Frequently Asked Questions
Is Summit a “behavioral school?”
The majority of our students present with a primary diagnosis of High Functioning Autism/Asperger’s/PDD-NOS and related diagnoses that interfere with their ability to access a traditional public school model. These disabilities often manifest themselves in the form of a wide spectrum of behaviors that can impede a child’s ability to navigate the social world. Summit is often considered a “middle of the road” option for students who may have mild to moderate behavior concerns, but can succeed in a less restrictive environment. On-site counselors, behavior specialists, and speech pathologists work closely with classroom teachers to provide our students with a highly consistent, integrated approach to social, emotional, and behavioral learning. All of our students receive daily social skills instruction right in the classroom.
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Will my child be able to progress academically at Summit?
Yes. Summit Academy is subject to the same curriculum standards as public schools in Massachusetts: the MA Curriculum Frameworks, and the Common Core. The high teacher to student ratio and small group instructional model allow teachers to differentiate instruction to meet a variety of academic needs within a single classroom, including those students who are functioning above and below grade level. Publicly funded students participate in MCAS assessments with the rest of the state.
Do you follow a public school calendar?
Summit follows a 198 day school calendar. Our school hours are 8:00-2:40. We follow the Worcester Public Schools calendar for vacations and holidays, as well as inclement weather days. In addition to the extended year, Summit Academy offers a separate summer program in the month of July. Although our summer program is not Ch.766 approved, we do have an OSD approved budget, which allows districts to use it for ESY if appropriate. School districts may refer appropriate students for the summer program even if those students are not placed at Summit during the school year. The referral process for the summer program is the same as for our school year program.
Will my child receive homework at Summit?
Many of our students have a history of effectively escaping academic demands by means of interfering behaviors or because of inadequate supports. In the therapeutic setting, we have given students what they need to meet the demands of a full academic program, and expect them to put in a solid day’s work. The three group model builds in a period of independent practice in the sheltered environment of the classroom, allowing students to flex their independent muscles without putting additional strain on the home environment. When kids get home at the end of the day, we encourage families to enjoy time together, allow for down time and rest, and even explore social opportunities like clubs and activities in their own communities. Optional enrichment is sometimes offered in the form of study guides, independent reading recommendations, or other practice opportunities. Students at Summit Academy have an extended school year to help ensure that sufficient opportunity is given for practice and retention of learned skills.
How will I know how my child is progressing?
N.W.E.A. map assessments are given quarterly. You will receive a detailed report that tracks your child’s academic progress throughout his years at Summit Academy, compares his progress to national norms, and gives teachers insight into targeted goals for improvement. In many cases, students who come to Summit with stalled growth rates begin to make rapid progress toward “closing the gap” with their national peers.
Quarterly rubric-based report cards, detailed progress reports, and TEAM meetings will give you opportunities to touch base regarding your child’s IEP goals.
Daily communication logs will track your child’s daily performance, give you a snapshot of the school day, and a provide direct link to the classroom teachers.
I heard you use ABA at Summit. Does that mean my child will be doing discrete trials?
Applied Behavior Analysis is an evidence based practice for students with autism. Summit Academy employs universal systems based in ABA in order to positively reinforce desired behaviors, and to shape challenging behaviors by teaching functional alternatives. When needed, an individual behavior support plan is generated to target specific goals for change. All classrooms operate on a point system in which students are reinforced for meeting both classroom-wide and individual contingencies. Data is sometimes collected and analyzed to inform decision making. Summit is a positive, upbeat learning environment rich in behavior-specific praise.
Our students are typically able to learn in the naturalistic context of the small group instructional model, with our 12:2:1 student to staff ratio (as opposed to a 1:1 discrete trial training model). This means that each classroom can have up to 12 students with two certified teachers and one full time instructional aide. Most learning time is done in small groups of about 3-4 students at a time.
Does my student have to be athletic to access the Martial Arts Program?
Therapeutic Martial Arts classes are accessible to students of all ability levels. Our no-contact, non-competitive program focuses on cross-body movement which encourages connections between the left and right hemispheres of the brain. “TMAP” classes promote memory, coordination, self-control, management of personal space, and social skills. Students have the opportunity to rank through the different belt levels upon mastery of different movements. No experience is required.
Is Summit Academy affiliated with other “Summit” schools outside of MA?
No. Summit Academy is an independent, non-profit organization, approved as a MA Ch. 766 private therapeutic day school with our own board of directors and administration. We are a member of maaps (the Massachusetts Association of Approved Private Schools).
What kind of safety training to you use at Summit?
All full-time direct service staff are trained in Safety Care, a preventative model rooted in Applied Behavior Analysis. Physical interventions are used as a last-resort, to protect and not to punish. We are fortunate to have a safe room that can be used in the case of aggressive episodes, in order to minimize the amount of hands-on intervention and to allow the acting out student to de-escalate in a protected environment. Use of the safe room is not a frequent occurrence at Summit.
What is the dress code?
Summit Academy requires a school uniform shirt, which can be purchased through Land’s End. This company provides high quality garments at a reasonable price, and offers many options for style, fabric, and color. Land’s End shirts are “tagless” and sensory friendly!
Are there any girls at Summit?
Yes! We welcome girls in our program, and have had many young ladies attend over the years. Open enrollment means that these numbers may fluctuate from time to time. Due to the predominance of boys with diagnoses on the Autism Spectrum, there are usually more boys than girls in schools that focus on this population. We have also made an effort to do special activities for the girls over the years, including therapeutic “girls groups,” dinner out, jewelry making, walking club, and other special activities.
What about the bus ride? Is Summit too far away?
Students come to Summit Academy from anywhere within a one hour driving radius of Worcester. We have had students from as far away as eastern and western MA and CT. Most students access personal electronics to pass the time, and then turn those devices in for safe-keeping in the office each morning. Our students usually tolerate the rides very well, and most families find that the benefit of the right therapeutic placement outweighs the length of the commute.
How does my child become a student at Summit Academy?
There are two initial ways for a student to apply for admission at Summit. The most common way is for a public school student to be approved for private placement by his or her home district. Then, the district will usually approve several placement options for the parent to explore. Sometimes parents request that Summit Academy be included in those options. From there, the district sends a referral packet to us and we can begin the screening process with you. Parents will make an appointment to tour the school and ask questions, followed by a student visit for a half or full day. Our administrators and clinicians will observe the student and review the referral packet in order to determine whether Summit Academy is a good fit. A determination is then made, and both district and parent are informed. From there, the parents may immediately pursue placement at Summit (or one of the other approved placements.) Although Summit Academy becomes the provider of the educational program, we continue to partner with the sending district regarding the student’s IEP and any concerns that may arise.
Secondly, some parents elect to proceed with a private placement in which they take on fiscal responsibility for tuition and related costs. The screening process is the same, but in these cases students have been withdrawn from the public school.
Summit Academy works cooperatively with sending school districts and parents to ensure the best placement for each child. Although anyone in the community is welcome to tour the school and request information about the school, we do not pursue admission without the consent of the sending district unless the parents have chosen the private pay option.
Who do I call if I have questions?
Executive Director: Dan Dimezza; email@example.com
Special Education Director: Paula Donahue; firstname.lastname@example.org
Program Director: Kathleen Buchanan; email@example.com