Monday, April 9, 2012

School Visit: Mary McDowell Friends School

Your blogger recently had a chance to visit the elementary school program at this private special education school located in Brooklyn's Cobble Hill neighborhood in New York City and came away most impressed with what she saw and with the information provided by Deborah Edel, the Director of Admissions.

Mary McDowell Friends School began in the 1980's as a K-4/5 school and over the years has added grades and changed locations so that it now also has a middle school program for grades 6-8 in a separate building in nearby Carroll Gardens,  as well as a high school program in Brooklyn Heights that presently goes through 10th grade and is adding an additional grade each year.

Mary McDowell Friends School in Brooklyn

The students at Mary McDowell have a variety of learning issues, but the largest number are students with language based difficulties, ranging from dyslexia to expressive and receptive language disorders, as well as processing issues, including central auditory processing difficulties. A somewhat smaller number of students have been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), primarily of the inattentive type. Mary McDowell would probably not be a good fit for students with major hyperactivity. The school also serves students with executive function difficulties and a small number of students with nonverbal learning disorders, including those who have issues with social cognition. Deborah Edel noted that learning difficulties seldom fit into neat categories and that some students have difficulties in more than one domain.

One of the aspects of the school that we found particularly appealing was its focus on the Quaker principles, called testimonies, reflected in the acronym SPICES: simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality and stewardship. The students at Mary McDowell come from all kinds of religious affiliations, but the Quaker values transcend religion and infuse the culture of the school with a sense of responsibility towards others, to the school community, and to the community at large. 

Mary McDowell is not on the "approved" list maintained by New York State and families who seek public funding for tuition (now $49,000 per year) will need to seek reimbursement from their public school district.

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