Manayunk school looks to help students who ‘don’t fit in’

 Lauren Bell is director of the Philadelphia Y.A.L.E school. (Greta Iverson/for NewsWorks)

Lauren Bell is director of the Philadelphia Y.A.L.E school. (Greta Iverson/for NewsWorks)

With rising concerns over access to special education in Philadelphia public schools, the Young Adolescent Learning Experience (Y.A.L.E) school has opened a Philadelphia location in Manayunk to cater to students with unique learning conditions.

The school opened its doors in October 2014 and is now located adjacent to St. John the Baptist Church just blocks from Manayunk’s Main Street.

“We’re looking for students who just ‘don’t fit in’ in their regular schools,” Y.A.L.E’s Philadelphia director Lauren Bell said. “Usually it’s kids on the autism spectrum, but since that’s such a wide umbrella these days, these are students who are not finding success in a regular classroom — their behaviors might be too intense for regular school districts, they don’t have socialization skills and there’s nothing that they’re finding that’s working for them.”

While some students require special attention to boost their academic success, others come to the school with socialization issues that create a struggle in a standard classroom — despite doing well academically and receiving above average standardized test scores.

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The $40,000 a year tuition provides programs for children grades first through 12th. Administrators are working on adding programs that extend past secondary education and into specially formatted college courses and career coaching.

The school has multiple campuses throughout New Jersey. Their largest, with 240 students, is in Cherry Hill, NJ. Administrators at the Cherry Hill campus started to notice a growing number of Philadelphia students being bussed to New Jersey, and after some consideration, the concept of a Philadelphia institution was born.

“I was approached by a bunch of parents about starting a school in Philly,” Y.A.L.E’s Cherry Hill admissions coordinator Karen Huber said. “They found that charter schools and public schools were not providing the right services for children on the autism spectrum. We did a feasibility study and found there was a need to open up.”

The high tuition rate can be a barrier for some local families, though.

“We don’t have any frame of funding, but I do recommend parents get a hold of their local autism center and talk to people there to navigate their financial situation.”

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