As an educational consultant and special needs advocate, I periodically visit special needs schools to tour in person because I only recommend schools to my clients that I have personally visited and vetted. This blog post series highlights the top special needs schools in the United States I’ve had the pleasure of visiting and gives an inside look at what makes them so great.
Cape Cod, Massachusetts
About The School
Riverview School is an independent, coeducational boarding/day school that is located in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The children that attend range from ages 12 to 22 years old and possess varying complex language and learning issues which include Down Syndrome, Autism as well as intellectual disabilities. They are located on a sprawling 16 acre campus that is pristine and extremely welcoming.
Riverview has two (2) programs available. One is the Middle/High School which is for students 12 -19 years old as well as a program called GROW, which stands for Getting Ready for the Outside World. The GROW program encompasses students 17 - 22 years old who have complex language, learning and cognitive problems.
Riverview offers many opportunities for students on different levels. Cafe Riverview is certainly one of them. This cafe is a hands-on classroom for the students that are enrolled in the GROW program. For those students who are interested in food service, they are afforded the opportunity to learn about the hospitality industry whereby they are educated in restaurant operations and how to prepare food and serve it to the public. Their hours of operation are 6:30 am to 2:00 pm everyday and as a bonus they are also equipped with Wi-Fi. The students love working here as it boosts their self esteem and allows them to be a huge part of the their own success. If you are ever in the area or just passing through, going to Riverview Cafe would be an absolutely treat.
Riverview School offers a wonderful athletic program to the Middle/High School students which is totally inclusive. Emphasis is put on sportsmanship and teamwork. This program is modified in order to meet the needs of the students. The program offers soccer, basketball, softball, tennis, cross country and track and field. Each student is able to sign up for one sport per season with a total of three (3) seasons.
For the GROW students, the school offers health, nutrition and fitness. The students can choose from participating in Zumba, yoga, intramural sports or can use the Wellness Center. The Wellness Center has been completely updated and is beautiful. I was extremely impressed with all the types of equipment offered. The Wellness Center is staffed with a certified fitness instructor who works on not only the physical equipment component but nutrition as well.
Students that attend Riverview have been diagnosed with varying disabilities, some of which are anxiety, autism, down syndrome and dyslexia. These are just a few of the disabilities that Riverview focuses on however there are many more.
From the moment I drove up the school, I was impressed with the layout of the campus as well as the dynamics between some of the students. As I made my way into the main building, I saw students socializing, laughing and joking around. This spoke volumes to me as it represents the environment and all it means to these students. Students that attend here are from all over the country.
The school focuses on the “whole child” so all facets of the child are met. They have built a non-competitive, success oriented program so each child feels comfortable and can take risks although it might be “out of the box.” The school’s main goal is help each child gain the academic, social and independent living skills needed in order for them to achieve THEIR goals.
The school provides a very nurturing and accepting environment whereby the students are surrounded by their peers and therefore they feel as though they are part of a community that works together to reach the same goals. There is total acceptance and no one is left to feel as though they are an outsider. This school allows for each child to achieve their personal best whether it be through academics, athletics, cooking or taking on responsibility as in specific chores. They are allowed to find the best within themselves and nurture that with the constant and positive enforcing assistance of every staff member at the school.
The dorms that the children live in feel like “home.” They are decorated to make one feel welcomed. Each student has beautifully made their space their own which in turn makes them feel happy. However, just like home, the students do have chores that they are required to complete. They are required to keep their space clean as well as doing their own laundry at an off campus laundromat that the school transports them to, just to name a few.
The school has a lovely library whereby it provides all that is needed to complete any assignment for any class.
I had the pleasure of meeting many students within three (3) of the classrooms I visited. Each and every one of them was welcoming, funny, smart as well as attentive. They were asked to stop what they were doing for that moment and focus their attention on me in order to introduce themselves and to provide me with a little information about them. Each and every one of them had different personalities but the one thing that was uniform in all the students was how happy they were to be at Riverview. They were asked how they liked living and attending Riverview. Each of them gave me the thumbs up and told me how amazing the school was. The majority of the students had attended for several years and felt as though it was home.
I was surprised to hear several students tell me they are from around the country, and not nearby. Despite being so far from their family, they seemed thrilled to be at Riverview with their school family.
They were sweet, caring and many told me to enjoy my tour of the school while many thanked me for coming to their school. It’s a place where they can flourish, be themselves, be accepted and challenged to become better and stronger. All with the goal for them to be prepared for the world ahead. Every individual that I met from administrators to staff were wonderful. They had a smile on their face and you could genuinely see that they love what they do and they genuinely want to see these children succeed. They seem to treat each child as though they were their own. The commitment and interest was overwhelming and extremely impressive.
Riverview School is a one in a million educational opportunity for the students that attend here.
Riverview has made my list of the top schools to refer out to families that I work with. My criteria is extremely stringent so many schools that I visit do not make my list, however Riverview School gets a check mark for everything.