Academic Accommodations and Support
The mission of Wheaton Academy is to nurture growth in our students through relationships, excellence and service to the glory of God. Members of the Wheaton Academy community come from many backgrounds, and as part of that diversity, Wheaton Academy enrolls qualified students with documented physical, emotional, and learning disabilities and other health issues. Although Wheaton Academy does not offer extensive programs for students with disabilities, we are committed to providing reasonable accommodations to address the needs of qualified students with disabilities.
This document addresses specifically how Wheaton Academy will partner with students and families when the student has an academic disability, emotional challenge, or a medical condition that requires special academic accommodations and consideration. It will also cover the steps to creating a student’s Individualized Service Plan and typical learning accommodations available.
Academic Disabilities and Differences
An academic disability or “difference” is defined as any learning condition that makes it particularly difficult for a student to complete their work or adequately demonstrate learning. Common academic disabilities among students at Wheaton Academy include ADHD (inattentive, hyperactive or combined), communication disabilities, autism, and reading, writing or math disabilities.
An emotional challenge is defined as a condition that affects the student’s ability to function well emotionally under normal circumstances at school or in school work. Common emotional challenges among students at Wheaton Academy include depression and anxiety.
A medical concern is defined as any medical condition that makes it difficult for a student to accurately demonstrate learning at school. Common medical conditions among Wheaton Academy students include concussions, seizures, surgeries that require prolonged absence and some chronic illnesses.
The process of accessing accommodations:
Although Wheaton Academy is not equipped to provide individualized educational programs for students with significant physical, cognitive or emotional disabilities, we are committed to doing everything we can to accommodate learning challenges. While Wheaton Academy students must meet the school’s educational standards for learning in each of their classes, we value working with families so students can grow and succeed despite challenges in their life. Our desire is to ensure that each student’s needs are met and expectations are clear to the Student Services staff, parents, student and teachers. When students are appropriately supported in their educational experience, they are often able to stay on track in meeting their educational and career goals.
Wheaton Academy is committed to providing reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities. While this often takes more time and planning, teachers understand that these accommodations are needed to provide equitable learning opportunities.
Families are asked to share any previous academic or emotional support or testing with the Admissions Office at time of application. Consideration of whether accommodations are still needed is made interactively between Admissions, Student Services and the family during the interview process. If a student is already at Wheaton Academy, families should share testing or concerns with the Director of Student Services as soon as the family becomes aware of the condition. This notification must include a written diagnosis from a medical doctor or licensed clinical psychologist. If Wheaton Academy becomes concerned that a student is struggling with a possible academic, emotional or medical challenge, families may be required to pursue testing to determine the cause of the student’s challenge. Families will be asked to make an appointment to obtain this official diagnosis within a week of the school request and complete the process within 45 days.
Developing the Individualized Service Plan
This Individualized Service Plan (ISP) is a confidential document used by teachers to meet the needs of a student in each of their classes. Having an ISP in place from the beginning of high school is also important because it means the appropriate documentation is in place should the student need and desire testing accommodations for the SAT, ACT, or AP exams later in high school.
Below are examples of Wheaton Academy policies and philosophies that will be discussed and considered when determining if reasonable accommodations can be made for a student:
- Students will be encouraged to accept their academic, emotional or medical challenge and will be asked to collaborate in both the creation of an Individualized Service Plan (ISP) and a teacher meeting regarding his or her learning or emotional challenge. An ISP is required before a teacher can give accommodations to a student.
- Families must share diagnoses with Wheaton Academy so this information can be used to support the student’s learning. The ISP may include both accommodations within the school setting and also required supports from home that may include individual therapy, private tutoring in the home setting, and other therapeutic assistance.
- Wheaton Academy highly values coaching students to become self-advocates. This means parents are encouraged to equip their student to communicate directly with a teacher by email or in person if there is a concern or need. Parents may contact teachers at any time but the solution of a concern shared by a parent must always include the student as an active participant.
- We advise students to choose classes that place them in their “learning zone”. This means students should be in classes with rigor that places them at roughly 90% of their overall capacity. It is common for students with learning or emotional challenges to at times be capable of advanced level courses but to purposely take fewer of these courses because of their overall capacity and balance of life. Similarly, students with learning or emotional challenges may also need to decrease their commitment to co-curricular activities or after school commitments so they have enough time to complete assignments outside of school.
Reasonable accommodations offered at Wheaton Academy
Reasonable accommodations at Wheaton Academy will be given in collaboration with recommendations from the student’s psychological or medical evaluation or report. The following list includes some examples of common accommodations:
- Extended time in testing up to time and a half
- Opportunity to test in a quiet test location
- Access to teacher notes and study guides on Academy Central
- Opportunity to do a class presentation by video as long as it is within the context of a plan for the student to eventually present to the whole class
- Breaking large assignments into smaller tasks with firm deadlines
- Give directions in clearly stated steps/check for understanding
- Breaks on occasion as needed in student services/ nurse office (short term basis only)
- Preferential seating
We will do our very best to partner with every family and student in their unique situation. However, there are some accommodations we are not able to regularly provide. Often we can still make arrangements with families to meet these needs below and this is done by the family providing an outside partner to assist their student. However, these accommodations are not guaranteed:
- Reading intervention
- Test reader for tests
- Excused prolonged absences
Clarification on extended time: Extended time is offered for tests, quizzes and in class assignments. Extended time is not available for homework or projects. These firm deadlines must be met according to Wheaton Academy’s timeliness policies and the time needed for work should be considered in context with the student’s overall academic load. (page 11-14, 20 in student handbook)
Occasionally, families request an alternative format for presentations due to emotional challenges. Students may be given the opportunity to complete group work or presentations in an alternative format as a step in the following intentional progression as seen below. Goals for this area may be set in collaboration with the student’s personal counselor. This accommodation must also be made in line with the learning goals and standards for a project.
- Students may be allowed to initially videotape a presentation
- Students will then present to the teacher privately
- Students will then present to the teacher and a small group of friends
- Students will then present to the entire class
Prolonged absences from school
If a student requires an exception to the attendance policy at Wheaton Academy (page 18 of student handbook), families must initiate an individualized plan with Student Services as soon as the need is known. The plan may include any of the following:
- The family may be required to provide a tutor to assist the student in completing coursework.
- Depending on the course, a student may be allowed to remain in the course but would receive a pass/fail grade in place of a letter grade on their transcript
- If students experience a particular ongoing struggle with school attendance, class presentations and/or group work, the family may be asked to instead pursue homeschool courses, courses at public school, and/ or a more therapeutic school environment for their student such as a school refusal program.
- Because the in-class experience is so important, there may be additional considerations or expectations of families requested in the development of the student’s plan or as situations arise.
- Certain classes are participatory in nature and at times these classes may not be feasible to complete with missed time.
All academic, emotional and medical support is handled confidentially. The documentation for accommodations are kept in a private location and are not included with the student’s permanent record file. We are committed to this process as it is critical in helping students demonstrate their potential. Success most often occurs when Wheaton Academy, parents, and students are working together to execute the necessary and appropriate learning plans.