Chrysalis School is located at 1173 Spring Centre South Blvd, Suite B., Altamonte Springs
Situated on the edge of the Wekiva Trail near the junction of I-4 and 434 off Douglas Avenue in Altamonte Springs, Chrysalis School is a private academic track Montessori school with an ambitious curriculum and a family-centered approach. We serve students from kindergarten through eight grade. In addition to typically developing children, we also serve children with special educational needs. Today "special education" is a much broader and more inclusive term than it was historically. Special needs include specific learning disabilities, processing difficulties, and attention disorders that we didn't even know existed thirty years ago. We knew there were quirky kids, struggling kids, and kids who didn't pay attention, but we didn't have diagnoses for them. Today the Florida School Choice legislation allows parents of these children to opt out of a public system that has not provided for their unique needs. The schools that have emerged since the Choice legislation was written have been a reflection of the expertise and interests of the dedicated individuals who founded them. Chrysalis School is a very different sort of school because our expertise is broad and our interest is not in a particular type of child but in refining a process that solves instructional problems for all children and their teachers.
Our students include:
Approximately 30% of our students have a developmental disorder including high functioning autism, Asperger's syndrome, and other developmental disorders.Though some of our students require an individualized assessment rubric and specific supports, all of our students are carefully selected and must demonstrate that they are capable of self-regulation and progression through our curriculum. Classes are intended for children who are on an academic track. Students are expected to be able to sit, pay attention, and complete assignments during their time at school. Although many lessons at Chrysalis are one-on-one the school is not designed for children who require continuous one-on-one instruction throughout the school day. If Chrysalis School sounds like what you have been looking for please continue below to read about our philosophy and services. If Chrysalis School does not sound like a match for your child, please visit our clinical page to learn how we can help.
Approximately 60% the population learn reasonably well within a large classroom, alongside same-aged peers, with a single teacher using predominantly auditory presentation. The remaining 40% of students learn better, faster, and more comfortably in a small multi-grade class, with multiple teachers using a combination of visual, auditory. and tactile presentation. In this way children are able to learn at their own pace, with individualized attention, and are encouraged to enjoy the process of learning.
Children who do not excel in the traditional classroom may experience one or more of the following challenges:
Sensory Avoiding: avoidance of touch, pressure, motion, lights, sounds, and other sensory input
Dyspraxia and Apraxia of Speech: problems with motor planning and grading body movements resulting in clumsiness and/or delayed and inconsistent language development
Attentional Challenges: orienting, engaging, and maintaining focus and attention
Auditory Processing Deficit: problems discriminating the start and end of discrete speech and ambient sounds.
Visual Processing Problems: resulting in difficulty making sense of visual stimuli, or transfer between visual fields such as a chalkboard and a piece of paper or a student's desk.
Gifted learners may experience any of the above, and also find it challenging to listen to instructions and to follow a prescribed method for getting the answer or completing the assignment.
For most children these processes are automatic, managed by parts of the brain that operate below the conscious level. For children with processing disorders sensory integration is labored, occurring only with conscious effort or not at all. The result can be devastating to social and educational outcomes resulting in problems:
How we address these challenges at Chrysalis School...
While much work has been accomplished in the area of clinical treatment, few classrooms are appropriate to children with these challenges. Maria Montessori was among the first educators to discuss the importance of how information is delivered and processed. We describe here how the Montessori classroom provides an enhanced processing education, The goals of Montessori education are straightforward and intended to further strengthen missing or weak processes through ongoing training of the various processing systems as they pertain to education, and within the educational environment. While an individual education plan may facilitated children, a Montessori education also supports and encourages natural development of the information processing systems as they pertain to learning. Examples follow below.
Homogenous Age-Grouping By combining ages children can truly learn at their own pace, with more basic materials available without having to go off the resource rooms and special classes. This encourages children, rather than punishing them for their unique needs. Also, many children with special educational needs are gifted in some areas. With a wide range of curriculum available children can work well above their grade level in areas of the their ability.
Small Classes and Low Student to Teacher Ratio Our K through 2nd grade class is 12 children with two teachers, a 6 to 1 ratio. Our 3rd through 5th grade class and our 6th through 8th grade class have 12 children each. The ratio at this level is 8 to 1.
Movement At Chrysalis we address movement from both the perspective of freedom of movement and of directed movement.
Reasonable Freedom of Movement It is developmentally inappropriate to the natural development of the vestibular and ocular-motor systems for young children under seven to sit with heads erect, doing central vision work for extended periods. Children with learning delays need even more time before seated center vision work becomes the predominant learning format. Attention, vestibular development, ocular-motor development as well as peripheral or ambient vision can be supported simply and easily by letting children stand and move while working. Moving to a vertical writing surface rather than fixing the gaze at a teacher directed lesson may also support attention and integration of information.
Directed Movement Developmental Yoga, Brain Gym, Astronaut Training, or a similar educational kinesiology program, directed by teachers trained in these programs provides classroom relevant work with posture, stability, balance, breath, laterality, spatial awareness, motor planning, and ocular-motor, and developmental movement patterns, requisite to successful learning. Until movement is automatic and easy the child’s ‘learning-energy’ will be redirected to compensate for these missing pieces. Many students who need improvement in these functions can also benefit from listening therapy, which is easily facilitated in a classroom setting under the direction of a certified therapeutic listening program provider.
Opportunities for Ambient and Focused Attention A good education will include multiple daily opportunities for children to flow between ambient and focused attention, gaining experience at monitoring the sights and sounds of a safe and productive classroom using alternating, and divided attention and tuning-in with focused, sustained, and selective attention when details are presented. Cognitive support can be provided with programs like Pay Attention or other cognitive teacher-delivered programs, which give children a conscious experience of the flow between these attentional processes.
Opportunities for Multiple Engagement with Teachers and Peers Many children with processing challenges have trouble engaging with teachers and peers. A small, controlled, and cooperative social structure with a mix of one-on-one instruction, as well as small group and teacher directed lessons is tremendously powerful for encouraging students to engage with teachers and peers. Children who feel threatened or overwhelmed in larger large classes have an opportunity to learn to map space using the visual and auditory systems appropriately when the learning space is just a little smaller and the number of other children is more manageable. Children should be given ample opportunities to practice new skills alone and in teams, both in a formal and and game-like format.
Uninterrupted Work Periods At Chrysalis we understand that children need time to get organized, to visit with friends between lessons, and to think about what they might like to do next. With an uninterrupted three hour work period children can set their pace and move through their lessons without announcements, bells, and busy work getting in the way.
Integrated Curriculum The Montessori curriculum accomplishes the Core Curriculum and well beyond it, to connect the dots and build a solid framework for higher level learning. The interrelatedness of concepts and materials is taught. In approaching any instructional content concepts, skills, and information should be carefully analyzed prior to lesson development so that the student is given everything he needs to see the big picture, fill that picture with information, and build the skills needed to use the information. Skills and information should be bolstered by contextual relevance whenever possible. When integrated in this way, the curriculum offers a perfect landscape for development of conceptual thought, practice in related skills, logical construction of informatikon, and deduction of relevance. The combination of these elements gives children with processing delays a structure upon which to hang incoming stimuli and benefit from interrelated information presented at a big-picture or global level, followed by discrete detail, and skill practice. In a very real sense this is the mental application of ambient and focal switching mentioned earlier in this article; and it gives us a stage upon which to set development of imagination. Tying together lessons in literacy, math, and science, under the umbrella of cultural exploration, for instance, gives children with processing challenges several ways to access information and allows them to build a network of relevance around details.
Character Education Grace, courtesy, and right action are no strangers to the Montessori student. These are modeled, taught directly, and reinforced in everything we do.
Errorless Learning The didactic materials and the Montessori lessons guide children through accurate problem solving and skills development.
Learning Style Flexibility Children learn in different ways. One child might be a predominantly visual learner, while his classmate learns best with her hands. The Montessori materials and lessons encourage children in the various modalities, informing the teacher along the way as to how best to instruct each learner.
In addition to the Montessori design described above, we use:
One-to-One Student/Teacher Partnering A first lesson is always 1:1 in our classroom. As learners gain experience and understanding of materials they may do the lesson independent of the teacher, and have their work checked afterward. Follow-up instruction is given as needed. Later children might partner with another learner to practice some lessons. This format allows precise instruction in first lessons, monitored learning in follow-up lessons, and supported practice.
Group Instruction Support Group instruction is reinforcing, never punishing. The ability to learn in a group is critical to middle and high-school learners. This is very challenging skill for some learners. In a Montessori classroom we have a daily group lesson where children are encouraged to learn primarily with their eyes and ears. Children who need help with this important skill receive behavioral support as needed.
Applied Behavior Analysis We employ a behavior analytic approach to problem behaviors and learning challenges. Problem behaviors fulfill a function such as: attention, escape from undesired activities such as school work, and access to preferred items and activities. Analysis of behavior shines light on the function of behavior so that we can teach students acceptable alternative means for accomplishing what they want. Learning challenges are analyzed topographically and sequentially. Errorless learning is employed to facilitate rapid skill acquisition. Generalization of skills is encouraged through careful observation and application of support as needed.
Phono-Graphix Literacy Instruction Phono-Graphix is well established highly effective method for teaching reading in classroom or clinical setting to emerging and struggling readers. The method was developed by the founder of Chrysalis School and Chrysalis Center in the early 1990s. In addition to 'Reading Reflex, published by Simon and Schuster, there are numerous peer reviewed studies using Phono-Graphix. Click here to see a summary of Phono-Graphix research with a broad variety of learners.
Social Cognition involves thinking about the other guy and thinking about oneself in relation to the other guy. At Chrysalis we use discussion, role play, reading, and journaling to support development of social cognition.
Imaginative Affect Based Play DIR®/Floortime, developed by Stanley Greenspan, is an affect based intervention that follows the child’s natural emotions and interests to engage the child for learning interactions that enable the different parts of the mind and brain to work together and to build successively higher levels of social, emotional, and intellectual capacities.
Family Centered Approach Children with learning challenges, and all children, benefit from a family centered approach. Chrysalis School and our clinic Chrysalis Center for Change offer a six-week parenting workshop in Applied Behavior Analysis three times each year. In addition we offer half day and two-hour workshops in various topics to support positive parenting practices. Our doors are always open to support parents' development as well as the development of their children.
The Food Factor The most current research in the field of nutrition and health psychology informs us that nutrition is an important variable in recovery from learning disabilities and common symptoms experienced by special needs children. We offer regular training classes for parents and include nutrition education in our curriculum.
Naturally Fit Our new facility backs up to the Wekiva Trail. Students enjoy supervised opportunities to walk and cycle on the trail. During particular curricular periods nature walks augment our study of plants, animal habitats, and climate.
Individualized Assessment Progression through the curriculum is assessed on an individualized rubric based on the chid's ability with consideration of his or her particular learning challenges. Assessment includes:
Coordinated Aftercare Children with learning and behavior challenges require an aftercare program that supports their progress during the school day. Our coordinated aftercare is staffed by our experienced teachers and co-teachers. Your child will enjoy a seamless transition from the classroom to a rich schedule of activities building upon his or her progress during the school day.