Uprooting a family and business is no small task, but when it came to education for our child, that is exactly what we had to consider. Since that child is on the autism spectrum, our decision was even more critical.
Our son, Sam, was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum at age 3.
We had put him in our local school district in California, and they were wonderful. He had occupational therapy and help with his speech, backed by a really good support system and good teachers.
But by third grade, Sam was struggling. After discussing various individualized education plans with school officials, we considered holding Sam back due to his low reading and math scores. But the school wouldn’t hear of it, believing it was a reflection on their instructional methods, so we allowed Sam to enter the fourth grade.
It started off okay; he was provided an aide, but was falling further and further behind. When that happened, his anxiety stepped up. Friends started to mean a lot to him, but there weren’t any friends there for him.
He wanted to wear his heavy coat at recess because he wanted to disappear; then the kids wouldn’t play with him because he was different. To see him wandering around – I watched from afar one day. It broke my heart. He prayed for rainy days because he hated recess.
I started talking and listening to what other moms with children on the spectrum said about their experiences and was not encouraged as Sam approached middle school.
I was told that teachers at the middle school are not equipped to handle kids like Sam who are in the middle; there is no in-between support. I can’t blame the teachers, they have 40 kids in a rotating classroom system. They just didn’t have another alternative, except to put him in a resource room and forget him. That’s what these other parents said.
We knew we had to take steps to ensure Sam would not be lost in a system not designed for his particular needs.
A Google search led me to Newton Learning Center of Northern Nevada, a tuition-based, private school licensed by the Nevada Department of Education. As a family, we went to Reno to tour the Newton campus. And we were impressed!
I walked out of there and said to my husband Jim, “This is it.” The school’s focus on slowing things down was key in our decision.
The Newton staff talked with us and built an individualized, safe and supportive education program which allows Sam to achieve his greatest potential. His learning goals are accomplished through solid education fundamentals and social/emotional awareness. He gets the tools necessary to grow both socially and academically. Newton creates a safe and trusting atmosphere for Sam that promotes learning, self-esteem, relationship-building and personal growth.
Once we decided on Newton Learning Center, we looked at relocating to Reno. Our older son was starting at UNR, so Reno was already somewhat familiar to us. We felt we could make the transition and that Jim, who owns a construction company that builds custom homes, could commute back and forth to Folsom while settling in to Reno’s busy economy.
We did look at learning options for Sam in other cities and schools but dismissed them due to longer commutes, higher tuition and more expensive cost-of-living areas.
All in all, it was a good move for us. We’ve been here a year now, and Sam’s self-esteem is up. He wakes up and tells me how much he loves school and his friends. He wants to graduate from Newton. He’s so happy.
It has been such a good experience that I’ve told other families I know in California about Newton Learning Center and its benefits. I tell them that at Newton Learning Center, they gear classes toward what the child knows, and then build on it so they can focus and learn. Their goal at NLC is to mainstream on your child’s terms, not on an artificial timeline.
Now that Sam has settled into Newton Learning Center, we will complete our family move to Reno. We are still in our little apartment, but now that we made the decision to stay, we’re ready to make the next step and make Reno our home.
About Linda McMahon
Linda is representing women within a family of four boys and a husband while struggling to learn QuickBooks tp help with said husband’s construction company. She is passionate about making sure that all kids diagnosed on the autism spectrum have the best educational opportunities available to them. She said all moms should know to Trust. Their. Gut. when it comes to listening to professionals giving advice about their children. Her motto: “If you are not comfortable with what they are saying, listen to your gut, and check it out yourself.”