Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Touring The Arbor

We had our tour of The Arbor this morning - the special needs school Peyton's pediatrician recommended for her. There was us, another couple, and a woman there for the tour. The director and the consulting behavior analyst provided the meeting and tour. In the initial meeting, we each “introduced” our kids (it was parents only). They told us a bit about the school and then took us on the tour. There are multiple small buildings which make up the tour. They have a very small (emphasis on “very”) therapy building. In the new school they are building, the therapy facilities will be about 2,000 sf. We went to the infant/toddler area. There were 3 kids there. The youngest was 16 months – a girl named Payton. They had these special chairs 2 of the kids were in. They were low to the ground, on wheels, and had a large table/tray attached, so they were like mini high-chairs. The lead teacher in that room (there were 3 teachers) gave a very detailed description of what they do there. The programs are geared towards the individual. The kids are not geared towards the program. Every child has goal sheets and they track data all day long. The first thing they teach is “Look at Me” which focuses on getting the child to make eye contact. They have goals for number of times they can do it and increase the length of time they do it. They said that if they can’t look at you, they won’t learn. They teach sign language. They had a 2 year old boy in there and she was asking him to do various signs and he did every one. She said he’s at about 65 signs that he uses regularly.
We were taken to all the classrooms to see what they did in each. The director and analyst were both very participatory in the classes on the tour. Even though they are the administration, they knew every child’s name and offered praise when the children were doing appropriate things. It was really nice to see how involved they are in every child’s education. There wasn’t always a 1 on 1 teacher student ratio, but if it wasn’t 1 on 1 it was 1 teacher for 2 students. They have a lot of teachers and aids. They also have a lot of high school kids volunteering. Mostly from private schools where they require credits for service projects or something in order to complete certain education requirements. They said that a lot of these kids often go on to special ed work after college. The teachers in each class would describe how their curriculum works but the class didn’t stop for us. They all just went about their days. The kids were happy to see all of us and were all smiles and saying or waving “bye”. In one of the classes, they had a couple kids using “talkers” (I think that's what they called them). They each had a different kind, but essentially they are little computers with touch screens showing icons. I think you can change the screens to have different sets of icons for different themes. It’s so that non-verbal kids can use words and work towards stringing together sentences by keying in these icons so they can “speak”. They key it in and the computer says the word for the icon.
They have on-site therapists. That is billed through insurance, so it’s separate from the cost of the school. School hours are 9 - 2:30. They have before school care from 7:30 and after school care until 5:30, but they are at their limit right now. If for some reason she could get in now, we would have no before/after care. Peyton will go for her evaluation on Monday at 10 am. It’s mostly with the analyst guy we met today. They’ll have her in a class and do things with her and observe and figure out what program she’d be in. It’s my impression that the classrooms are more or less age-appropriate, but the “program” is how intensive their curriculum is while they are in that class. The tuition is from about $12K a year to over $28K a year. They do have financial aid, but not full scholarships. I suppose we’ll get into that once they figure out where she’d wind up.
I'm just happy to know that a school like this exists and hopefully we will be able to get her in in the not too distant future. I'll keep you updated on how the evaluation goes.

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