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New Perspectives - May, 2000 Issue #69 

Rumney, New Hampshire
Ryan McGillicuddy, Admissions Officer

Founded in 1998, The Hunter School works with children between the ages of 5 and 15 who have a primary diagnosis of ADD or ADHD and possibly a secondary diagnosis of Anxiety disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Motor Tic Disorder, Dysthymic Disorder, Mild to Moderate Depression, or similar mental health disorders. Admissions will rule out applicants that are psychotic, bi-polar, dangerous to others, or are active substance or alcohol users. “The Hunter School is a corporation of The New England Salem Children’s Trust, a not-for-profit, non-denominational charitable organization. For many years, the Trust has operated Salem Children’s Village, a residential care facility for abused, abandoned, or otherwise disadvantaged children.” 

Thom Hartmann, author of Attention Deficit Disorder: A Different Perception, founded the New England Salem Children’s Trust in New Hampshire in 1979. They established The Hunter School in 1998, as a result of their perception that children living in Salem Children’s Village in Stinson Lake, New Hampshire and elsewhere “were not being adequately educated because of the challenges that their attention deficit disorders presented.”

Thom Hartman describes about his book on Attention Deficit Disorder, that “This book is the first I know of that presents the idea that ADD is not always a disorder—but instead may be a trait of personality and metabolism; that ADD comes from a specific evolutionary need in the history of humankind; that ADD can actually be an advantage (depending on circumstances); and that, through an understanding of the mechanism which led to ADD’s presence in our gene pool, we can recreate our schools and workplaces to not only accommodate ADD individuals, but allow them to again become the powers behind cultural, political, and scientific change which they so often historically represented.”

In its brochure, the Hunter School states “We view children with Attention Deficit Disorder not as disabled or disadvantaged, but as possessing unique perceptual abilities which, if properly harnessed, can unleash a powerful talent to learn and succeed. Children with ADD think faster and can perceive a wider range of stimuli than other children. Although this is sometimes seen as a deficit because they do not appear to focus on any one task for long, they are, in fact, able to simultaneously perceive many things.”

“ADD children are the ‘hunters’ who are able to take in continuous stimuli and react quickly to changing circumstances. Non-ADD children are the ‘farmers’ who are patient, methodical, and focused over long periods of time. Unfortunately for ADD children, traditional schools teach for the patient ‘farmers’, and not the alert and quickly reacting ‘hunters.’”

The school provides each of their students with “educational experiences which utilize his or her unique talents and traits. Children with Attention Deficit Disorder have, in general, several personality traits which, when encouraged, are the pathways to success. These include: a willingness to engage in risk-taking, intrinsic motivation, independent belief in one’s goals, tolerance of ambiguity (ability to see situations from many perspectives), willingness to overcome obstacles, and the ability to redefine a problem.”

The school sees itself as a “holistic” program, “which views education as a part of the whole child. Children who require behavioral intervention have behavioral plans developed and may participate in individual or group counseling. Natural medicines are of value to some children, while others benefit from more traditional psychiatric or psychological programs arranged by the school after consultation with the student’s parents.” The diet is based on vegetarian, whole foods “free from additives, preservatives, or other potentially harmful substances.”

The school is situated on 137 acres in New Hampshire bordering Stinson Lake to the west and to the east White Mountain National Forest, 2.5 hours from Boston, Massachusetts. This gives the students an excellent opportunity for wilderness experiences such as hiking, camping, snowshoeing, and various athletic experiences. Closeness to Dartmouth College and Plymouth State College gives opportunities for cultural experiences. There are three residences on the campus, providing “six or seven bedroom homes staffed by trained and experienced house parent couples.” The goal is to have an “intimate, family-style living arrangement” as an alternative to the more common dorm style.

Academics cover kindergarten through eighth grade utilizing “small classes and individualized programming in a structured setting. The curriculum is designed in units around themes, rather than in the traditional approach of arranging curriculum around time and tasks. Students are taught to use their unique perceptual abilities to process ever-increasing amounts of information and develop new skills.”

Copyright © 2000, 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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