Middle school inherently has its challenges. Of course, for students who have additional learning needs or require additional help or a non-traditional educational setting, those challenges can be even more pronounced. Fortunately, metro Atlanta is home to an array of schools that focus on everything from dyslexia and ADHD to hearing loss and executive function, allowing students to truly thrive during the formative middle school years.
The Cottage School
Grades: 6 through 8
Area of Focus: Students who have mild to moderate learning difficulties and can benefit from a unique work-based model that simulates real-world experience
The Middle School Difference: TCS approaches the middle school experience as a whole-child approach, striving to develop the student not only academically but also socially-emotionally. The school wants the student to experience the things they love and take risks on the things they may not love or have never tried. Small class sizes and unique approaches to learning allow the student to find their strengths and capitalize on them. TCS notes that the middle school years are a challenge as students are going from kids to young adults; it provides an environment that allows the students to stumble, fall and learn how to get up so they can develop themselves into the people that want to become. A smaller environment lets students know everyone and take chances, and they can develop into young ladies and gentlemen without the fear of being ostracized if they do not fit into a mold.
Unique Academic and Extracurricular Offerings: In addition to traditional core academics, TCS offers activities such as rock climbing, movie making, gardening, year-round sports, ukulele and many more. On the extracurricular side, the school features everything from soccer, volleyball, cross country, basketball, cheerleading and archery to drama, student council, diversity club, culinary arts and fashion design.
Cumberland Academy of Georgia
Grades: 6 through 8
Area of Focus: Students with Asperger’s Syndrome, ADD, ADHD, high-functioning autism and other learning disabilities
The Middle School Difference: Being a special needs school, Cumberland Academy embraces a whole-child educational approach and infuses social skills into the curriculum. The school focuses on individualized learning and preparing middle schoolers for high school and the next steps. Students enter the Creating Futures program as early as 8th grade to assist them in their journey to becoming independent adults and prepare them for college or a career. Middle school is traditionally more challenging for typical learners with new social pressures and self-discovery; Cumberland supports students with full-time counseling support and focuses on strengthening social and executive functioning skills.
Unique Academic and Extracurricular Offerings: Cumberland is the first special needs school to receive a Google Apps for Education certification. Computer skills and learning how to navigate the Web become a necessity. All middle school students, both in-person and distance learners, use Chromebooks to access the Google Apps for Education suite daily. Students are also immersed in a social skills curriculum led by the counseling team; topics include self-awareness, resolving conflict, managing emotions and more. Students are offered traditional electives in the arts, including drama, PE, technology skills, coding and construction, and also have opportunities to participate in a variety of clubs that range from Art Club to Girl Talk and in-house sports.
Grades: 6 through 8
Area of Focus: Shaping the dyslexic learner’s brilliance by meeting their needs with a unique teaching style
The Middle School Difference: GRACEPOINT’s goal is for students to become independent and confident learners while being strong advocates for themselves. The school strives to help students move from seeing their dyslexia as a disability to seeing it as a gift that God uses to fulfill His purpose for their lives. Students thrive in a multi-sensory environment, where classes are small, allowing teachers to differentiate the needs of each student.
Unique Academic and Extracurricular Offerings: At GRACEPOINT, morphology is intentionally integrated into all subjects. Morphological structure helps students with word meaning and improves their vocabulary, which leads to stronger reading comprehension. Finding patterns is a strength for many dyslexics; by teaching the patterns, faculty can utilize this strength to remediate weaknesses in spelling. Orton-Gillingham-trained teachers address the needs of students with a low student-to-teacher ratio, incorporating multi-sensory and kinesthetic learning. On the extracurricular side, the middle school offers programs such as “Middle School Late Nite” several times per year; students enjoy fellowship, games, bible study and team-building exercises while learning leadership skills.
Mill Springs Academy
Grades: Middle: 5 and 6; PreUpper: 7 and 8
Area of Focus: LD and ADHD students
The Middle School Difference: In grades 5 and 6, MSA acknowledges and supports the students’ needs to begin exploring independence both academically and socially. In grades 7 and 8, students are supported in their exploration of understanding how he or she learns best. Both sections motivate and empower students to become self-advocates and independent learners. Middle addresses the unique needs of students through learning modifications tailored to each individual student; PreUpper students are invited to actively engage in their environment by starting a club with a teacher sponsor or proposing a trip linked to a program. Breaking the grades into two sections allows students in each section to create a sense of community as they enter into new experiences, and smaller class sizes and sections help prepare students for the greater independence they will experience in grades 9 through 12.
Unique Academic and Extracurricular Offerings: In Middle, students begin to participate in competitive sports and delve deeper into the school’s fine arts program. In PreUpper, students are introduced to unique electives, including Coral Lab, Composition and Learning Lab.