Parent FAQs

Providing Guidance for You and Your Child

It’s understandable to have a lot of questions about a potential new school for your student. We’ve captured some of the most commonly asked questions that parents have below. We’re also available to answer any specific questions you may have; feel free to call or email us directly.

Q: Can students leave NEARI and go back to public school?
A: Yes, absolutely. Students can and do return to their referring district. Typically, students will need to meet agreed-upon criteria determined at their TEAM meeting. However, many students find that they’re finally understood at The NEARI School and want to stay.
Q: Do your students graduate with a diploma?
A: Yes, NEARI students can pursue the same diploma that all public school students can. We prepare for and administer the MCAS tests; offer an approved high school curriculum; and develop Educational Proficiency Plans for students in need of them. Alternatively, students can complete all coursework and credit acquisition, and receive a certificate of completion from their sending district at the conclusion of their educational experience.
Q: Do you provide transitional support to post-secondary education or to work?
A: As required by regulation, NEARI begins transitional planning for all students at the age of 14. For students who are on track for a high school diploma, NEARI offers pre-college experiences, visits, and application support. For students wanting and/or needing additional help to make this transition to college, and/or for those students transitioning to work, NEARI offers a Transition Program with targeted assessments, on-the-job coaching, and a life-skills and independent living curricula.
Q: Do you offer sports and PE?
A: The NEARI Elementary School has a “gym” on-site and uses local swimming pool and gym facilities off-site. The middle and high school building houses a “health club” for students and staff that includes aerobic and weight equipment. Physical Education options include basketball, hockey, soccer and flag football, which take place at the local YMCA. In addition, students are offered extracurricular hiking and swimming opportunities. Students are also eligible for sports teams in their referring districts.
Q: Do you have a nurse on staff?
A: The NEARI School has a nurse who prepares all medications, serves as a connection to a student’s medical team and is on-call for all students (she can be on-site within fifteen minutes). Additionally, we have specially-trained staff who can help administer medications as needed. NEARI should not be your choice for a medically fragile child who requires immediate access to a medical professional. But, if a student ‘s medical needs can be safely managed at home with emergencies handled by a local hospital, NEARI’s staff ratio and experience provides a similar level of support. Our staff has experience working with a wide range of medical conditions. You should speak with our nurse before making a final placement decision.
Q: What type of food service do you offer?
A: Lunches are provided from our local public school lunch program and meet nutritional guidelines. In addition, we have breakfast and nutritious snacks available for students every school day. We also welcome parents to supplement their student’s meals if they wish. Refrigerators and microwaves are available for students.
Q: Do you have a home/school behavior component?
A: Every student has an assigned case manager who communicates actively with parents and other caregivers, sometimes daily. We encourage parental/caregiver engagement with NEARI’s treatment and academic goals, and in some cases we create a home-school behavioral plan. We can also assist parents by sharing with them what works best at NEARI and offering suggestions for home-based behavior management. But, we neither automatically address behaviors that have taken place away from school nor as a rule carry over consequences that have been imposed elsewhere. Such “carry over” is done very selectively and on a case-by-case basis. We believe that students need to experience school as a unique part of their lives and have the opportunity to start each school day anew, with an opportunity to make that day a success.
Q: How do I know if NEARI has experience with kids like mine?
A: Since opening in 1986, NEARI has a history of success working with a wide variety of students who have failed in other public or out-of-district schools. Typically, students at NEARI advance at least one grade level in reading each year, learn to self-regulate and problem-solve, advance in grade levels and make progress or achieve their IEP goals, pass the MCAS if they are on our graduation track, and gain independent living skills. These goals have been accomplished with a wide-range of diagnostically different students including those with:

  • Attentional or Hyperactive Disorders
  • Neurological Deficits
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Moderate Developmental Delay (DD)
  • Trauma (PTSD)
  • Mood Disorder including: Bi-Polar, Mood Disorder-NOS, Depression
  • Long-standing Socio-emotional Issues
Q: If The NEARI School works with such a diverse population of students, how do I know my child won’t be picking up bad habits?
A: The NEARI School provides a highly structured environment and a very small, relationship-based program that provide a safe place for students to learn boundaries, explore who they are and learn how to regulate their feelings. There is no better place to work on these issues than at NEARI where students experience a special treatment and learning culture designed to support each individual’s unique needs, maintain tight communication with home, and facilitate open dialogue that addresses any and all issues, as they arise. Our students will all leave at some point – going out into the community to continue schooling or begin work. NEARI is a great place to learn the necessary skills.
Q: I think my child would benefit from The NEARI School – how do we enroll?
A: Assuming your child is qualified and has had an IEP, referrals come from your in-district Special Education Director. To see more about the process and obtain a referral, please see our page on “The Big Picture.”
Q: What clinical services do you offer?
A: We offer in-depth individual treatment planning for every student. We have both a consulting psychologist and psychiatrist on our team who monitor and meet with students, as well as a licensed therapist to provide individual counseling. Our Executive Director, who is a licensed clinician, leads treatment-planning meetings and treatment discussions, and assists in daily intervention planning. Our Associate Director and leader of the brain-based team is a licensed clinician who also participates in treatment planning and clinical support for students.

NEARI also offers extensive brain-based, behavioral and learning assessments for each student. Starting in 2002, NEARI pioneered a “brain-based,” multi-disciplinary approach to student assessment and teaching. This practice translates the latest neuroscience, psychology and education research about how the brain learns best into innovative, practical classroom and counseling strategies. The results are not only impressive but have become “promising practices” based on research projects with UMass and Smith College.

Q: We don’t live in the same town as The NEARI School – won’t the commute be a disadvantage to my child?
A: The NEARI School serves students from 15 or more different geographic school districts. 90% of students commute to go to The NEARI School – some up to an hour away (The maximum time allowed on a bus by state regulations.). Some parents choose to transport their own children, but most students tolerate the bus rides quite well.  (We encourage parents to allow students to use electronic devices to help with boredom and increase focus.) If transportation concerns are significant for you, please discuss both the concerns and the options with us. In our experience and that of the vast majority of our families, the inconvenience of a bus ride is far outweighed by the positive outcomes that students achieve at NEARI.
Q: What kind of behavior management system do you have?
A: 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, lack of understanding, social skill deficits, or significant mental health issues. While all students need limits and accountability, the methods we use are very individualized. In general, however, we focus on consistency of routines, building in incentives and rewards, crafting rules that honor different learning styles, and instituting rituals that honor deeper values. Through this preventive approach many problematic 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 nothing else is successful, NEARI employs escort holds and physical restraint by highly trained staff. While most students never experience a restraint during multiple years at NEARI, if your student comes here, we do require your permission to physically restrain your child if need be. Since implementing our brain-based strategies, NEARI has reduced its use of physical restraint by 75%. Our restraint methods are humane, supportive and never used as punishment.
Q: How do you communicate with families?
A: Each student is assigned a case manager who is the liaison with families and other service providers. We are committed to focused communication with families and with other service providers whom you wish us to “keep in the loop” about your student’s progress. Our day starts and ends with a team meeting of our staff, which ensures everyone is fully informed about events and special needs that arise on a daily basis. Case managers are also aware of anything during the school day that should be communicated to parents or other caregivers.