Most students who come to The Y.A.L.E. School’s Williamstown campus are referred because of a complex combination of educational challenges and behavior.
“Over time, students with academic deficits who do not get the help they need may develop inappropriate behaviors. These behaviors evolve in order to deflect a student’s feelings of inadequacy and alienation in the regular classroom,” said James Morrow, campus supervisor at Y.A.L.E. Williamstown.
Without the right supports, students can get locked into a cycle in which behavior becomes more serious, and academic skills continue to decline.
“The public school classroom becomes a stage for their behaviors. Students stop learning and eventually need a more intensive academic and behavioral program.”
When a student comes to Y.A.L.E’s Williamstown campus, Morrow said one of the first challenges is to help the student change the negative image he/she has developed about him/herself, school and the future.
“Academic and behavioral failures can become so engrained that they shape a child’s expectations of himself. We need to help students develop a positive self-image through the use of positive supports,” said Morrow.
Morrow describes the first few weeks at the Williamstown campus as a “baseline period” during which school leaders collect data and information about the student’s academic levels and behavioral challenges.
“We use this time to build solid and trusting relationships between the student and staff that will provide the foundation for success in all areas of development,” said Morrow.
As Morrow and his team learn about the student, they begin to teach appropriate responses to triggers that, in the past, would have been inappropriate, thus helping the student develop a more confident self-image.
“When a child begins to believe in himself, the real learning can begin,” said Morrow. “He is more open to meeting higher expectations and challenging core curriculum standards.”
Morrow and his staff know that learning to read is the key to ongoing academic success. Because so many students with challenging behavior have underlying learning disabilities, the campus provides an intensive and highly individualized program of instruction, including The Wilson Reading System©.
“Students are engaged in meaningful reading and writing tasks every day,” said Morrow. “They work cooperatively to read, write and respond to literature, and are given the opportunity to choose novels that interest them.”
Ongoing data collection and assessment are an important part of the program. Every year, each student reads an average of eight grade-appropriate novels and increases their reading levels by 1.5 grade levels.
“In spite of their challenges, our students are capable of learning and being successful in school and in life,” said Morrow. “Given the right program, supervision, behavioral supports and instruction in a positive school environment, students can really grow!”