Gifted Learners and High Functioning Autism Students Receive Extra Support Options at Clonlara School

Top Quote Clonlara School offers a progressive new enhancement in their elementary program which will provide extra support services for spectrum students and learners with special needs. End Quote
  • Ann Arbor, MI (1888PressRelease) July 17, 2012 - This fall Clonlara School will offer a progressive educational program designed to meet the needs of gifted children who are experiencing difficulty due to autism, sensory issues or delays in math and reading. This dynamic program will provide students with a special level of service, while being given the opportunity to integrate into an inclusive classroom. Each child will also be clustered with other gifted children to work on topics they have chosen.

    Students will have ample time to be social, explore their interests and work individually on subjects which challenge them. The program teachers; one with ten years experience in special education, the other seasoned in the understanding of Clonlara's "whole child education philosophy" are excited about offering a program which will truly consider the whole child. While the beginning of the school year may begin with greater emphasis on special education, the goal of the program through the year is to fully integrate the entire class into a whole unit.

    Guided by the parent and student, the teaching team will create an individually tailored program which will allow each child to discover a true love of learning and the importance of hard work. Other professionals, such as therapists, tutors, or educational consultants, may be involved in the specialized programming for the student. Clonlara does not use the one-size fits all approach, so each student will have individual, specialized goals they work toward.

    Children learn best through play, and all children learn differently and need different educational options. This is even truer for children with autism. While Clonlara has always focused on the individual needs of each student, adding a special education teacher will allow Clonlara to further service a student's unique learning needs, and more importantly support those different learning needs.

    Each student's plan will encompass academic and social development and goals, plus focuses on adaptive behavior goals, communication skills and sensory development. Because Clonlara's vision is to have a fully integrated classroom by the end of the school year, peer interactions and mentoring will also be a key piece of the puzzle. There will be a collaborative, team approach in formulating and delivering each student's plan.

    When students struggle with social skills it impacts their entire day - both socially and academically. Building time into a student's schedule to strengthen social skills will enhance success in several areas. One way the Clonlara instructors teach and reinforce social skills is by using social stories that teach everyday social skills to students on the spectrum. These stories are used in the classroom to describe a social situation. The goal is to share accurate information in a meaningful, safe way and promote true social understanding.

    This is a wonderful evidence based practice that compliments Clonlara's philosophy of experiential learning. The teachers have the flexibility to integrate social story use throughout the day and weave the concepts into academics. For instance, students can work on language arts by writing their own social story and time will be built into the schedule to accommodate role-playing of social skills and practice social skills through play.

    Students with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) will have time in their schedule, daily, to develop their sensory skills. By integrating activities that will reduce fears and build trust each student will find daily support in a key area that will strengthen each child's sensory development. Through tactile (touch and skin), vestibular (inner ear and balance) and proprioceptive (muscle and joint) sense each student will develop strong sensory skills and will have adequate time in their schedule to not only experience these activities, but then practice them in a safe, understanding environment. In addition to the two classroom teachers working with students, the staff is willing to integrate a student's sensory integration-based therapy needs into the student's plan and will work with the child's therapist recommendations. Addressing sensory skill building will also allow the students accelerated success when paired with the social skills component of the program.

    Students who are twice exceptional can also find a place at Clonlara. Along with services to support learning differences, small class sizes and a well qualified teaching team, Clonlara will be using Cluster Grouping to service the gifted learners. This method will allow gifted, similar skill matched students, to explore topics without boundaries restricting "how" or "what" they can learn. The teachers will actively use differentiation to challenge the gifted students in their learning activities. This approach will allow gifted students to be placed with students of similar strengths in specific areas to learn together, all the while having qualified teachers who can support and work on their learning differences.

    As mentioned above, parents will also be a big part of our collaborative team in designing their student's plans and goals. Clonlara feels that when what is done in the classroom can be supported at home, and what is being done at home can be carried into the classroom it solidifies the skills and behaviors. The more Clonlara and the family are joined as partners in each student's education, the greater the child's chances for continuity and success.

    While this program enhancement was initially thought to service high functioning autism students - the design will now allow Clonlara to service K-5 students who not only are high functioning, but also provide services to students with sensory integration issues and those who are twice exceptional. This natural pairing of Clonlara's "whole child education philosophy" and support for social skill building, sensory integration, academics, gifted cluster grouping and community consciousness truly does encompass the importance of reading, writing and arithmetic with play and special education services.

    For further program details please contact Clonlara School directly. We would welcome your questions, would like to provide an opportunity to meet the classroom teachers, and take you on a tour of our facility. Call 734-926-4617. Please visit our website for other school information

    Martha Rhodes
    Campus Administrator
    martha ( @ ) clonlara dot org
    1289 Jewett Avenue
    Ann Arbor, MI 48104

    Clonlara School's mission is to provide programs and services that recognize and support a learner's curiosity, strengths, interests and talents as the foundation of his/her educational experience.

    Gray, Carol. The New Social Story Book: Social Stories That Teach Everyday Social Skills to Children with Autism/Aspersers. Future Horizons; Revised edition January 29, 2010. Print.
    Kranowitz, Carol. Out of Sync Child Has Fun: Activities For Kids with Sensory Processing Disorder. Perigee Trade; Revised edition August 1, 2006. Print
    Winebrenner and Brulles . The Cluster Grouping Handbook: How to Challenge Gifted Students and Improve Achievement for All. Free Spirit Publishing; Book with CD-ROM edition April 15, 2008. Print
    Wong, Harry and Rosemary, How to Be an Effective Teacher: The First Days of School. Harry K. Wong Publications, Inc.; 1998. Print.
    Autism Society of America. (June 23, 2012). Educating Students on the Autism Spectrum. Retrieved from

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