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 non-autistic populations, we design and implement individualized programs to meet the academic, 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 our 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. BEST Academy also utilizes Catalyst, an online platform for data collection that allows to closely monitor the behavioral and academic progress of each student. 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 multi-sensory instructional approach.
We choose from a wide range of assessments to ensure we are recognizing the individual skill sets of each student. These may include ABLLs, VB-MAPP, AFLS and others. When appropriate, web-based curriculum is available for students as well.
BEST Academy helps students make the most of learning opportunities by employing certified specialists to give each student additional support as needed.
Our Speech & Language Therapy Program features a coordinated and individualized approach. In group work as well as in individual sessions, our certified speech therapists work with students to correctly produce the sounds in words, increase speech intelligibility, develop vocabulary knowledge and understanding, and utilize appropriate conversational skills. Emphasis is placed on pragmatics, such as turn taking, topic maintenance, asking appropriate questions, and socialization. Grammar, syntax, and written expression are also addressed. Our Speech Language Pathologists also assist with AAC devices, such as iPads, that utilize communication software for our non-verbal students.
Our occupational therapists support students with sensory, perceptual, and motor problems in better meeting the daily demands of their environment. OTs use directed play as the primary method of treatment; however, classroom consultation directly with teachers and assistants regarding the student’s abilities is also key to their success. Directed play includes such activities as mazes and target games to develop hand-eye coordination and ball games to increase coordination between two sides of the body. Through the use of movement, touch, and other functional activities, the student more effectively develops the responses needed to function in the classroom, home, and community environments. As the child ages and his or her needs change, the focus is on the acquisition of specific skills used in daily life. These can include learning to measure baking ingredients, personal care, or crossing busy streets, depending on the student’s abilities.
Our social workers guide students through emotional and social growth issues. They focuses on helping the student develop age-appropriate skills and behaviors for the classroom and beyond. Through the use of recreational and other activities, they assist students in building self-esteem, applying social skills, and practicing leadership and team participation. The students are seen individually and in small-group sessions. It is also not unusual to find social workers in the classroom leading social skills activities. Our social workers also work with families to assist in gaining resources, such as accessing the Department of Disability Services and helping them through the Guardianship process if needed.
The primary function of our BCBA staff is to conduct descriptive and systematic behavioral assessments, conduct functional behavioral analysis (FBA), analyze data, and provide behavior analytic explanation of the data and results. The BCBA also designs and supervises behavior intervention plans (BIPS) for their students, and revises these interventions when a student has shown limited progress or mastery on their behavioral goals and objectives in their IEP.
A consulting psychologist and behaviorist are also available on an as-needed basis.
At BEST Academy, all related services personnel work closely with classroom teachers to assure integration of learned skills into all classroom activities. All related service staff members are available to collaborate and meet with families to assist with carryover of interventions into the home and community as well.
Our Transitional Program focuses on students aged 18-21. This program focuses on functional academics, community safety, ability to communicate in the community and employment experiences. We have several community relationships, including Staples, 99 House, Goodwill, Fosdicks and Masters Manna. Prior to graduating from the Transition Program, our team utilizes formal and informal assessments to determine areas of career interests. We also work to identify appropriate adult service program through visits, communication and collaboration. A concrete long-term plan is in place prior to a student leaving BEST Academy. Our Transitional Team collaborates closely with the Department of Disability Services, the Bureau of Rehabilitative Services and the student’s family throughout the long-term planning process.
Each classroom goes into the community on a weekly basis to practice skills learned inside the school itself. They go to local parks, libraries, stores and other recreational areas. We also have a transition Program where our students over the age of 18 go to work at several area businesses: Staples, 99 House, Goodwill, Fosdicks, Master’s Manna.
We are building and fostering strong community collaborative relationships with local Psychiatrists, neurologists, the Hospital of Special Care, DDS and other providers.
“BEST Academy was a godsend. Our child was sitting in her home district school coloring in the back of the classroom. They did not believe in her ability to learn. When she came to High Road she was greeted by a high energy, creative, and caring staff. The small classrooms, one-to-one attention and consistency were exactly what she needed to flourish. She was able to identify 13 letters of the alphabet and write her name independently within three months of being there. Her teacher has become like family to us. My daughter’s learning and well being are always on her mind. We can breathe easy knowing that she is receiving the same level of care at school as she is at home. She loves school and dreads snow days that will prevent her from learning and socializing at school. It’s a wonderful school with compassionate and caring staff. Our children are special and it takes special people to educate them. I recommend this school and style of education to everyone. We LOVE High Road!”
~ BEST Academy Parent
“My son is 8 years old and has been there for about a year. He was placed there by his district after his anxiety became too severe for the public school setting. In public school, my son was at the point where he needed individual supervision at all times and was not able to maintain an appropriate level of functioning in the classroom. Before he was at High Road, he had to be hospitalized due to his anxiety.
Since my son has been at BEST Academy, his anxiety has decreased dramatically. He is able to maintain himself in the classroom and, due to their highly structured environment, has learned he can be successful. In public school, my son would come home from school very discouraged, as he felt he was a failure. He often wished he could be “more like the other kids.” I have not heard this comment again out of my son since he started at BEST. He has made friends and has even asked to be involved in extracurricular activities, something he would never consider in the past. He is on the highest level of achievement at the school (“gold”) and has been so for over a month. His more positive school experience has increased the family’s morale in general. No longer am I sitting at work anticipating the daily call from the school letting me know that my son needs to be picked up. I also don’t have to try and decrease my son’s frustration level on a nightly basis, as he was very aware his anxiety was getting in the way of him having a positive school experience and hated going.”
What many people don’t realize is how much a child’s emotional health affects the family in general. BEST Academy has made my home a happier place for everyone living there, not only my son. I have the unique experience of not only being a parent of a child with specialized emotional needs; I also work as a mental health therapist professionally. These children deserve a facility that can help foster their individual growth and help them see they can succeed. With some cases, it even may involve a transition back to the public school setting, which is where my son is at now. As a therapist, it is VERY rare that I am able to place children in alternative school settings; many times it is just about putting a Band-Aid on the setting they are in and hoping for the best while expecting the worst. This type of situation does not encourage growth; it promotes further issues down the line and can lead to truancy, more severe emotional issues, possible substance abuse, and dropping out of school entirely. I have seen it firsthand. These children are special and need a particular setting to help them see that. BEST Academy is definitely that place. I do not know where my family would be without it.”
~ BEST Academy Parent
“I am writing this letter on behalf of BEST Academy. I have had the privilege of working with the staff at BEST not only on a personal level but on a professional level as well. Several years ago, I had a client who attended the Upper School at High Road. At the time, he was having some difficulties in and out of school. I worked very closely with members of the staff and other outside agencies in order to assist the client in dealing with his home and school environments. I was not only impressed with the level of professionalism shown by the staff but also at how well every teacher knew the students whether or not they had the student in their class.
On a personal note, my son currently attends BEST Academy. He had attended mainstream school under the auspices of Special Education. His academic as well as social progress was minimal to none at all. Homework that should have taken 30–45 minutes took several hours and by the time it was done he was very often in tears and/or very frustrated. Through the years, we continually requested more services. By the time he was in fifth grade we knew that it was more than time for an alternative learning environment. BEST immediately came to mind and, after much discussion, the Board of Education agreed to a placement there. Since being placed, my son has flourished academically and socially. In fact, as well as being at BEST my son currently attends a class at the local high school and performs with several community theater groups in town. If he had not been afforded the opportunity of attending BEST Academy, I believe his progress would have been minimal at best.
BEST Academy provides a safe and welcoming learning environment. The administrators, teachers, social workers and support staff all have a vested interest in each and every student and continually encourage and provide challenges for them both academically and in their outside activities.”
~ BEST Academy Parent
“My son has attended High Road for the last 4 years. He has been diagnosed with a severe language disorder, ADHD, and ASD. High Road has given him an opportunity to express his individuality and to soar to new heights. In the public school setting, he was made fun of and not once was he invited to one of his classmates’ birthday parties. High Road has given him a place to make friends as well as created a safe haven, so much so that he gave a speech — a young man with a severe language disorder — to the student body in a run for presidency for student government. I am proud to say he won, and this increased his confidence — something he would have never had if it was not for High Road School and its staff. Thank you.”
~ From Parent of 8th-Grade Male Student with Autism