TRUMBULL COUNTY Summit Academy opens in Warren to give pupils a new opportunity
Classes start in the former St. James building.
By DENISE DICK
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- Children ages 6 to 15 with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and Asperger's syndrome have a new learning opportunity in the city.
Summit Academy Community Schools, which also have branches in Youngstown, Akron, Canton, Middletown, Xenia, Lorain and Parma, begins its first year in the city.
Asperger's syndrome is a high-functioning form of autism.
The school secured the former St. James school building on Arbor Avenue and classes are scheduled to start either Aug. 30 or Sept. 7.
Enrollment is free to pupils, and school officials are shooting for 50 to 75 pupils the first year, although that number may be increased. Because money from the state for education follows pupils, the local school districts that serve potential Summit pupils could face losing money.
Interviews, required for children to attend, may be set up by calling (330) 369-4233. Registration may be extended through October.
"Most of the students have experienced some sort of academic or social disappointment," said DeAnna Hardwick, principal.
Most of the pupils come from public schools while some have attended private schools.
"Their needs just basically haven't been met," Hardwick said.
The schools start with children ages 6 to 15 and grow, adding years as the pupils age. Research shows that's the age range within which negative behaviors can still be redirected without negative outcomes, the principal said.
The Youngstown school opened in 2001 and served 190 pupils last year, making it the largest Summit school. This year, a high school will be added.
Summit schools started in 1997 when a clinical counselor from Akron who had a large practice of children with ADHD started visiting his children in their schools.
The counselor created an after-school learning center for the children, working with a martial-arts teacher. Martial arts can help ADHD and Asperger's children with concentration.
The creation of charter schools in Ohio and the encouragement of parents prompted the formation of the Summit Academy schools.
When a child comes to Summit Academy, the first goal is to build rapport. Children with ADHD or Asperger's often have a difficult time building relationships because of a lack of social skills.
"They are the one kid in the class who isn't invited to the birthday party," Hardwick said.
Emphasis is given to make pupils feel comfortable.
"They need to know that they're no longer the odd man out," she said.
Martial arts and scouting are both integrated into the curriculum as well as state education requirements.
Once acclimation is achieved, the school focuses on setting up the structure of the school day.
The school employs five teachers; five mentors, who are instructional aides with college degrees; a full-time martial arts instructor; a special services coordinator; Hardwick; and a secretary. The principal stresses that parents are integrated into their children's learning at the schools.
The school offers monthly parent meetings where families can share information and offer support.
Show of support
She said the community has been supportive of the school, pointing particularly to the Rev. Charles Crumbley, pastor of St. James Church, who wanted the building to remain a school, and Councilman Vincent S. Flask, D-5th.
Hardwick, of Poland, whose extended family remains in Trumbull County, says she wants to help the families of pupils as well as the children themselves.
"So many of these families come in for the interview and just cry out of sheer frustration," she said. "Their children have been discarded and disregarded."
ADHD children and those with Asperger's learn differently, but often they're labeled by their behavior. Teachers at Summit learn tolerance of some of the typical behaviors and how to channel it in a positive direction, Hardwick said. "We want restore hope that their children can succeed," she said.