Curriculum

Familiar Subjects

New Independence Academy’s academic curriculum corresponds to the familiar subjects taught in public schools.

Grade School Academic Subjects:

English, Math, Science, History, Social Studies

High School Academic Subjects:

Algebra I, Geometry, Literature, Physical Science, Biology, World History, and Civics. A number of electives will also be available and may change from time to time based on interest and the evolving needs of our students.

The Key to Our Success

The key to NIA students’ success lies in focusing on how each student learns. The NIA staff is on a never-ending journey of discovery with regard to each student’s individual learning style, then tailoring interactions and environments to suit these needs while guiding them through course materials. The teachers get to know each child and learn how they best respond to assistance, adapting to the child’s needs. All information about how to adapt to each student’s learning needs is shared with teachers as they move on to new teachers within the school every 3 to 4 years. This bridges any gaps in understanding student learning styles and helps them transition to their new teacher and learning environment.

New Independence Academy’s curriculum is based on the Common Core Standards Notebookachieved through a digital learning module. The digital programs that have been chosen are from a few of the leading textbook publishers in the United States: Destinations, Holt McDougal, Houghton Mifflin, and Harcourt.

The digital modules also have a variety of technology tools, video resources and tutorial labs that will engage and motivate the students while learning in a diverse classroom setting. The digital programs also allow each student to have an individualized education plan that focuses on the variety of learning styles that exist in children with HFA (High Functioning Autism, including Asperger’s Syndrome). Each child is assigned a laptop during the school year and has the option to complete their assignments digitally or manually.

Parents can log-in online to see what their children worked on in school that day and what topics they’re going to work on soon so they can prepare to assist in their child’s learning needs at home.

Outdoor Time

High School ClassStudents go outside at least once a day. This allows for some good old fashioned fun on the playground and indirectly practicing social interaction and communication skills. These social and communication skills are particularly challenging to HFA children and need to be practiced and reinforced at every opportunity. Some students may get migraines if exposed to a computer screen for too long at the time. For this reason, frequent breaks are provided. New Independence Academy’s facilities are lighted with indirect “torch” lights which seem to be more tolerable for students than incandescent light bulbs and the buzzing of fluorescent light banks. Teachers try to maximize natural light and when possible, allow students to choose whether or not to have the lights on. They allow students to make decisions like this as often as possible because they know better than anyone what is most comfortable for them. Many of the students also have an aversion to noise so students use earphones to complete work on the computer. In addition to minimizing the noise level, the headphones allow the students to work on their assignments at their own pace, and the teachers to spend more one-on-one time with students as compared with the more traditional classroom settings.

Because autistic children can easily become over-stimulated, it leads to “melt-down” behavior. NIA staff are trained to recognize the signs of impending melt-downs and have a “Calming Room” to help the students recover most effectively. This room is used in several ways. If a student loses control, they are led to and remain in the calming room until such time as they can calm down and have a conversation with their teacher about what happened and how things might have been handled differently. We want students to learn to recognize the signals that indicate when they are losing control and ask to remove themselves to the calming room before escalating into a full blown episode.

Riding horse

 

Students may also ask permission to go to the calming room if there is too much noise or other stimuli going on around them. There is a rocking chair in the calming room and often times, students just sit and rock until calm and ready to talk with the teacher and return to the classroom. There is no set structure but depending on how upset or out of control a student is, they may take there computer into the calming room to do their work. The calming room has continued to be used less frequently as a testament to the environmental surroundings that adapt to the students’ needs.

 

 

The Horseback Riding and Small Animals Program

The horseback riding and animal program offers a special opportunity for students to develop trust, communication skills, and empathy in the warm connections present when working with animals. When the horseback program began, there were a couple of students who wouldn’t get close to the horses. After a year of slowly increased exposure, they finally decided to ride … and they loved it! This program is provided by the owner of a therapeutic riding facility.

The key to its success is that students are never forced to participate. They are given time to get use to the horses and choose their own level of participation. The teacher brought other small animals including dogs, cats, hamsters, and rabbits to offer a variety of exposure to large and small animals alike. The culmination of this program has brought students outside, exposed them to different people, allowed for interaction with animals and allowed them to participate as they grow comfortable. It provides a time for great socialization in a non-threatening environment. Students responded to it very well and it promotes conversational skills, respect for others and for animals, and even manners as students waited their turn.

A social skills class is taught by a retired teacher and is also very successful in engaging students. This program allows students to practice dialogue comprehension and facial and behavioral interpretation. This is a particularly challenging skill for people with HFA and Asperger’s Syndrome. That makes this educational component so valuable to their social integration skills.