The 50 Best Private Special Needs Schools in the United States
36. The Lab School, Washington, D.C.
At The Lab School, faculty, administration, parents, and students believe that a student who learns differently needs more than the basic accommodation provided by traditional schools. Students who struggle with learning because of dyslexia, ADHD, or other diagnoses that affect academic progress often need an individualized learning plan in order to reach full capability. Using multi-sensory teaching techniques, including art therapy, the school guides the development of its students’ conceptual and subject understanding, self-confidence, and passion for learning. At Lab, every student sets personal goals, and with the school’s support— its tutoring services, emphasis on personal responsibility, and collaboration with local businesses for student internships—those goals are often met and surpassed.
Profile: co-ed day school for grades 1-12
Student-Faculty Ratio: 4:1 lower grades; 8:1 upper grades
Tuition: $39,600/year (elementary/intermediate); $40,350/year (junior high); $41,995/year (high school)
37. The Phelps School, Malvern, PA
In 1946, Dr. Norman T. Phelps founded a school for boys whose needs require more individualized attention than traditional schools could provide. Today, the school’s motto, “dedication to the individual boy,” is applied throughout the academic community. With small classes devoted to assessing students’ skill levels and challenging each student to understand his abilities, capitalize on his strengths, and acknowledge his weaknesses, The Phelps School concentrates on developing the academic, physical, social, and moral parts of the self. A significant presence of international students broadens each boy’s awareness of worldly diversity, while a strong faculty presence (several faculty members supervise the dorms) ensures close student-teacher relationships which are conducive to learning.
Profile: all-boys boarding school with day school options for grades 7-12
Student-Faculty Ratio: 4:1
Tuition: $44,500/year boarding; $25,000/year day
38. Cumberland Academy of Georgia, Sandy Springs, GA
Cumberland Academy ensures success, whether a student struggles with academic or social needs, or whether she/he has been diagnosed with high functioning autism, Asperger’s, ADHD, or other learning differences which make learning in a traditional classroom particularly difficult. Teachers and counselors work with each student to provide the most appropriate program, and while many students are taught according to grade-level standards, the school also offers its Trailblazers program, in which students of several ages gather together in a more individualized setting to work at a suitable pace. Students at all levels participate in pragmatics (social skills instruction), fine arts, athletics, overnight trips, culinary arts, and hands-on science excursions. Additionally, Cumberland offers a post-graduate program to assist young adults in applying for college, managing and paying personal bills, and networking in the world of employment.
Profile: co-ed day school for grades 4-12
Student-Faculty Ratio: 6:1
39. Oakwood School, Annandale, VA
As a school in which over 75% of teachers hold Master’s degrees or higher, Oakwood School promises to provide superior comprehensive education to students with learning differences who have not reached their potential in a traditional school setting. Using a team model concept in which students are assigned to a team consisting of two teachers and a group of peers, the school creates a setting for ultimate learning potential. The instructors teach both math and reading, which encourages application of concepts across the curriculum, and students have the opportunity to work with members of other groups when two teams combine for social studies and science classes. One advantage of the team approach is the system of support and close evaluation which results from working in small groups. Students at Oakwood School benefit from its technologically advanced classrooms, academic and social affective offerings, and extracurricular activities, such as fitness, theatre, art, and music clubs.
Profile: co-ed day school for grades K-8
Student-Faculty Ratio: 4:1
Awards: named a U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon School (2014)
40. The Schenck School, Atlanta, GA
At The Schenck School, students who have had difficulties with reading and written expression due to dyslexia or other type of learning difference encounter trained teachers who use methods and design lessons based on individual need. Employing a pure Orton-Gillingham approach, instructors incorporate elements of visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning to produce the most comprehensive curriculum possible. Depending upon a student’s level, instruction begins with emphasis on letters and sounds as a basis for teaching reading and writing. With the understanding that students of high intelligence simply learn concepts differently, teachers offer strategies such as metacognition for memory and association, and present information in a sequential manner. As knowledge is gained, students affirm and apply it through classroom practice and one-on-one tutoring. While most students spend about 2-3 years at The Schenck School, the learning strategies and self confidence gained lasts a lifetime.
Profile: co-ed day school for grades K-6
Student-Faculty Ratio: 4:1
Awards: named a Top Workplace (2013) by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
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