What Parents are Saying…
e found Focus on the Future when our son Charlie was 3 and we were running out of ideas on how we could help him. The PPCD through the school district was just a half day and didn’t do much to help his condition. The preschool where he had been since an infant was running out of patience. They already had a dedicated teacher shadowing him full time and he was beginning to get violent from being over simulated and frustrated. It was beginning to look like the only option was for one of us to become a stay at home parent and neither of us had the knowledge to provide Charlie what he needed.
Finding Focus was the answer to our prayers and helped more than we dreamed was possible. It was not long after starting at Focus that Charlie was potty trained and mostly verbal. People were amazed at his transformation from a kid who was mostly nonverbal to never being able to stop talking. By having all of his therapies in one place and cohesively structured my husband and I were able to continue working while Charlie continued to dramatically progress. We no longer had to spend hours researching and dedicating so much time to trial and error. Brenda had already done all of the research on which methods are most effective and hand selected a great team of professionals.
I am happy to report that Charlie is now 6 and in main stream kindergarten at our neighborhood public school. The only accommodation he requires are some minor academic modifications and a tutor for reading and math. He is not receiving any more support than any other kid with a learning disability might receive. Most importantly his social skills have advanced to the point where he has made a few close friends in his class, is happy and no longer so frustrated all of the time.
Thanks to the help of the entire time at Focus, literally preparing him for the future.
e’ll start by saying that Focus is and does everything as advertised. We have had an amazing experience so far at this school (we are 6 months into our journey at Focus) and our son is doing fantastic. This school is the perfect fit for him and he is progressing in all areas (behavior, speech, fine motor skills, socially, etc.). We could not be happier with our experience so far.
Our son is 3 ½ years old and has been diagnosed as mildly autistic with a sensory integration disorder. With the progress he has made (and continues to make) at Focus we have no doubt that he will main stream – our only question is for pre-k or Kindergarten? We are excited to see where he is at the end of his first full school year at Focus and decide then on how to proceed. Here is a summary of our journey and personal experience working with the Focus team.
Focus was recommended to us by our speech therapy team. “If they were going to start a school, this is how they would do it.” Our son previously attended a great Montessori – unfortunately it was not the right fit for him. After a semester in the Montessori environment his sensory issues began to emerge more clearly and we realized that he was different from his classmates. We were asked to make other arrangements for his daycare and began looking for suitable alternatives. As we worked through his evaluation and diagnosis process, we realized that he needed to attend a specialized school tailored to address and meet his individual needs. Some of our requirements were as follows:
- Schools that offered an “all-day” program where he would not need to transition in the middle of the day (busing between PPCD and daycare was too much of a challenge)
- Schools that either included therapy (speech, OT, ABA) or allowed us to continue with his current therapy team visiting him at school
- Outside playground
- Sensory component to curriculum
- Student to teacher ratio of 3/1 to 5/1 (ratio of 7/1 or 11/1 was not acceptable)
- Prepare him for the transition to a main stream school environment
- One on One instruction for a portion of his curriculum
- General curriculum (reading, writing, math, etc.) that included technology like iPads, laptops, computer lab, large interactive touch screen, etc.
We narrowed our search down to two realistic options. We did tours of both schools on the same afternoon. We toured the other school first and absolutely loved it. There was no doubt in our mind that he would be happy there and thrive. However, we were concerned that the class size was too small. (I know, right!) There was a 3/1 ratio but the class size was limited to 3 students. Our son is very social, so this might not be enough interactions for him. The school was incredibly warm and homey and was a great possibility.
Next we went to Focus and met with Brenda, the school director. We toured the school during the break between the spring and summer terms, so no students were present. She took the time to sit down with us and listen to what we were looking for, what had led us to Focus, our goals for our son, etc. all the while observing him. Even after 20 min all of her observations and comments regarding his behaviors and status were spot on. Focus has great amenities and is laid out comparable to a main stream school – computer lab, sensory room, gymnasium, social room, lunch room, two outside play grounds, various restrooms, classrooms, library, lounge, etc. We were impressed with what we saw on the tour and Brenda answered all of our questions about the program, daily routine for the classes, etc. We decided to proceed with an evaluation visit after the summer term had gotten under way. For us, if Focus was the right fit for our son, we were going to enroll him immediately for the remainder of the summer term and the following school year.
After the tour, we did have a few reservations and concerns. I think these are the same that most parents have at this point in the process.
- The financial commitment is substantial, but was equivalent to what we were already spending on his daycare and private therapy sessions
- We would be required to stop all outside therapy when entering the program, adding individual therapy back into the mix as needed after assessing the students response to the program. Our son had shown so much progress we were scared to stop cold turkey and have a regression.
- Daily Group Therapy versus individual therapy – we had no idea how our son would respond and were concerned he would regress without one on one therapy.
- Packing his lunch – his previous Montessori had an on-site organic chef and packing his lunch was a daunting task. What would he eat? How would he respond?
The morning of his evaluation, I walked him to his classroom and they had to peel him off of me. He was crying and didn’t want to go into the classroom. The teacher gently led him into the classroom and I returned to Brenda’s office. Two minutes later we saw him walk by with his class and he was perfectly happy – apparently he had transitioned and adjusted already? We totally expected him to stay for a few hours before being sent home. I spent my day waiting by the phone for the call that he had melted down and needed to be picked up. By the time lunch rolled around I was wondering if they had lost my phone number or had written it down incorrectly? Then I got a text from the teacher with a picture of my son playing outside with a kite – he was perfectly fine. By the time 2PM rolled around I headed to pick him up and meet with Brenda. I was very nervous – he would not be accepted unless he passed his evaluation visit and was identified as a child that would respond to and benefit from the program. I had a huge sigh of relief (after a few minutes of intense fear) as Brenda welcomed us to the Focus family. My son had spent the entire day at Focus as if he had been going there all his life. He went back the next day and has been a full time student ever since.
Prior to Focus we had private therapy for speech, OT, and ABA. At one point we managed a 6 person therapy team! His biggest issues were with speech and some socialization/eye contact. He had made steady progress with his private speech therapy, but was still not talking very much, remaining a year behind in his speech. His inability to effectively communicate with his peers often resulted in his showing a physical response (shoving) that could escalate and become aggressive (throwing of items or scratching) when he became very angry or frustrated. His fine motor skills were improving through his OT and so was his behavior through his ABA sessions, but we still had a definite gap that needed to be bridged compared to neuro-typical kids his age. Just to give you an idea of where we were when we arrived at Focus.
Within the first few weeks of attending Focus, we saw a definite shift in him – all for the better. He immediately started to talk more and has continued to make great strides with his speech. He was also so excited to go to school, even asking to go back to school after we had gotten home. He was attempting to tell us all about his day and his friends and teachers (at this point we still needed to do some translation, but he was actively engaging us in conversation!) and was so happy. He improved his eye contact and his tantrums started to become less frequent and shorter in duration. He also ate whatever I packed in his lunchbox and didn’t complain – eating with his peers has really been great. He eats well (fruit every day) and is no longer impacted by the noise in the lunchroom; previously he would put his hands over his ears and have difficulties in loud environments, like noisy restaurants. That is no longer a real issue for him.
He is also showing empathy for others when they are sad or hurt and initiates hugs and kisses; previously he was not a cuddler and often pulled away from encounters. Now he seeks out and gives hugs, kisses, high fives, etc. He also works to make sure everyone is happy and okay – every week he has a day where he helps pass out the kids’ lunch boxes and even helps to pass out toys in class, making sure everyone has an activity. He is also keenly aware of when his peers are not following the rules and likes to redirect them, despite the fact that he is often not completely following the rules himself! The new dog therapy has also been a positive experience. Even though we have pets at home, he is learning how to interact more gently with the animals and give them love – scratching behind the ears, petting, etc.
Our son is the youngest student attending Focus, enrolling soon after his 3rd birthday. He has so much confidence and is so comfortable that when we drop him off he rarely makes a big deal about saying good-bye and walks to his locker on his own. He puts his lunch box in the bin, takes his books out of his back pack to carry to class, puts his back pack/jacket in his assigned locker, and walks to his classroom all independently. He is also now mostly potty trained (only took a few weeks after we implemented the recommended potty training program developed by Brenda) and goes to the restroom on his own. The support from his teachers and the staff was instrumental in enabling him to achieve this milestone and we are collectively thrilled at his progress.
The low student to teacher ratio and the one-on-one instruction have shown to be a great asset for our son. (The 3/1 ratio has always been maintained in his class.) In addition to the general curriculum each primary class follows for learning letters, numbers, sight words, reading, writing, math, etc. each student gets regular direct instruction. Depending on the specific needs and abilities of each student, the teachers do a wonderful job of tailoring the direct instruction sessions to the skills and areas where extra time and support are needed. Our son has really responded to these sessions and remained focused for extended periods of time; this has been difficult for us to achieve at home, but is getting easier. He often asks to do homework, where we work on activities to support his classroom lessons. He has really responded well to the large touch screen computer in the reading room and the group lessons, cheering on his classmates. We are 6 months into the program and we have yet to add back in any private therapy, as they have not been needed; he is getting everything he needs from the daily curriculum at Focus and continuing to show steady progress.
The CBI (community based instruction) visits have been fantastic for his development. He is developing the skills necessary to successfully shop in a store: keep his hands to himself, selecting only one item to purchase, waiting in line for everyone in the class to check out, engaging the cashier in conversation, and paying for his purchase. The weekly trips have helped him to feel comfortable holding hands when walking through parking lots and within stores (this was previously a real issue; he still darts, but less frequently). Visits to the ice cream store have helped him to hone his restaurant skills and his first trip to the movies was far more successful than we expected. We are excited to watch as he continues to respond to all the wonderful opportunities presented by his teachers and the staff at Focus. For our family, Focus has absolutely been a blessing. Our son would not be the wonderful person that he is today had we not found this incredible program. We encourage other parents of children with disabilities to visit the Focus campus and learn more about whether or not their children can also benefit from the excellent program the Focus team has to offer.
e started our son, Maximo, in Focus on the Future Training Center in August 2009. I had very noticeable results even after a few months of him starting there. After two years at Focus, he was ready to be mainstreamed to a public school nearby. Focus advised us every step of the way in our transition to mainstream to a public school.
My son excelled very well at the public school because he had such a strong foundation coming out of all the hard work at Focus. I cannot praise Focus enough on the miracle work they have done for my son and family. These people are very specialized in autism treatment. The teachers are loving and caring and know exactly what they are doing. I am able to interact with my son so much better. He is such a happy & loving boy. We are so blessed to have found this school! Our family highly recommends this school for any child with special needs.
t our first meeting with Brenda Batts at the Focus on the Future Academy we quickly realized we were in the right place. She immediately made us feel welcome and it was very obvious to us that she had a great deal of knowledge with kids on the Autism Spectrum! We had struggled for so long with Grayson, who is on the Autistic Spectrum, in the public school system and had just completed a particularly bad year and were wondering if life was ever going to get better. Within 10minutes of meeting our son Grayson, Brenda said, “The first thing we need to do is to reduce his anxiety so he can learn.
Brenda and the wonderful teachers and speech therapists at Focus worked with Grayson and partnered with us to get him back to an easy-going, much more focused and communicative kid within the first 6 weeks! He also jumped a grade level in reading and math within 10 weeks!
Grayson found at Focus a caring environment that focused on strengthening fundamentals, fostering communication and independence, and most of all a place where he felt safe to express himself and learn in the way that worked best for him. Good behavior, manners and respect were expected of him, and he responded appropriately. His confidence and smiles returned. My wife and I have remarked several times that we got our sweet, happy little boy back!
We can’t say enough good things about Brenda and the staff at Focus on the Future. Thank you Brenda and your caring and talented staff for everything!
Guy and Kim Irving
rs. Brenda- Thank you for a wonderful Summer Session. We appreciate your care, concern, patience, hard work, and commitment to Josh and this wonderful school.
Josh really enjoyed his time here and while there were a few rough issues to work through, we appreciate you and your staff’s concern & commitment to helping us work through it. We look forward to Josh spending time here in the future.
Brent & Stephanie
ords are not adequate to express my deep affection and admiration for you. From the first minute you embraced us and the idea of Chloe, I had a feeling of hope. Under your tutelage I have learned more tools in such a short period of time. These tools have already made positive changes in our family and the way we function on a daily basis and have helped us empower Chloe with the belief of her potential Somehow the possibilities for Chloe seem tangible. Your gifts of wisdom are a blessing to us all. God must surely be pleased with you. Enjoy the miracles of the season.
The Metzler Family
would like to express deep gratitude to the staff at Focus for helping our daughter Hope. Going through life being autistic is so challenging for her and our family. She is a blessing to all of us. When entering the school, we found her sensory issues interfered with her learning environment and that she had trouble focusing due to interruptions.
Now she is on a definite schedule, she is so much happier and has a good attitude about going to school. She knows what is expected and tries to work toward that expectation, not just for a reward, but for her own confidence and progress. She is able to learn, not just at school, but by going into the public and learning to purchase items and communicate with others.
We see a happier child, confident that it is ok to be autistic and yet independent with differences. She has a greater understanding to look outside herself and appreciate others.
Susan and Brian Clark
Parents of Hope, age 14
renda, Focus truly has been an answer to our prayer. You are an answer to our prayer. Thank you for what you are doing. Thank you for answering his calling and not only opening a school, but a ministry.
Words really can’t express how you’ve brought peace and hope into our lives. God is using you greatly, and you are making a huge impact on the lives of others. Thank You. Thank you for loving Peri and giving her your best. We are so thankful.
Mark & Stacy
OCUS has been an answer to prayer for our family. Our daughter was going nowhere in public school. She hated being there and she demonstrated her unhappiness in her behavior. We knew we had to do something but did not know what to do.
Thankfully, we learned of FOCUS when looking for summer camps for Summer 2008. We knew during camp that FOCUS was the place for our daughter and we signed her up for the 2008-2009 school year. It was still a tough decision – we struggled with changing her environment and taking her away from the kids she had known since kindergarten.
But it has turned out to be the absolute best thing we could have done for her. FOCUS, led by Brenda Batts, is determined to teach and prepare their kids for the future. They are loving and take extra care to evaluate and assess each child and teach them in a manner condusive to their style of learning.
The staff is wonderful and easy to talk to – always available and ready to go the extra mile for their parents. They are a great resource. FOCUS is a family. We love FOCUS and could not be happier with our decision! Worth every penny! Our daughter is excited about learning and her behavior has greatly improved. It has truly changed our outlook on her future!