It is often difficult for prospective parents to really understand how we are different from traditional educational programs. We feel we have many solid educational components to our program, many of which can be found in traditional schools. We are fans of Touch Math, Saxon Math, Wilson Reading Systems, Michelle Garcia Winner’s Social Thinking Curriculum, Bal-a-Vis-X, multi-sensory learning, a rich sensory diet, walks in the wood—and you will find many of these things in traditional public and private schools. What makes us different is how we approach our students.
Where we first diverge from the norm is in how we accept students. We are not required to be blind to our applicants’ needs as public and charter schools are. We know what we can do and we try to be honest with applicants about that. But we don’t accept just the easiest kids either. Many of our children have not been successful in other settings, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be successful here. We want parents to visit during the school day so they can see our program in action. I ask them to see if they can imagine their child at JRA, given the program and present children we have. I have found most parents are very honest. After all, they want the right place for their child and it’s to no one’s benefit if we waste time in the wrong place. We also ask students to come spend a day with us.
Another way we differ is that we may be the only private school around that does not ask our parents to sign a contract. Parents pay on a monthly basis and they begin paying in July, so they are always two months ahead. But should a parent choose to take a child out for any reason, that is the most they will lose. We believe so strongly in what we are doing that we don’t feel we have to tie parents to us with a contract. If it’s not working, why would we want to keep the child in a bad situation? Time is precious for special needs kids, and it’s imperative to find the best place as quickly as possible.
We also welcome parents to come in at any time. Parents are the real experts on their kids and so if a child is having difficulties, we solicit their observation and help. And even if a child isn’t having difficulties, all our kids love having the parents there. One parent often sits in her child’s science class and serves as another pair of hands. We have a grandmother who has been methodically cataloging our library over two years. Another parent comes in and cleans. Still another bundles Boxtops for Education and makes copies. Our parents are our best substitute teachers because they truly GET these kids. Having trusted people in and out helps our children be more flexible and open to new experiences.
We see misbehavior differently too. Behavior is communication and it is our responsibility to interpret what a child is trying to tell us. Are there sensory issues that are causing problems? Too much noise? Is the work too hard? Some students have utilized learned helplessness as a coping strategy. Others have other maladaptive behaviors that need to be unlearned. I look for staff who use detective eyes and have compassionate hearts; they must leave their egos at the door and think first about what the child needs. We begin by changing the environment and our way of interacting with the child. We call in experts, including the parents. All kids want to succeed and they want to do the right thing. And we find that with a lot of help, most kids can succeed.
Just Right Academy is now enrolling for the 2013-2014 year, grades K through 11. We have a very limited number of spaces left. Please call if you would like one of them.