Ashby Academy is a newly opened school for the clinically or behaviorally challenged boy with an average or slightly below average IQ. The school accepts boys, age 10-14, with language-based and non-verbal learning disabilities. Ashby accepts students with ADD/ADHD, Anxiety Disorders, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Motor Tic Disorders, Dysthymic Disorder, Mild to Moderate Depression, or Asperger's Syndrome. The school will also work with students exhibiting a psychosis or bi-polar disorder, if controlled by medication, and the student is not a danger to himself or others. Ashby is not appropriate for the physically challenged, thought disordered, fire setting, physically aggressive or sexually acting out boy.
Owners, Michael Beavers and Dr. Alfred Allen (founder of the Hunter School and Granite Hill School), pointed out that Ashby is a therapeutic middle school that emphasizes academics, but it is not a program. The goal of Ashby Academy is to develop a safe, nurturing environment where the boys will learn personal responsibility and social skills. Ashby offers a wide range of therapeutic components including individual psychotherapy, speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy and group therapy that will cover topics such as divorce, grief and loss, anger management, etc.
The school provides each boy with individual attention and a tight structure that includes an unlocked crisis unit, and a 'planning room' where the staff work with the boys to strategize causes and solutions for any current problems. One example of this strategizing includes filling out a form that asks a variety of self-examining questions such as, "What did I do? How was I feeling? What rule did I break? For whom did I create a problem? What did I want to happen? What did happen? If this happens again, what will I do differently?" Ashby uses a positive intervention model rather than a traditional point-level-privilege system.
Ashby is located on the former campus of the Shackelton School with over 70 acres of woods, streams, hills and gardens. IEP/ITP testing in the Carnegie Unit measures each boy's academic, clinical, and social/emotional goals. When necessary, an Orton-Gillingham teacher is available to the students. Mayflower Hall, the central building, is a functional, state-of-the-art facility for the dorms and school.
The parent/family program is developing and will frequently communicate with families and consultants. The school is currently working toward obtaining accreditation from NEASC and JCAHO. Although there were no students attending the school at the time of my visit, the plans and format have proven to be sound in other schools.
About the Author: Nancy P. Masland, EdS, is an Educational Consultant and founder of Nancy P. Masland & Associates, Tucson, AZ, 520-749-4220. A member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA), Nancy has more than 30 years of counseling, administrative and teaching experience.