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.
Armonk, New York
About the School
The Westfield Day School is a therapeutic school for the underachieving student. The school and staff is dedicated to helping students overcome difficulties and personal issues. This is done through designed programs that are carefully created for individual achievement.
The Westfield Day School was formerly located in Rye, NY which is located in Westchester County. Presently, they are located in Armonk, NY where they have been for a little over a year. The location is new for them as well as the building. The school has all state of the art technology with a perfect layout that is conducive for the students to move through the building seamlessly. The students currently attending are from Westchester County, Rockland County and Connecticut. The new location of the school, although in New York, is very close to the Connecticut border.
Westfield is a co-educational school for grades 7 through 12 with traditional school subjects and a standard curriculum. The school offers rolling admissions so students can enroll any time during the year.
The Westfield Day School is based on 3 Principles:
- An integrated support experience
- A corrective learning environment
- A comprehensive approach
The school’s approach is psycho-educational and supportive. This includes individual and group therapy along with specialized instruction.
Westfield enables students to experience what is called a “corrective emotional experience.” This allows for the students to have the opportunity to handle school life under more “favorable circumstances.”
Classes are small with no more than 5 students per teacher.
Staff and faculty create an atmosphere of acceptance and encouragement. This helps keep students focused on their work, fosters personal growth, social development as well as encourages self-discipline.
A curriculum is developed that is based on the student’s application, prior evaluations and/or consultations with mental health professionals that have had an integral part of being involved with the child. The curriculum developed includes a learning and therapeutic strategy. All of this pertinent information is gathered in order to provide the Comprehensive Educational Plan. This plan addresses each student’s psychological, educational or behavioral objectives, goals and needs.
The “typical” student who attends Westfield have the following difficulties:
- Underachievement even though the student is intelligent
- Learning Disabilities
- Social emotional problems
- Additional Special Education classifications
Westfield starts later in the morning (9:30 AM) in order to allow students to begin their day at their best instead of very early when they may not be as productive.
In addition to students working on projects, attending seminar style classes, participating in gym and the Creative Arts program, they attend regularly scheduled group counseling sessions and individual meetings with the school therapist.
The core courses that Westfield offers include:
- Global History, US History
- Government, Economics, Psychology
- Biology, Chemistry, Physics
- Algebra, Geometry, Pre-Calculus
- Health, Physical Education
- Spanish, French
- Art, Music
The Interim Placement Program
Westfield offers an intensive program for students who are unable to remain in their current school during the academic year for various reasons. The IPP (Interim Placement Program) can accept students at any time during the the school year for a minimum of 2 weeks. Possible reasons for a student to attend could include needing a medical leave of absence, need an extended break from the private of public school they are currently attending or are in need of mental health or psycho-educational evaluations. Once the student is accepted, they can continue their regular study toward their degree until they are ready to return to their original placement.
The Summer Program
This program is offered in the same way as the regular program, however it is for 3 - 1/2 days per week. The summer program runs for 6 weeks.
For those students who need to maintain academic consistency throughout the summer, Westfield offers enrichment classes in language arts, creative arts, health and fitness.
The classes included are:
- Academic remediation/enrichment
- Regents review and preparation
- SAT tutorial
- Creative Arts Program
- Westfield Book Club
- Fitness series
- High school preparation for middle school students
- Young Writer’s Workshop
Some common questions that are asked:
Will my child be able to meet the New York State Regents Exam requirements?
Yes. A regents exam preparation track is available for all students, who may take the state exams at Westfield.
Westfield offers SAT preparation by qualified instructors, and the ETS (Educational Testing Service) has also approved Westfield as a testing site.
Is Westfield approved by the State?
The Westfield Day School is part of the New York State educational system.
How long do students stay at Westfield?
It varies. Students may stay for a brief period, to finish an academic semester or as long as needed in order to graduate.
I had the pleasure of meeting with the Academic Director, Pamela Heldman, who was kind enough to open the doors of The Westfield Day School in order to give me a tour of the school and educate me on what the school offers.
The tour was not only informative but extremely comprehensive. From walking through their doors and meeting the receptionist to meeting some of the children and staff, the environment is one of relaxation, non-judgmental, helpful and truly one of success. EVERYONE that works at Westfield is totally engaged in the curriculum and most importantly with the students. Each and everyone wants and strives for the children to succeed at their highest level possible.
The staff have invested themselves and treat the children like they are their own and works tirelessly to help, teach, mentor and listen.
Pamela was absolutely fantastic. She explained everything in extreme detail and opened up the whole school to me in order to take photos and converse with multiple individuals.
A great addition to the school is Harlee, the therapy dog. She is the sweetest little dog who brings a smile to your face from the moment you see her. Harlee followed Pamela and myself around the whole time I was there for the tour and as you can see from the picture I took of her, she is a real ham! She loves the camera.
If your child fits into any of the categories in regards to the population that Westfield addresses, please feel free to contact Pamela for a tour. It will be well worth your time. I was very impressed with this school and all that it has to offer the students presently enrolled as well as any students that enroll in the future. Time touring this school will be time well spent.
I would like to again personally thank Pamela for all of the time she spent with me. My visit was nothing short of fantastic.