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Schools & Program Visits - Sep, 1999 Issue #61  

The Pathway School
Norristown, Pennsylvania
Louise Frederick, Director of Admissions
Visit Report by Jodi Tuttle, Roving Correspondent
April 20, 1999

I visited the Pathway School as part of the Tuttle/Gundry Pennsylvania Educational Consultant Tour. We drove through beautiful residential sections of Norristown in order to reach the school, which is located on the outskirts of Philadelphia near historic Valley Forge. Pathway’s spacious 13-acre suburban campus houses sixty residential students and provides classrooms, a library, playing fields, a gymnasium and art rooms for both the residential students and an additional one hundred twenty day students. The location allows student recreation programs to include cultural and sporting events in Philadelphia and visits to nearby Lancaster County, the Pocono Mountains, and the New Jersey shore.

Pathway School provides a twelve-month program for special needs students. The coeducational environment serves students, ages 5- 21, who have learning disabilities or neuropsychiatric disorders and mild to severe learning problems. The small classes and individualized instruction at Pathway School is designed for young people diagnosed with mild to moderate neuropsychiatic disorders, including Attention Deficit Disorder, Tourette’s syndrome, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, mild traumatic brain injury, and Asperger’s syndrome, among others.

The faculty and staff at Pathway exhibited a tremendous amount of patience and love for the students. Many students who did not have enough self-esteem to even attempt projects before attending Pathway were softly encouraged to make an effort to accomplish something they had never tried before. The students cooked and served us refreshments, and in general impressed us with their newly acquired social skills. They beamed with joy at their recently discovered accomplishments.

The school was founded in 1961 to serve students whose special learning needs could not be met in traditional educational programs. The school’s mission is to provide the highest-quality comprehensive services and therapeutic environment to students with special needs, to enable them to achieve optimal levels of educational, social, emotional, and economic independence. A graduate student who was holding a job and going to school came back to the campus to visit during our afternoon tea with the students. He shared his love for the school with us, expressing gratitude that he had acquired the work, study and social skills that were so important to him today.

In order to provide an environment that is safe and well supervised while providing opportunities for appropriate independence, Pathway’s regular program does not accept students diagnosed with Conduct Disorder, drug and alcohol dependency, psychosis or who exhibit chronic aggressive or delinquent behavior, fire-setting, or running away.

There is however, an Intensive Supports Program that has been added to the continuum of services to provide programming for a small number of high-risk adolescents who are experiencing significant emotional and behavioral problems. This program provides an alternative to acute care, with the goal of transitioning students into Pathway’s regular residential program.

Our consultant group left Pathway feeling great about knowing there is a place in the world that serves this unique population of students. To watch the beaming smiles on the faces of students as they told us about themselves and their life at Pathway brought a few tears to my eyes. It was also special to watch Louise Frederick, the admission director, work the students who were our tour guides—such patience! The students were indeed happy young people who felt very good about themselves and the things they had learned to do while at Pathway School.

Copyright © 1999, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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