In this last episode of the alternative school environment “mini-series,” my guest and I dive into non-public schools. What are they? What do they offer? What students would benefit from this kind of learning environment? Today’s conversation answers all those questions and then some because our guest today is Dr. Jason Bolton from The Help Group.
Dr. Jason Bolton has over 20 years of experience working with children, adolescents, and families with histories of abuse and neglect, social-emotional challenges, and neuro-developmental disabilities including autism spectrum disorder and learning differences. He is The Help Group’s VP of Community Partnerships and Admissions and previously served the agency as a Clinical Director and Chief Psychologist. Most importantly, Dr. Bolton is a proud father of triplet girls, and as a parent-consumer of developmental and special education services frequently refers to his family as a glowing example of the power of early intervention.
In today’s episode, Dr. Bolton wears the hats of educator, administrator, psychologist, and proud parent for the perfect mix of information and inspiration. Listen to find out more about how non-public schools might be the right fit for your learner.
[2:57] – The Help Group has been around for almost 50 years serving the community with non-public school services.
[3:52] – Jason shares that he has been in the shoes of the worried parent as a father of triplet girls, now 13 years old, who were diagnosed developmentally delayed.
[4:58] – After some thought and searching for the right services, Dr. Bolton shares what they decided to do with his three daughters to meet their needs early on in preschool.
[5:32] – The focus is to find the least restrictive environment to meet a child where they are. The Help Group was the best option for one of Jason’s daughters and he explains why.
[7:30] – Non-public schools exist in many states and by definition are private schools, but the majority of the students come to these schools with contracts from their school district.
[9:18] – This type of school is specialized. The Help Group has 16 schools that meet the specific needs of different learners where students are grouped with others with similar needs.
[10:21] – This type of environment is not inclusion, but Dr. Bolton explains that their staff of therapists and special education teachers are all trained and focus on the needs of each student.
[11:01] – In some cases, students come for a short time and return to their public schools. In other cases, students come when they need to and wind up staying and earning their high school diploma because a school fits their needs.
[12:36] – Dr. Bolton describes the growth of one of the non-public schools due to the need of the students they have.
[13:36] – The philosophy of The Help Group in expanding their schools and student reach is to focus on a student’s strengths rather than their deficits.
[14:42] – By capitalizing on a student’s strengths, they can thrive and are far more engaged in their learning.
[15:53] – The public school district is still responsible for the IEP of the student. The IEP team will meet and continue to discuss the placement of the student and what is appropriate for their needs.
[17:08] – In addition to the benefits Jason has already mentioned, Karen also points out that because student interventions happen throughout their school day, it gives students time for their extracurriculars after school hours.
[18:09] – Jason describes what he calls “treatment fatigue.”
[19:49] – When giving tours of the schools and classrooms, Dr. Bolton asks parents to try to tell who the teacher is. It is hard to tell because the therapists are working in tandem with the teacher.
[20:37] – The earlier The Help Group receives a student, the sooner they will be able to move into a less restrictive environment.
[21:30] – Jason and Karen both agree that the earlier the referral the better, but Jason shares that that isn’t always what happens.
[22:03] – Early identification also means that there is less time struggling and experiencing extensive failure in public schools prior to beginning intervention.
[23:58] – The Help Group also sees students who have experienced trauma. For some students it isn’t the issue of academics, it is their ability to regulate their emotions. Meeting students where they are and knowing their barrier is key.
[26:38] – As a psychologist, Dr. Bolton explains overcoming the stigma surrounding specialized schools. The Help Group also offers parent support.
[28:46] – Jason and Karen discuss the parent’s dilemma in making the decision regarding the education of their child. The decision should be based on what is right for each child regardless of what society says is correct.
[29:51] – Dr. Bolton explains to parents that an IEP meeting is their meeting about their child and encourages all to ask questions and respectfully challenge others in the meeting.
[30:51] – Many parents feel like they can’t speak up for their child in an IEP meeting, but this is a place that parents need to advocate for them.
[32:16] – The parent’s focus on what is right for their child and the IEP team’s response to meeting their child’s needs is what is supposed to happen in a meeting.
[35:01] – Jason describes other programs that are offered through The Help Group that are not limited to just California students because they are offered online.
[36:22] – The Help Group also offers support for young adults who have graduated and left school and are struggling.
[37:09] – Webinars, other events, and home visits are services provided by The Help Group.
[39:50] – Karen discusses the main takeaways from this episode and impactful conversation with Dr. Bolton and the mini-series of episodes on alternative learning environments.
About Our Guest:
Dr. Jason Bolton has over 20 years of experience working with children, adolescents, and families with histories of abuse and neglect, social-emotional challenges, and neuro-developmental disabilities including autism spectrum disorder and learning differences. He holds a doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology in Alameda. He is The Help Group’s VP of Community Partnerships and Admissions and previously served the agency as a Clinical Director and Chief Psychologist. He sits on the Board of Directors of the California Association of Private Special Education Schools and Agencies, known as CAPSES. Most importantly, Dr. Bolton is a proud father of triplet girls, and as a parent-consumer of developmental and special education services frequently refers to his family as a glowing example of the power of early intervention.
About The Help Group:
Founded in 1975, The Help Group is the largest, most innovative, and comprehensive nonprofit of its kind serving children, adolescents, and young adults with special needs related to autism spectrum disorder, learning disabilities, ADHD, developmental delays, abuse, and emotional challenges through its wide range of specialized education, therapy, and outreach programs. Recently, The Help Group launched a program that offers therapy, support, and social connections for LGBTQ+ children, young adults, and their families, including neurodivergent youth. At the heart of its efforts is the commitment to helping young people fulfill their potential to lead positive, productive, and rewarding lives. www.thehelpgroup.org.
Connect with Dr. Jason Bolton:
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