Franklin Academy is the country's first boarding school for students with nonverbal learning disabilities. Dr Frederick Weissbach, founder and Headmaster, writes "It is the only accredited college preparatory school in the country to focus exclusively on students in grade 9 through 12 with NLD and Asperger's." (July 14, 2009) Franklin Academy opened September 2003. Currently 100 students are enrolled at Franklin Academy, and there is a professional educator for every 2 students on campus.
My husband, Marvin, and I visited Franklin in 2006, toured the school and met with Cindy Pope, Director of Admissions. I visited Franklin Academy recently to meet with a client attending school there and also speak with teachers and key personnel.
Franklin Academy is organized into teams. Each team has a team leader, a learning specialist, a residential life staff member and a counselor. Classes are small, typically 6 to 8 students. The year is organized in 5 terms, or quints. An intersession occurs between each quint, with the students engaging in experiential learning activities during that time.
On a school day, there are classes, then a break after the academic day, followed by residential life. Hall meetings are a daily occurrence at Franklin Academy, where students meet with their team. Hall meetings provide the link between academic and residential life, and students participate in the residential life curriculum everyday.
I met with Dr. Tom Hays, Education Director. Tom shared that many of Franklin Academy's students have issues with transistions. His experience is that transitions for students with nonverbal learning disabilities take a long time to be smoothly negotiated. Franklin Academy is able to assist students in filling in missing gaps from previous, unsuccessful academic experiences. "Our kids are slow processors, and we allow for that so the students can experience success."
During my tour of the school, my client joined me. His dorm room was neat and organized. Franklin Academy offers only single rooms for students. In his dorm, the rooms are located around a common area where meetings and other activities occur.
I joined a humanities class. There were 5 students in the class. A white board was used to record ideas, and students could then access those notes on their own computers. Students participated in a lively discussion about the Great Depression and economic transitions. The students sat at a rectangular table, with the teacher at the head.
For many of the Franklin Academy students, learning how to organize schoolwork on the computer has made a critical difference in organization and executive function.
Franklin Academy also has a Summer Sojourns Program, which can provide an initial experience for new students as well as well as an opportunity to catch up or move ahead for current students.
Although I visited Franklin Academy a few years ago, observing how a student I advised had developed and grown provided a terrific update.
About the author: Renee LeWinter Goldberg, EdD, is a Certified Educational Planner. Her business is Educational Options, LLC, with offices in Newton and Worcester, MA. Her webside is www.optionsined.com