Program Information

BEST (Broad-Based Educational Services & Therapies) Academy is proud to be the only private nonpublic special education program in the region to offer embedded intensive interventions and services for early language learners, primarily but not exclusively K–12 students (aged 5 to 21) with classic autism, while simultaneously providing them with opportunities to interact with a verbal and social student population.

In a school setting that features amenities specific to treating our particular student eligibilities—like a new Sensory Room, Motor Lab, an ADL-dedicated classroom, and specially designed learning spaces—our highly trained team of special educators addresses the three core deficits of language disorders: communication skills, behavior skills, and social skills. For both our autistic and nonautistic populations, we design and implement individualized programs to meet the social, emotional, and behavioral needs of each child. By strengthening executive functioning, theory of mind, and central coherence, students develop social understanding, coping skills, organization techniques, and independence in order to live richer and fuller lives.

Hallmarks of the BEST Academy program include: small class sizes of 8–10 students; industry-high staff-to-student ratios; board-certified behavior analysts (BCBAs) on staff; integrated technology in every classroom; and implementation of the latest research-based methodologies and modalities, like discrete trial training. Complementing our time-proven, comprehensive education model, we offer the full range of school experiences, including recreation, art, music, clubs, seasonal activities, and field trips.

All of our academic programs align with Connecticut state standards, and the students undergo both a pre- and post-academic assessment. Math and reading programs are individualized with a one-on-one tutorial-style teaching method based on the student’s skill level. Group activities are also incorporated into the daily schedule, with many hands-on learning opportunities characterizing our multisensory instructional approach.

In addition to our focus on academics, there is a strong emphasis on social skills training, which includes but is not limited to pre-teaching strategies, social stories, and scripting. Through our daily social skills classes, students learn various coping techniques that help them deal with anxieties, anger management issues, and relationship development.

A comprehensive behavioral program is also in place to address high-frequency behaviors. A color-coded behavioral level system and token economy are implemented throughout the school to provide consistency and structure to the school community. Behavioral rating scales are used to target specific behaviors and to develop a Behavior Individualized Plan (BIP) with positive reinforcements for each student.

All related services are made available to the students on an as-needed basis, such as speech-language therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and social work services.

BEST Academy is committed to fully and expertly meeting  the ever-growing needs of our diverse student population—both our students on the autism spectrum and our broad-based populations whom we have served for over 30 years.

BEST Academy does not discriminate based on race, color, national origin, ethnic background, religion, or gender in the admission of students or employment of staff.

BEST Academy is diligent about advancing the social skills development of all our students. It is important for each of them to receive social skills instruction that is appropriate for their age, grade level, and disability. Accordingly, our school social workers have infused our daily curriculum with targeted social skills components that help our students reach their fullest potential.

In addition to Rachel’s Challenge—an initiative implemented at all of our schools that promotes kindness and compassion while it works to eradicate bullying among peers—here are a few of the social skills programs we currently employ:

Second Step
The Second Step program can take students from preschool all the way through middle school. Each grade level features developmentally appropriate ways to teach core social-emotional skills such as empathy, emotion management, and problem solving. For grades K–5, the program concentrates on self-regulation, executive functioning, and skills for early learning, to give young kids that extra boost. The middle school program focuses on more advanced skills, like communication techniques, anger management, coping strategies, and decision making. These skills help students stay engaged in school, make good choices, set goals, and avoid peer pressure to become involved with such negative influences as substance abuse, bullying, and cyber bullying.

Circles
This program teaches students relationship boundaries and relationship-specific behaviors. Particularly applicable to students on the autism spectrum and those with mild to moderate cognitive impairment, Circles: Level 1serves as an ideal introduction to the Circle Paradigm by presenting highly abstract concepts in very simple, concrete ways that make them easy for youngsters to understand. Step-by-step dramatizations visually portray the connection between the kind of relationship and the appropriate corresponding level of intimacy (for example, it’s okay to hug your mother, but it’s not okay to hug the mail carrier).

Techniques for Tough Times
This program was originally created to provide field-proven curriculum and training for educators striving to teach life skills to at-risk students. Leigh VandenAkker and Gayle Threet, a teacher and counselor respectively, developed the program based on years of experience in the trenches. Techniques for Tough Times offers new techniques in violence prevention, conflict resolution, leadership skills, relationship skill building, and counseling. Twelve years of data from the program show increased school attendance, higher grade point averages, and significant decreases in disciplinary referrals to administration. All of this translates to a more positive school environment, in all education settings with all kinds of challenging student populations.