Friday, September 11, 2009

Brehm School

A subject we have been concerned about for some time is the scarcity of schools for students with complex learning needs and concomitant social and emotional difficulties.

Part of the work we do at the Yellin Center involves helping families to find an appropriate school for their child when their current placement does not provide the kind of support their child requires. Most of the children we see can do fine in a regular class in their current school, when the strategies in our learning plan are put into place. But some children need a more supportive setting, and we then need to assist families in exploring private schools which can meet their child's more extensive needs.

We work directly with a number of these schools and have visited or spoken with many more. But too many of the best private schools for student with significant learning needs specifically limit their programs to students with "language based learning disabilities". That's fine if your child has straightforward reading or language difficulties , but leaves very few settings for the many children whose needs don't fit neatly into this category.

We recently had a terrific conversation with Dr. Richard Collins, Executive Director and Headmaster of the Brehm School, a private boarding school in Carbondale, Illinois, for students in grades 6-12. Brehm works with students with complex needs, who may have difficulties in more than one area of learning and whose learning difficulties are complicated by emotional issues and limited social skills. Their impressive curriculum includes integrated instruction to address all areas of deficit while building academic success.

Brehm also has a comprehensive transitional postgraduate program they call Options, which provides students with independent living with guidance and skills training while they also attend a local community college or complete a two year job training program.

Like so many of the best private school programs, Brehm is expensive and we know that a boarding school is something many families will not consider. But given the strength of their program and the kinds of learning and related issues they address, we think it is a program that parents should know about.