Schools for Aspergers
The Cumberland Academy of Georgia (CAG) specializes in the needs of children with High Functioning Autism (HFA), Asperger’s Syndrome LD, ADD and ADHA. Located in Atlanta, Georgia, CAG is a private, non-profit independent school for students in grades 4 through 12 who have difficulty succeeding in a traditional school setting. Average student to teacher ratio is 8:1, and CAG maintains full academic accreditation status with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement (SACS CASI), and the Georgia Accrediting Commission (GAC).
As an independent community-based school, CAG is an active member of the following organizations:
- The Georgia Independent Schools Association (GISA)
- Atlanta Area Association of Independent Schools (AAAIS)
- Georgia Association of Private Schools for Exceptional Children (GAPSEC)
“The mission of the academy is to provide a safe, supportive, educational environment in partnership with faculty, staff, students and parents. The Cumberland family embraces the uniqueness of every child by challenging and inspiring them to reach their full potential. Our academic and social curriculum encourages the development of life skills essential in becoming independent and self-sufficient adults.”
Learn more about Cumberland Academy of Georgia at: http://www.cumberlandacademy.org
Asperger’s Syndrome and NLD High School Orion Academy (OA) is located in the picturesque rural community town of Moraga, California. OA opened its doors in September 2000 with four teachers and eight students. By June 2001, there were 12 students. By 2010 the student body had increased to almost 60 students and 20 professionals offering over 35 college preparatory classes. OA is committed to small class sizes and a cap of 64 students at full capacity.
“To educate secondary students with NLD, Asperger’s Syndrome and other neurocognitive disorders in a program that equally emphasizes academics, social competency and pragmatic language development.”
OA’s mission is realized through a curriculum that balances academic achievement with personal growth, responsibility, and independence.
OA is a day school structured around six-week sessions, providing a 180-day academic curriculum that is accredited by WASC (Western Association of Schools and Colleges). The shorter six-week sessions are built around a commitment to increased social competency as students develop relationships with a consistent group of academic peers throughout the academic year as well as regular interactions with the broader Orion community. Students and their parents meet with faculty at the end of each six-week period to review progress.
The OA program has been designed specifically to support the needs of students with neurocognitive disorders, providing a safe learning environment with a specific focus on social, organizational, and visual-spatial deficits. OA makes an explicit commitment to ‘Expected Schoolwide Learning Results’ – ESLR’s:
“Orion Academy students, will have completed a college preparatory curriculum and upon graduation, will:
- Show competence in organizational skills that reflect the ability to function independently in social and academic settings.
- Exhibit competence in reading comprehension, specifically shown in the ability to identify main idea, make inferences and integrate disparate ideas.
- Demonstrate improved social competency including skills in self-advocacy, independent living and social collaboration.
- Demonstrate improved skills in the appropriate use of language in a social context by applying a variety of communication skills.
- Be prepared for a variety of post secondary and career opportunities.”
Learn more about Orion Academy at: http://www.orionacademy.org
Hampshire Country School (HCS) is a family-style boarding school for 25 boys in Rindge, New Hampshire .
Founded in 1948, HCS offers an idyllic country setting on 1700 acres. Specialized in working with middle school boys (entering ages 8-13) facing the social skills challenges of Asperger’s Syndrome (AS), Nonverbal Learning Disabilities (NVD), and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), HCS offers small class sizes (usually three to six students) with a high faculty to student ratio (2:3).
HCS is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) and maintains professional membership status in the National Association of Independent Schools, The Association of Boarding Schools, the Independent Schools Association of Northern New England, and the Small Boarding Schools Association.
The mission of the school is to become: “a haven for parents whose children needed someone to believe in them and to notice their strengths rather than their difficulties. It has been a school where students have come to believe in themselves, have accomplished more than they thought possible, and have made life-long attachments after thinking that friends were just something other people had.”
All students at HCS are full-time boarders, enrolled for weekends as well as school days, with extended vacations at Christmas, in the Spring, and for the whole Summer:
“Within the boarding environment, students participate in group activities, share common experiences, work with others toward common goals, and participate in the give-and-take of friendships. This happens throughout every day and week, and the power of such involvement for facilitating personal growth far exceeds what would be possible through formal but time-limited social skills training, direct instruction, or counseling.”
A quote from an HCS parent on the school website sums up the school very well:
“What our son lacked more than anything was the feeling of being accepted, belonging somewhere. We knew that a traditional private school wouldn’t work for him, but he didn’t belong in a therapeutic or special needs school either”
Learn more about Hampshire Country School at: http://www.hampshirecountryschool.org/
Franklin Academy (FA) is located four miles from the center of East Haddam, Connecticut. FA is a residential college preparatory school specializing in serving students with non-verbal learning differences (NLD) and Asperger’s Syndrome (AS).
After incorporating in November 2001, FA opened its doors on September 10, 2003 with33 students enrolled. There are now over 80 students enrolled and tuition revenue funds 100% of the operating budget. The school achieved accredited status with the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) in June 2007, and is approved as an SAT test center by The College Board.
FA was founded with a very clear mission – to provide a physically and psychologically safe environment for students with NLD and AS; to gain the academic and social skills to become life long learners; to pursue college and career goals; and to enjoy fulfilling lives. By focusing on a distinct population, students are able to interact with peers who possess similar strengths, share common interests, and face comparable challenges.
Franklin Academy’s academic program is designed for students who exhibit an auditory learning style preference. The curriculum is project-based, utilizing a teaching methodology that incorporates hands-on, real world applications, and we strive to personalize and to match teaching strategies with each student’s learning needs.
As a boarding school, FA offers a superior setting for improving social skills, and with one adult for every two students, every “teachable moment” is optimized. Teachers are organized by teams that are led by learning specialists, counselors, and residential deans, and the school invests significant time and resources in ongoing professional development for all personnel.
Learn more about Franklin Academy at: http://www.fa-ct.org
Mainstream or Special Schools for Asperger’s Children?
There has been a lot of emphasis over recent years on “inclusion”. The idea is that integrating children into mainstream schools rather than placing them in special schools is a “Good Thing”. But is it?
Children withAsperger’s Syndrome see the world in a different way. With their fixed ideas and concrete thinking they can often come across as very pedantic. They may also be obsessed with some micro-topic and have little interest in general academic topics that they may regard as irrelevant. With their social skill problems they over act inappropriately in social interactions.
Because of all this, other people, particularly their peers, may regard them as “weird” or “odd”. Often this ends up with them being teased and bullied. Then, because of their problems with social interactions, they can react to this with aggression or violence – lashing out at those that torment them.
At the same time they have great difficulties with their teachers who are just trying to teach a subject. With their pedantic interest in micro-topics they can be very tiresome to teach. Not only that, but if the teacher seems to handle situations in any way unfairly, this too will be challenged by the Asperger child.
Being perceived as oddballs by their peers, and having to cope with teachers who do not understand their ways of thinking, how to these children fare in mainstream school?
Frequently, not very well. With their unique interpretation of the world, and of social interactions, they often end up lashing out or getting into conflict with both other students and teachers. Often they feel they are being unfairly treated, and unfairly punished.
Fast forward this a few years and you have a dispirited child who is on the verge of being expelled from the school for bad behavior.
A very different scenario could occur in a special school. Staffed with teachers and carers with both the traning and the time to take a special interest in these children, the kids often get much more support and help with their social skills. Their self esteem improves, and so does their behavior.
The students, likewise, tend to be much more tolerant of each other’s idiosyncracies, since they have themselves suffered teasing. With the right environment, these children develop a positive self esteem, a fascination for learning (in their unique style) and, ultimately, a much better outcome than they might have had in a mainstream school.
Every child is difficult. Surely it is logical that we cannot just apply a blanket ideology to all children as though they were merely sausage meat going through a sausage factory? Unique children require unique solutions in order to succeed, and if that means a special school, well, then so be it!
About The Author
Jo Divljak is the chief writer for, and editor of FYI Aspergers, visit there today for the latest Aspergers advice, and their free newsletter is well worth signing up for too. If you want to read more Aspergers articles go to: http://www.fyiaspergers.com/articles
Choosing the right school for any child can be stressful; finding one for your Asperger’s Syndrome child can be almost too frightening. Every child deserves a good education and the law mandates that children with disabilities such as Aspergers be educated with teachers trained in handling such disabilities. In practice, however, finding good teachers isn’t always easy.
Parents must decide whether or not their child will be best managed in a mainstream school, with a high rate of contact with mainstream children, or in a special or residential school, where the chances of the child coming in contact with mainstream children is considerably less. Special and residential schools may have better educational programs for autistic children but may not provide enough positive role models of more ‘normal’ behaviors. Some people also feel that special schools can encourage kids to mimic other children with similar problems.
For most children with Aspergers I would consider that as a basic”rule of thumb” mainstream schools with support will be the best option for your child’s long term progression. This is because for children with Aspergers the main issue is not one of cognition, learning or understanding, it is more the case of challenges with social situations. So your child will fare best if supported well in an environment where typical peers for the rest of his or her life (i.e. the general population) are around. The much more”artificial world” of special schools and communities may not always prepare children as well for the general community. But I must stress this is a”rule of thumb” as there are certain institutions and certain individual cases where this much more specialized approach would be beneficial.
Choosing the exact right school most definitely needs a visit to the school and a talk with the teachers who will be teaching your child. Before such a visit it is essential to have considered your own fears and thoughts about the school experience for your AS child. What questions do they have, what do they want to know more about. You can draw up a list of questions between you that you can take along and ask of the staff at the school.
Some of these questions may include: – How integrated will the child be in the classroom? – What techniques are used to support pupils if they are struggling to cope and about to go into”melt down”? – What is the plan for reducing arousal if necessary? – Will your child be well taught both theoretically and practically about coping and living in the community with others?
Your child may want to know how teachers will talk to him, what the other pupils will be like, what subjects and classes he will be in etc. Some of your choice in relation to schools will depend on the degree of Asperger’s your child has and his or her age. Younger children will need very small class sizes with early education so that, when the child reaches school age, he or she may be more integrated into the classroom.
The ‘right’ school understands Aspergers and has methods in place for teaching children with Aspergers. They carry a positive attitude about Aspergers and place expectations on your child for progress, in whatever way it occurs, in the school setting. The greater is the likelihood that you’ll feel your child’s needs are being addressed and that he/she will have a chance to improve along with learning important social skills from other children.
But once you have chosen the right school this is only really the beginning as you then need to work closely with the teachers to ensure that they know all about your child. They may well know about Autism and Aspergers. But they won’t know about your individual child. It is your job to be an advocate for your child and teach the school what they need to know.
So to summarize this article on choosing a school – the major decision for parents is mainstream vs. special school. Beyond this the child and parents must visit the schools with pre-prepared questions to help make their decision. Then once the child is at school it is essential for the parent to educate the school staff further about the child, and to remain as actively involved in your child’s educational experiences as possible.