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Students excel with a little help: Arbor Bay transitions alumni into mainstream schools
December 30, 2013, 05:00 AM By Angela Swartz Daily Journal

Former Arbor Bay School student Jack Evans on his first day of fourth grade at Redwood Shores Elementary School.

Every year, students with learning differences from Arbor Bay School transition back into mainstream schools with a better chance of doing well both academically and socially because of the school.

Jack Evans, now a fourth grader at Redwood Shores Elementary School, is one such student who used the school as a stepping stone. At age four and a half he was diagnosed with high functioning autism, attention deficit disorder and possibly Asperger’s, said his mother Tena Lawry.

His parents decided to send him to Arbor Bay after noticing differences between him and his twin sister, as well as him and other preschoolers.

“There was something that seemed different,” she said. “It wasn’t so severe. He would play with toys in a different way [than other preschoolers]; he really focused on the toy itself and would look at himself in the mirror. His speech was delayed and verb tenses were wrong. He would work around vocabulary to explain things.”

Lawry said the San Carlos school, which serves children with learning challenges and currently has 45 students in kindergarten through eighth grade, helped her now 10-year-old son substantially. She said they were lucky Arbor Bay was so nearby and had great teachers. While some students stay for several years, 20 percent of students transition successfully to a school in their community each year.

“What makes Arbor Bay unique in some ways is it takes kids like Jack who aren’t obviously impaired,” she said. “There are things when it comes to academics that are more of a challenge and there were kids just like him. He wasn’t quite ready for elementary school and there aren’t that many schools that go right in between there.”

Since he has difficulty processing auditory information and it was hard for him to focus, teachers at Arbor Bay offered him a much more visual approach to learning.

“He needed a smaller class size,” Lawry said. “They were really able to address his listening, handwriting and impulsivity problems.”

The school does offer smaller classes with 4 to 1 student teacher ratios. Additionally, having a lot of onsite occupational and speech therapists, along with teachers with special education credentials.

“They understood Jack,” she said. “They knew how to approach what his problems were and I don’t know if public school would have been able to deal with the things going on. In preschool, he had a long list of infractions ... that all changed when got to Arbor Bay. Everything was all positive.”

She noted having her son in place where the staff understood what’s going on with him was a night and day difference. Now, he is academically at or above grade level and has gone far socially.

The switch to public school wasn’t as difficult as anticipated too. He did have to adjust to a bigger classroom of 25 students and Lawry worked with the teacher on giving him more visual learning aids. Teachers have been understanding, especially since Lawry talked to them prior to him starting at the public school, she said.

“There weren’t too many growing paints,” Lawry said. “Our fears were unfounded and I was worried the classroom would be really hard for him. We told them ‘this is what works with Jack’ and for that reason there’s been very few problems.”

Now, Evans is happy in his new school setting. Arbor Bay helped smooth the switch by telling the family things to watch out for when transitioning over, Lawry said.

For example, watching out for a teacher used to typical things and might see his behavior differently.

“He loves having access to more kids,” she said. “There were times in the beginning when he’d try to get out of class by making up reasons to leave the room. We told them to be careful; he is anxious about his work and wants to remove himself. We worked out strategies to reduce that.”

For more information on Arbor Bay School, visit arborbayschool.org.

angela@smdailyjournal.com

(650) 344-5200 ext. 105

 

 

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