Project Description

Finding The Right Fit For Walter

Walter, a teenager with autism, was struggling in his previous school. He experienced difficulty staying on his best behavior and had trouble understanding appropriate professional and personal boundaries among teachers and friends. Additionally, Walter’s academic performance was suffering. Three years ago, Walter enrolled at the Sierra School at Main Street, and his progress has been remarkable. After consulting with Sierra School staff, his family determined the best path forward for Walter included professional intervention to help unlock his potential.

Thomas Roberts, Program Director, Sierra School

Faculty and staff at the Sierra School are committed to helping students with special needs develop the skills to be successful inside and outside the classroom. As with all Catapult Learning special education programs, students are not treated as cases but as individuals with the potential to reach their academic, behavioral and social goals.

Like all students who enroll at the Sierra School, team members evaluated Walter’s strengths and needs. From there, they developed a customized support plan to meet his needs. Walter was a fit for the BEST (Broad-Based Educational Services & Therapies) Model, which builds on a student’s individual strengths while addressing identified challenges.

While the Sierra School traditionally operates with a reduced teacher-to-student ratio, staff recognized that Walter would excel with more attention and less distraction. Faculty provided one-to-one instruction for him as a group setting would have proved overwhelming. Walter responded particularly well to his experience with his Catapult teachers, who were able to create an environment of stability and trust.

Up until a few years ago, his vocabulary was just a few words – basically yes or no – there was no real communication. He was not able to deal with people socially. But over the last couple years, his communication skills have come along. He’s gotten to the point where he can deal with people socially and there aren’t any problems. He’s maturing. It’s definitely improved quality of life, both for him and for us.

Scott, Walter's Father

During this time, Walter also discovered a new hobby – origami. He became engrossed with watching the videos posted online by instructor Jeremy Shafer. Both Walter’s parents and teachers encouraged the time he spent practicing the folds, creating various objects and creatures. The art of origami also helped Walter uncover his creative side.

At school, Walter continued earning points for good behavior and for staying on task with assignments, gaining rewards for high marks. This goal-oriented system, with the objective of improving academic performance and appropriate personal interaction, worked for Walter, giving him something tangible to look forward to as he stayed on target. Today, he even participates in group instruction and classroom activities.

The skills he’s acquired at school also have translated at home.