. I love the school Archie went. Over a year ago, we “shopped” for my son’s elementary school and we landed on this current school he goes to. We were greeted by the principal and we could see how much the school staff care about the students, their future, school, everything, while some of schools care so much about the academics (I’m not saying it’s bad but I felt sorry for kids in some school because they really can’t be just “kids”). Great job Carl to find that school! 🙂

  44. Hello! I need that rocky road ! Just in general. I do in fact have one son with severe learning difficulties and you couldn’t meet a nicer young man. And he plays the bagpipes! Schools can be shocking. Thank goodness there are splendid ones too.

  45. Ah, I had a very similar experience. My parents entered me for a scholarship at my school. I was a fairly bright student, but after taking the scholarship exam I remember the results being unbelievably disparaging. At the time I felt down about it because they literally made me feel like some sort of knuckle-dragging caveman with an IQ of 10, but I realise now that we probably all did roughly the same – they just happened to choose the students who were “great all-rounders”… popular, good at sports, as *well* as good grades. 🙁

  46. As a teacher of 30 years I know that tests – no test – can measure a person’s intelligence or ability to learn. Kids, teenagers, adults will excel when they find the right place and something that interests them. I’m so glad you found a place for Archie. These chocolate cookies would definitely lift my spirits!

  47. The thing that most bothers me about the way the first school addressed you as parents is that the same information given to someone more insecure or needing approval more than you and Carl, could have been devastated and lost confidence in their child. You knew better! It’s a terrible thing for anyone to be so cavalier with such a pronouncement! And isn’t it wonderful how you found the second school, one tailored closely to meeting Archie’s needs. I wouldn’t need any excuse for enjoying these wonderful treats, though. They certainly are excellent comfort food for any time! 🙂

  48. Oef! You all went through a lot of schools! I am happy that you all took it in & are verry proud of your lovely son! I am also happy that he is in that other school now! I am hoping, he is happy & congrats for 94% : hoeray!! Well done too! these rocky road slices look wonderful too! 🙂 MMML!

  49. Oh gosh I hate schools like that and tell you a story when I was growing up at Grade 4 my teacher told my mother that I had to be kept down and repeat Grade 4 because i simply wasn’t ‘catching up’ and had ‘difficulties’ as well! My mother was adament that i wasn’t repeating and so I went onto Grade 5….6 and finally high school and eventually got into Uni with no issues!!! So I really understand how you felt when they told you Archie had severe learning difficulties! I’m glad you were able to find a school that accepts him afterwards!

  50. Wow, well that school missed out on having a fabulous young man at their school, their loss! I love that you put licorice in the sweet treat, what a fun addition! Your rocky road sounds delicious, Hugs, Terra

  51. When he is a famous actor / Rock star – that school is going to be kicking themselves….like really hard! xx

  52. I can’t believe there are schools like this…they should be encouraging the kids, not turning them down just because they don’t “make the cut”… But it was for the best at the end 🙂 especially this white chocolate end… Yumm!! 😉

  53. A stuck-up righteous school like that never deserved to have your son enrolled there in the first place. I did a fist bump in the air when I read about how well Archie performed in his HSC – go figure!

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