Ivymount Aspire School Program

Academic & Social Learning Model

The Ivymount Aspire School Program’s Elementary, Middle and High School Divisions provide two models, each designed to meet the specific needs of our students. The Aspire Academic & Social Learning Model focuses on teaching students needed strategies and skills to reach academic achievement commensurate with their cognitive strengths. We provide the broadest range of options in college and career choices, increase their problem solving and self-advocacy strategies to promote flexibility in handling challenging situations, and increase their self-awareness and self-acceptance to ensure they live meaningful lives aligned with their values.    

Students in this model have average to above-average cognitive abilities but struggle in mainstream learning environments due to difficulties with social cognition, executive functioning, flexible thinking, self-awareness and self-advocacy. Students may also have behaviors that interfere with their learning. The program supports those students in learning adaptive strategies to become more self-aware, and to manage and regulate their emotions and behaviors to succeed in various settings.  

Our goals are to develop an educational model that meets the needs of our students while providing growth in social learning and executive functioning concepts that can be applied across all the environments in which they live, work and play.  

Disabilities Served  

Autism Spectrum Disorder, Pragmatic Language Impairment, Multiple Disabilities, Specific Learning Disabilities, Other Health Impairments 


Elementary/Middle School (grades K-8) and Secondary School (grades 9-12) – students earning a diploma

Curriculum and Methods   

Students in this model may find it hard to succeed in large group learning and social environments with significant executive functioning demands and rigid curricula. We provide a supportive learning and social environment in which highly trained staff work collaboratively to engage students; support them to maximize their abilities and strengths; develop their self-awareness, self-advocacy, and executive functioning skills; and celebrate their successes and Neurodivergence. 

Academic Instruction

Students participate in a  diploma curriculum based on their state and local curricula. Our dynamic, rigorous, and experiential program 

incorporates social learning into all aspects of the school experience. Integrated related services provide structured and supported opportunities for students to successfully acquire and practice skills that match and support their learning profile and promote their success. Through collaboration with families and caregivers,  our goal is for students to learn, practice, and apply strategies throughout the school day and generalize them to home and community settings.     

Social Learning Instruction 

Students also participate in a robust and comprehensive social learning curriculum across five domains: emotional regulation, executive functioning, social and relationship skills, social justice, and skills needed to be successful in a group setting (e.g., school, work, social situations, etc.).  Students attend social learning classes throughout the week to explicitly learn the why. We then create opportunities across other courses and settings for students to practice and generalize the concepts learned.  As students move through the Academic Social Learning Model, these classes also focus on self-awareness, self-acceptance, and self-advocacy to ensure they are able to meet their personal goals and live fulfilling and meaningful lives.    

In addition to explicit instruction and opportunities to practice specific social learning concepts, the model provides structure and support during periods of the school day in which our students with social cognition challenges often struggle, such as lunch and recess. For example, our younger students make recess plans before starting recess with the support of teachers and therapists. Plan A is what they hope to do or hope will happen, and Plan B is what they will do if Plan A does not work out. Teachers and therapists are then available during recess to scaffold and support students to use their strategies and plan to make a recess or other social settings successful. The plans teach a compensatory strategy for weak executive functioning (prepared in advance), reduce worry about unknowns by providing a roadmap, and allow the children to build their social skills. 

Model Provides:     

  • Small classes tailored to each student’s academic, social, and sensory needs Have an average of eight to ten students with one teacher and one assistant, and a speech language pathologist, occupational therapist, or mental health provider is often present through the integrated services model.   
  • Creative and challenging academics using small-group instruction and engaging interdisciplinary content to promote excellence and develop critical thinking, self-advocacy, problem solving and teamwork abilities.   
  • Opportunities for incidental teaching and learning to promote social cognition and social learning.  
  • Positive, evidence-based practices for emotional regulation and cognitive behavioral approaches consistently support students in all school activities, and individual plans tailored to student’s needs help them learn these critical life skills and guide teachers and students in objectively assessing emotional states, behavior, and progress toward goals.  
  • Ongoing monitoring and refinement every day, we work to improve the program model, identify what is working well and ask ourselves where and how to make improvements in collaboration with our students and teams. Our goal is to create the best program for each student.  


Course Sequence 

Students pursuing a high school diploma typically aligned to a 4-5 year high school plan. As a student progresses in the model, they often grow in ways that enable them to transition back to a less restrictive environment before graduating. This timeline is unique for each student. Teachers and therapists engage in open and collaborative planning with families to determine if and when this transition is best for their child’s continued progress and success.

Students' Perspectives on Neurodiversity