Learning About Learning
We believe that one of the best ways to serve our students is to be attentive to the latest research in the fields of learning, child development and mental health. New research on brain functioning and the impact of trauma on learning informs our work. If we are going to help our students overcome learning disabilities, we must always be learners ourselves.
This is why Dearborn Academy has such a strong commitment to professional development. In-service training is provided regularly to all staff on topics such as developing resilience in young people, executive functioning, and pedagogy. Dearborn also supports staff as they attend professional development opportunities in the community.
Our professional advisory council also provides ongoing feedback, support and inspiration. These professionals are leaders in the field of special education and child mental health, and they have worked closely with us in refining and advancing our program and inspiring us with new ideas.
For example, working with council member Dr. John Ratey, we have modified and added opportunities for students to exercise and take movement breaks. We have also enhanced our use of the program, emPower, developed by council member Anthony Bashir and his colleague Bonnie Singer. Whenever new methods and techniques show promise for special needs students, we are interested in learning more.
Leading the Way in Special Education
There is one thing that never changes—children do not all learn the same way. What works for one child does not necessarily work for another. Our commitment is to do our best for every single child in our school. This means that we need to be constantly aware of new teaching methods and techniques. We experiment. We invite researchers to work with us. We assess our own progress with each student in detail. And we invent and test new approaches and methods that give more students more opportunities for more success.
Our school has a history of innovative initiatives that advance special education and give more students a greater chance for success. These include:
- A comprehensive approach to reading now used by dozens of other schools to help students with dyslexia and language-based or non-verbal learning differences learn—and re-learn—to read.
- A unique social curriculum we call the Human Dignity Program, which recalls President Kennedy's idea that at the core of human progress and purpose there must be a commitment to the idea that every human being should be treated with dignity.
- Embracing and testing assistive technology as new tools and techniques becomes available so that we are able to reach more students and offer multiple paths for learning.
- An academic environment that is infused with structure and supports for students who are dealing with the challenges of ADD, ADHD, executive function difficulties and other issues that interfere with successful learning. For example, we organize our class time so that we can give students many short breaks and private space as needed to help students maintain their focus on learning.
- A highly effective and unique shop and arts curriculum that combines best practices from arts therapy with ambitious academic goals that give students a chance to develop confidence, competence and often mastery of difficult challenges.
- The development of a trauma-aware approach to learning and behavioral support that includes ongoing professional development for all our staff.
- A highly successful transition program that helps our juniors and seniors gain independence and take the next steps into adulthood with confidence.
- And we're continuing to create new services and programs, such as STEP, that help ensure no student falls through the cracks.
Training new teachers and child therapists is also part of our mission. To that end, we partner with area universities to offer practica and internship experiences. We host speakers and special events, and we help schools create and run special education classrooms. Educators can also engage us for consulting, reading workshops and teacher training.
We are eager to share what we know and to help schools everywhere join with us to ensure that every child in our care has the opportunity for a high-quality, student-centered education, no matter what their needs, their differences or their abilities.
We invite you to click on the links above and learn more about some of Dearborn Academy's innovations and initiatives. If you are a researcher interested in working with us to test new ideas or new curriculum in a special education environment, please call or email us as we welcome partnerships with other thoughtful educators.