Miriam to Open High School for Students with Learning Disabilities

By Bock, Jessica | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), February 23, 2016 | Go to article overview

Miriam to Open High School for Students with Learning Disabilities


Bock, Jessica, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


WEBSTER GROVES * When Laurie Caro and her daughter started looking at possibilities for high school next year, she found herself revisiting a familiar gap.

No school was a good fit for her daughter, who has learning disabilities.

When they looked at public high schools, the sheer size of the buildings overwhelmed Molly, who also has sensory issues, making large crowds and lots of noise uncomfortable.

And the right private school didn't seem to exist at least not nearby.

Laurie Caro had been here before. Her older daughter who also has learning disabilities eventually went to a boarding school two hours away from her family.

"We couldn't find anything," Laurie Caro said. "I really felt like things hadn't changed in the last four or five years."

Now there is a new option for students like Molly Caro.

Miriam School, which serves learning disabled elementary and middle school students with average intelligence or above, publicly announced Monday it will open a private, nondenominational high school this fall.

School leaders say the high school will fulfill an unmet need in the region.

"Parents have been clamoring for this," said Andrew Thorp, Miriam's executive director. "Some of our kids go on and do just fine, but there is this whole other group that still really need us."

Miriam started 60 years ago serving elementary students, later growing to include a middle school, which has speech/language and occupational therapy programs. In 2007, Miriam Learning Center started to provide specialized services to children with learning disabilities in other school districts, including charter schools in St. Louis. Both entities serve about 1,000 students each year.

But high school continues to be an area of concern for parents of children with learning disabilities or autism.

St. Louis' private school market is dominated by schools that mostly serve general-population students. A few schools focus on children with learning disabilities, but during the early years. Churchill School, for example, will enroll through 10th grade, but with the goal of moving students back into a traditional setting. The average length of stay for students there is a little more than three years.

Logos School is an exception, serving a niche of children who have struggles with mental health through its therapeutic middle and high school.

Nationwide, there is more demand than supply for schools specifically for students with learning disabilities, said James Wendorf, executive director of National Center for Learning Disabilities.

He said schools like Miriam are rare the kind of schools that sometimes lure families to relocate.

A 2014 report from his organization said that between 12 percent to 26 percent of secondary students with learning disabilities received average or above-average scores on math and reading assessments, compared with 50 percent of students in the general population. One in every two students with learning disabilities faced a school disciplinary action such as suspension or expulsion in 2011. …

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