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Academic Support

Autism influences cognitive, emotional, physiological, and social development. Each of these areas needs to be addressed in order to assess the whole child. Therapies and interventions are provided so that the individual child can function at their best within the home, school, and community. The Beacon Model goes beyond what the IEP (individualized education program) addresses and looks at all of the contributors to the diagnosis of autism. Identifying these will help the team to develop positive ways of influencing the child's overall condition. As one area of functioning improves, other areas will follow the path towards positive developmental growth.

Beacon Day School creates a supportive environment that enhances self-esteem, recognizes individual strengths, and identifies areas in need of support through consideration of challenges in functioning. Communication between parents, meetings, home visits, and informal meetings are utilized to enhance communication and collaboration between team members. At Beacon Day School we believe that growth and learning occurs at all times of the day and positive reinforcements should remain consistent throughout the day, both at school and at home.

Regular reports about behavior outside of school. Progression in all areas of development is dependent upon structure and consistency in the home, school, and community.

The child understood in context. This means that each area of development: Communication, social skills, motor skills, academic accomplishment, and others will be related to specific cognitive functions (memory, emotions, attention, language, visual-spatial skills, executive function, and health) to ensure that all are functioning in a way that promotes development. A main focus is on identifying areas in need of growth and support that affects the overall performance of the child. Attention to detail is important, especially when looking at specific areas of cognition.

Behavior Support

Behavior Support – Improving Everyday Life for Students and their Families

Anywhere we go, we can witness individuals who demonstrate undesirable behavior. We have found that most students learn quickly about what behavior is and is not allowed in various settings.  At Beacon Day School, we draw upon the evidence-based tools of classroom management and applied behavioral analysis (ABA), which when combined, help the teachers to effectively prevent most undesirable behaviors and to intervene efficiently and effectively when undesirable behaviors begin to surface.

Positive Behavioral Supports, which are based on the principles of ABA, are used to promote the student’s communicative skills, positive, social interaction, and adaptive behaviors.  It is a proactive, instructional, preventive approach to improving outcomes for all students in managing unacceptable behavior. Positive Behavioral Support represents a shift from reactive, punitive responses to unwanted behavior to an emphasis on the prevention of behavior problems, and by using positive, evidence-based methods to teach and encourage acceptable behavior, thus promoting learning in the classroom.

In 1999, the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs, Technical Assistance Center, stated the following on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports:

"Positive behavioral support is a general term that refers to the application of positive behavioral interventions and systems to achieve socially important behavior change…Positive behavioral support is not a new intervention package, nor a new theory of behavior, but an application of a behaviorally-based systems approach to enhancing the capacity of schools, families, and communities to design effective environments that improve the fit or link between research-validated practices and the environments in which teaching and learning occur. Attention is focused on creating and sustaining school environments that improve lifestyle results (personal, health, social, family, work, recreation, etc.) for all children and youth by making problem behavior less effective, efficient, and relevant, and desired behavior more functional. In addition, the use of culturally appropriate interventions is emphasized." (Sugai, et al., 1999, pp. 6-7)

Our teachers and behavior interventionists are well trained in the fundamentals of ABA. This provides continuity of educational care which has a positive influence on behavior. They work together on many of the school-based elements that have an influence on behavior, including the layout of the classroom management system that facilitates the student’s opportunity to learn and how time is allotted for instruction. Positive Behavioral Support allows the teachers to create a meaningful and vibrant learning environment where rules and expectations are clear and more attention is given to facilitating communication and social skills, as well as academic achievement. For the students at Beacon Day School, the use of Positive Behavioral Support helps prevent behavioral problems from occurring, and helps the student acquire more effective, desirable ways for communicating, adapting to and interacting with their environment.


Integrative Education Care

Integrative Educational Care – The Whole is Greater than the Sum of its Parts

Think back when you were in school. Each learning day was divided amongst several subjects—language arts, math, social studies, science. A certain amount of the instructional day was devoted to each one, on its own. You were presented with facts, methods, rules, operations—but only in the context of that one subject. Traditional models of education are not effective for students with autismand related disorders. These students have challenges with communication, adaptive behavior, social skills, and self-regulation, all of which need to be generalized to home, school and the community. In recent years, however, the model of integrated education has proven to be very effective in helping students take control of their own learning—at traditional schools as well as here at Beacon Day School. Using an innovative model such as integrative education enhances learning, not only academically, but is also critical to social-emotional and motor development.

What is integrated education?

It is an exciting model for teaching that focuses on many different subjects and goes beyond the traditional classroom that uses textbooks to teach student concepts and ways of doing things. There is a greater emphasis on projects and relationships among concepts, and offers a more relevant way of educating students. Beacon Day School uses a variety of educational experiences to enhance learning, such as community-based instruction, art and music. Integrated education focuses on all the facets that connect and influence the world of the student, enhancing learning opportunities through:

  • Cognition (attention, memory, language, visual/spatial functioning, reasoning and coping strategies)
  • Academic achievement
  • Adaptive behavior
  • Social skills
  • Health

An integrative educational approach supports brain behavior relationships. The brain and body are a good example of integration. In order to communicate effectively, the brain needs to take in information, process that information and then create a response. Therefore, integrating the acquisition and application of information facilitates the student’s ability to generalize in other settings and learning opportunities, including the home and community.

It focuses on the whole student and the surrounding spheres of influence within the context of the student’s home, school and community. According to Humphreys, Post and Ellis (1981, pp.11), integrated educational care is “one in which [students] broadly explore knowledge in various subjects related to certain aspects of their environment." In this sense, learning and teaching are seen in a holistic view that is interactive.

How does integrated education work?

Within its framework, there are many levels of integration. It is a broad-based concept or theme that goes across two or more subject areas to facilitate generalization. It can include implementing cross-curriculum objectives (e.g. math with nature or life science with technology) providing meaningful learning experiences that develop skills and knowledge, while leading to an understanding of their applications. This kind of integrated education allows students to broadly explore knowledge in various subjects relating to certain aspects of their environment.

Let’s use cooking as an example: choosing a recipe (reading), making a list of ingredients needed (writing), going to the grocery store to purchase them (math), measuring the ingredients (math), following the recipe (organization and sequencing). And of course, they get to enjoy the meal!

Integrated educational care also includes the faculty (and often times includes the staff) working together as teams in the planning and execution of the cross-curriculum model. They ground their plans in Beacon’s curriculum framework and mission. Key to this team effort is the Beacon Day School faculty and staff’s:

  • love of teaching
  • ability to demonstrate interpersonal skills
  • creativity and innovativeness
  • experience in having taught several subjects
  • technological skills

As planning takes place, the goal is to establish links with the world outside of Beacon Day School. The teachers believe that students need to understand how the experience is useful beyond the immediate classroom experience. They have sufficient autonomy to shape and modify the curriculum according to their students’ needs. This autonomy allows them also to design a classroom atmosphere that encourages inquiry and exploration, revealing to the student the interconnectedness and interrelationships among subjects--students are motivated as they discover these connections. The teachers’ teamwork and sharing across subjects are paramount to enhancing student learning through practical experience. They also incorporate into the curriculum a variety of assessments to determine what students know and can do. Their efforts result in an enriched and rewarding experience for the students here at "Beacon Day School".



Differentiated Instruction

Differentiated Instruction – Maximizing Each Student’s Growth and Learning Success

Students are diverse. Students learn in diverse ways. While autism and related disorders is the common denominator at Beacon Day School, the numerators are wide and varied, spanning the full spectrum of autism and related disorders. Differentiated instruction is a process for teaching and learning for students of differing abilities in the same class. The model of differentiated instruction allows teachers to reconcile learning standards with learner variance. The first step to making differentiated instruction effective is the same step required to make all teaching and learning effective: knowing where we want to end up before we start out—and then plan to get there.

Differentiated instruction is based upon three principles:

1. Every student learns in his/her own unique way.

  • Differentiated instruction recognizes students varying readiness, communication skills, preferences in learning, cognitive deficiencies and social interaction skills in order to provide students with multiple options for receiving information and then applying and generalizing that information. It provides teaching flexibility and allows teachers to adjust the curriculum and the presentation of the information to the students rather than students having to adjust to the curriculum. 

2. Quality is always more important than quantity.

  • To make teaching and learning work, our teachers have developed an alternative approach to instruction beyond covering the subject and creating activities that motivate and engage the students in order to improve results in diminished academic and behavioral skills. Instruction is planned around key concepts that will help students relate to, organize and retain what they learn, and develop the ability to generalize what they’ve learned to uncover how the concepts work at school, at home and in the community.

3. One size does not fit all.

  • Our teachers and behavioral interventionists work together, continually assessing the readiness, interests and learning profiles of each student. They modify the curriculum and instruction as they come to understand the student and the student’s needs more fully. Working together, our teachers can provide a lively, learner-friendly environment with opportunities for student movement, choice, social interaction, generalization and communication.

Differentiated instruction is not chaotic or another way of providing uniform grouping. The overall goal of using a differentiated instruction model is to maximize each student’s growth, learning success, and progress with communication and social skills. This is achieved by determining where a student is and assisting in the learning process to take the student where he/she needs to end up.

At Beacon Day School, we employ several key components to guide differentiation in the learning environment in order to:

  • Provide students with a consistent schedule of activities and learning goals
  • Keep a structure of learning expectations and developmental goals for each student to focus on
  • Help to effectively manage the classroom in order to impact a student’s learning and generalization of what has been learned
  • Modify the curriculum using the IEP to reach learning objectives

Differentiated instruction also includes the integration of therapies such as art and music to connect a student to communication and social interaction learning goals. We believe in the whole student, focusing on the concept that all students deserve instruction that maximizes their capabilities to learn and develops their ability to generalize what is learned, communicate effectively and interact positively with their peers, families and the community.



Community Based Instruction

Community Based Instruction—The Learning is in the Doing

Community Based Instruction is a critical component of the education program at Beacon Day School (BDS), for it takes place in the community where the students are able to generalize knowledge and skills learned in the academic environment. The students at BDS benefit from age-appropriate, functional, hands-on instruction in essential life skills in a meaningful, natural setting where such skills are commonly used. It is expected that the students will live, play and, ultimately, work, in diverse environments within their community, and it is there that they will participate in typical activities across many settings.

Repetitive practice of skills learned in the classroom setting without connections to the students’ real lives lacks joy and motivation. In order to energize and motivate the students’, we must enhance the generalization to community and to everyday life situations. Providing access to the community for the students gives them a chance to apply what they’ve learned in a real life setting, so that the learning has meaning to them. Instruction is guided by students’ strengths and needs. Overall, community based instruction uses consistent teaching strategies and accommodations designed to encourage the students’ participation in typical activities. It gives them a broad spectrum of experiences to enhance their adaptive and social behaviors. It also provides familiarity with a variety of diverse settings, use of tools in those settings and also provides frequent opportunities (whether it be at a restaurant, movie theatre, library, etc.) to generalize their knowledge. This frequency establishes increasing confidence in knowing how to apply what they’ve learned from setting to setting.

For example, the students are given opportunities to cook: develop menus, create a shopping list, go to the store, purchase the items (determining how much money to give and how to determine what change to expect), prepare the meal and enjoy not only the food that’s been prepared but enjoy the process, giving practice for real life. Another connecting example would be going to the movie: finding a theatre, choosing a movie, purchasing tickets (and see the connection to shopping at the grocery store in knowing how much money to give and what change to expect), entering the theatre, purchasing items at the snack bar (again, the connection to purchasing movie tickets and grocery store), locating which theatre matches the ticket. The opportunities in the communities are many and diverse, but it is optimal place to reveal generalization.

Prior to venturing out into the community, we interface with local businesses to provide general information about BDS and the student population in order to ensure the experience is a positive one. These can include relevant instructional settings such as shopping centers, grocery stores, restaurants and public facilities such as libraries and post offices. Community based instruction also provides opportunities to interact with typical members of the community facilitating growth in communication and social skills.

Community based instruction should not be confused with “field trips.” Field trips are commonly episodic, a one-time activity. Community based instruction is different by satisfying the students’ need for consistency in a diverse world, repeated practice and systematic generalization and by combining socialization, communication and academic skills.



Health & Wellness

We understand that our students often times have other health concerns and require care and support beyond the academics of the classroom or behavioral therapies. Beacon Day School founder, Dr. Mary Joann Lang, is also a nurse practitioner and has included licensed vocational nurses (LVN) as an integral part of the school staff. This unique feature of on-staff healthcare professionals allows us to provide quality nursing care for students with concerns such as seizures, asthma and other concerns. We want parents to feel secure, each day, that their student can be cared for promptly and competently when such needs present themselves.




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