The Walden School

 

On the surface, the Walden School for students in grades kindergarten through six looks like any other elementary school. Students display their artwork in an art show, take field trips, listen to guest speakers and performers at assemblies, buy books at the book fair, participate in the talent show, take turns making morning announcements and enjoy movie nights sponsored by the Parent Teacher Organization. In short, Walden students do all the things typical students do.

Beneath the surface, however, are critical supports that enable students with a variety of social, emotional, behavioral and learning needs to succeed, and in some instances, return to their home district. Walden serves students with emotional disabilities as well as those with language-based disabilities such as autism and pervasive development disorder.

Classes at Walden are smaller, typically with eight students to one teacher and one aide. Walden students follow the same Common Core-aligned curriculum as students in local school districts, with 90-minute literacy blocks for students in grades kindergarten through 6. Counselors are on hand at all times, with students attending at least one individual and one group counseling session each week. What’s more, about 20 staff members are certified in Therapeutic Crisis Intervention. The Positive Behaviors Interventions and Supports (PBIS) program is used to set expectations and teach students how to function successfully as part of a group.

One of the greatest strengths of the Walden School is its flexibility. Students are never pigeon-holed into a diagnosis or particular class. For example, one student who came to Walden because she was having difficulty controlling her behavior was found to have a language-based disability. Once the disability was understood and intervention provided, the student improved, eventually returning to her home school.

Walden also offers classes specifically for students on the autism spectrum. Known as CLASS – Collaboration, Language, Academics and Social Skills – the program serves students ages 5 to 16 and provides a full range of intensive and individualized instruction. Each class has a certified special education teacher and a teacher’s aide, with a speech language therapist providing services in the classroom for half of each day.

All classes are structured using the TEACCH(Treatment and Education of Autistic and Communication related Handicapped Children) methodology and use a variety of language and behavior strategies including augmentative communication devices, the Picture Exchange System and the Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program, or VB-MAPP. Students also receive ongoing direct instruction and practice in how to relate to people and communicate successfully, with a goal of having the newly learned skills carried over to the home.

Sensory Needs: Occupational therapy is an integral part of the CLASS program, with therapists dedicated to meeting the various sensory needs of each student, every day. In addition to individual therapy called for in a student’s IEP, students participate in sensory groups and handwriting groups and therapists develop and implement sensory diets, activities of daily living and vocational curriculum.

Behavior Interventions: Students on the autism spectrum often exhibit restrictive, repetitive or stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests and activities. Because we know that behavior is a way of communicating, specialists work with students to help them communicate more effectively using language, which in turn decreases the inappropriate behavior.

For additional information, please contact:

Michael Sowul
The Walden School, Principal
tel: 914.248.2270
msowul@pnwboces.org