Our Approach

Achieving Mastery in the Classroom

At the NEARI School, we believe that all students can learn and succeed in areas of previous failure. Many long-standing learning problems can be ameliorated and need not be worked around or only “accommodated.” Many of our students arrive at NEARI feeling like failures at school, when in reality it is their prior schools that have failed them. It is the job of NEARI teachers to remove impediments to learning, address neuro-developmental gaps, support individual learning styles and needs, and engage students in both actively constructing their own knowledge base and achieving mastery in the classroom.

Our goal is to ensure each student leaves NEARI with:

  • Increased self-regulation capacity
  • Improved relationship skills
  • Improved life, educational and/or work-related skills including learning readiness, reading, executive functioning, and community access skills
  • A commitment to making a positive impact in the wider world
  • The ability to create nourishing personal routines and advocate for self around learning strengths, goals, and communication needs

Our staff does not have a preconceived idea of what will work with an individual student to achieve mastery– rather, we have an experienced, dedicated, and pioneering teaching team with a big “tool box” of assessments, techniques, and creative approaches from which to work. Staff members are constantly searching for the best tools and teaching methods for each student and use those tools to help jumpstart success.

For example, over the years, NEARI has developed NEARI’s Layered Reading Model. This Model views readers as emerging, intermediate, or advanced and supports ongoing assessment and remediation designed to address not only cognitive reading disabilities but underlying neuro-development deficits and learning style differences that affect reading capacity. This results in the use of a wide variety of reading programs tailored to each student’s reading needs. Some of our reading assessments programs include: Reading Reflex and Phonographix, Orton Gillingham, The Davis Method, ABCedarian, Telian Mnemonic Reading Program, Fontas and Pinnell, Words Their Way, More Powerful Reading (Levy), Lindamood Bell, Wilson Reading System, The TNT Reading System, AIMSWEB, Sonday System, Dyslexia Program Teaching, and Language! (Jane Fell Greene)

NEARI supports the following values in all its programs:
Staff-Centered Leadership: The best education and treatment services for NEARI students occur when leaders view individual staff members’ professional and programmatic needs and perspectives as central to the work.

Authentic Relationships: The cornerstone of effective growth and development of all students are boundaried yet intimate relationships. For students to become adults who can relate genuinely and appropriately, they need mentors who: a) hold unconditional positive regard for the students in their care, b) demonstrate/model positive and authentic relationship skills, and c) are able to address and contain maladaptive behaviors while remaining boundaried professionals.

Strengths- and Brain-Based Learning: NEARI believes in individualized programs of education, treatment, and intervention, and so all staff – not just the teachers – must understand students’ individual strengths, learning readiness levels, talents, cognitive capacities, learning styles, social and cultural issues, and preferred ways of both communicating and dealing with stress. Learning environments need to be inquiry-based, multi-modal, trauma-sensitive, and focused on promoting relaxed alertness, orchestrated immersion, and active processing.

Centrality of Self-regulation: External control of behavior is not difficult. The challenge is to teach each student how to self-regulate. This means teaching a feelings language, social pragmatics, acting out prevention strategies, and alternative and appropriate ways to handle frustration and the difficulties inherent in daily life.

Evidence-Based Practice: NEARI’s education and treatment programs are based on the application of research regarding best practices in the fields of study related to all aspects of NEARI’s target populations and model of instruction discussed above.

Global Citizenship: NEARI believes that education for Global Citizenship is essential to helping students deal with the fast-changing, interdependent world in which they live. Young people’s lives are increasingly shaped by volumes of global information coming through multiple media sources in and out of school. To thrive in the world of work and to make positive contributions, our students need to develop global skills: initiative; curiosity; respect for diversity; a disciplined mind; the ability to analyze data and display good oral and written communication skills; an ethical, problem-solving mind; self-advocacy skills; and the ability to collaborate and adapt.

Behavior Management
NEARI’s behavior management model is based on prevention, early intervention, self-regulation, and use of student strengths within a highly structured environment. NEARI takes considerable care in separating those behaviors that are true “choices” (i.e., the student is capable of acting-differently), from those caused by past trauma, neurological problems, social skill deficits, or significant mental health issues. While all students need limits and accountability, the methods we use are varied. In general, we focus on consistency of routines, building in incentives and rewards, crafting rules that honor different learning styles and needs, and rituals that bring the community together and honor deeper values.

Through this preventive approach, many inappropriate behaviors can be avoided. When “acting-out” occurs (often the expression of a legitimate feeling through a behavior that is not acceptable in a school setting), NEARI uses natural and logical consequences, time-outs (in elementary school), visits with behavioral counselors or clinically trained staff, use of a sensory room for calming and self-regulation, and de-escalation interventions. When these prove unsuccessful, NEARI employs humane physical restraint by a staff that is trained and retrained each year to ensure safety. While most students never experience a restraint during multiple years at NEARI, for admission, we do require parental or guardian permission to physically restrain the student if their safety or that of others requires it. Just to note, since implementing our brain-based strategies, NEARI has reduced its use of physical restraint by 75%.