School Within a School
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 NIV
In 2000, Mark and Teri Muir had a vision to establish the best educational program to integrate students with High-Functioning Autism (Asperger’s Syndrome) into the mainstream classroom with individualized special education services in a Christian setting. That dream was realized through the creation of the School Within a School. Students receive services within the mainstream classroom and also within the School Within a School setting, which is located within the main building. In the SWS setting, services are provided one on one or in a small group, with a teacher to student ratio no greater than 1:3.
Because all of our autistic students are mainstreamed, the admissions process for our School Within A School is thorough, specific and selective.
New Students applying for SWS:
- Must have a diagnosis of High-Functioning Autism
- Must have an IQ score of at least 90
- Must be able to pass our initial academic screening test during the admissions process - this will indicate whether or not the student could be successful within the Veritas curriculum
- Must submit a current (within the past 3 years) psycho-educational evaluation, as well as all other supporting documentation pertaining to the student's autism for review by our SWS Director, Allison Burdette
- Must have an evaluation during lower, middle, and high school
Tuition for our SWS program is in addition to the regular tuition for Veritas. SWS tuition ranges from $3,500 to $15,000 per year, depending on the level of support needed. Once the student has completed the admissions process and is determined to be a match for our SWS program, our SWS Director, Allison Burdette will discuss the student's needs and individualized plan of support, and the SWS tuition will be set. As the student progresses through the year, the level of support needed will be evaluated, and will be adjusted either up or down (along with the SWS tuition) as necessary.
The School Within a School Support System seeks to develop and foster skills needed by students with High-Functioning Autism for a productive and independent life in the school, home and community. These skills typically fall into the following categories:
Social Skills/Life Skills
- Focus in this area includes, but is not limited to, understanding the perspective of others and how your actions influence those around you. Conversation skills, curiosity about others, and appropriate reactions to situations are examples of skills targeted for change. Practical life skills such as problem solving, self-care and money management are also addressed.
- Students with High-Functioning Autism often lack the foundational skills needed to achieve their potential. These skills include fluency in reading, reading comprehension, or the ability to stay on task when working. Some students may need remediation with reading, while others may not understand the abstract nature of the literature studied in the classical Christian curriculum. The highly skilled staff of SWS offers support in the classroom as well as one on one support in the SWS setting for difficult subjects. This academic support can also include help with organization skills and study skills.
Parent Testimonial (The name of the student has been changed):
Public school seemed to be working well for Alex until fourth grade. Suddenly, our gentle spirited child with a love for learning was coming home from school and collapsing on the floor in despair. “My teacher yelled at me again for taking too long to finish my work.” “A boy in music class kept pushing my chair away so I couldn’t see the book.” “The other kids won’t let me play football with them because they say I’m not good enough, so I just sit and do nothing at recess.” “I had to sit in a room by myself for two hours to take my math test.” My heart ached for my sweet, bright boy as this cloud of frustration and disappointment was dimming his spirit.
From a young age, Alex displayed a natural curiosity and an amazing ability to acquire knowledge about things that interested him. In preschool, he enjoyed learning about space and could name the planets in order, tell if they were solid or gas, and knew other facts about the solar system. Also during these early years, I noticed some differences in Alex’s development as he struggled with communicating and completing tasks efficiently. After various evaluations and diagnoses, he qualified for an Individualized Education Plan as he started public elementary school. As the years went on, however, the school told us that Alex’s needs no longer met their criteria for services and that there was nothing more they could do for him. My fear was that Alex would not fit into the public school mold and would slip through the cracks. As the problems of fourth grade continued, we knew it was time for a change.
When we visited Veritas Christian Academy, we were immediately impressed by the engaging curriculum, rich with the history and science that Alex loved but was lacking in the public elementary school. We learned that the School Within a School Support System would work with us to create a truly individualized plan to provide the support Alex needed. As we met with the SWS director, I appreciated her emphasis on strategies rather than accommodations. Instead of merely allowing Alex to get by, they would help him overcome his challenges and achieve his full potential. With confidence that God had led us to a place where Alex could thrive, we withdrew him from public school and enrolled him at Veritas in the middle of the school year. Alex was warmly welcomed into the caring Christian community at Veritas.
The SWS staff and classroom teachers treat Alex with compassion and dignity as they support him in achieving his academic, organizational, and communication goals. At the beginning of middle school, Alex even sat in on the planning meeting to help write his own goals for the year. In public school, we were faced with the frustration of fighting the system, but at Veritas, we have found a spirit of cooperation focused on our son’s success.
Alex’s name regularly appears on the A honor roll at Veritas. He has been inducted into the Honor Society and has won awards. On several occasions, his teachers have told us he made the highest grade in the class on a test. Shortly after transferring to Veritas, someone asked Alex if he liked his new school and he responded, “Yes, it’s less frustrating because the teachers don’t yell at me.” And the boy the public school kids would not allow to play football? His grass stained knees are a daily reminder that he is having fun playing with his friends at recess. Alex is happy. He enjoys his school, his teachers, and his friends. We are amazed at his academic achievement, we are inspired by his love of learning, and we are profoundly grateful to Veritas for restoring Alex’s spirit.