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Aug./Sept. 2006

The Bedford School
A Motivating Force
by Carrie Whitney

For a student with a learning disabilities, school can seem a like an unfriendly place, particularly when that learning disability has not been diagnosed, because the student is of average or above-average intelligence. Figuring out how to help the child can be a challenge for parents and teachers alike. However, with the right environment and method of teaching, these students can become very successful scholars. To help nurture learning abilities in these young minds, Betsy Box, Ph.D., founded The Bedford School in Fairburn in 1985. Over the past 21 years, the school has helped hundreds of children find their rightful place in education.

"The biggest motivator is success," says Box. "Kids feel successful here, and they fit in." Most children remain at Bedford for just a few years before returning to a traditional public or private school environment. Located on a 45-acre campus in Fairburn, Bedford provides a highly structured curriculum, resulting in a predictable pattern on which the students can rely. The school employs multi-sensory methods and schedules math and language arts twice a day, allowing students to learn at a pace that enables them to master the skills. Additionally, students are grouped within their age range by skill level, rather than just age.

The positive atmosphere and individualized learning--classes have no more than 12 students and reading groups have only four or five students--help the children develop, not only their knowledge base, but also their learning abilities. "Our goal is for our children to become independent learners," says Box. While math and language arts are vital points of focus, science, social studies and other subjects are covered too. In addition, the spacious campus is home to a challenge course, a swimming pool, a soccer field and a gym. Bedford offers inter-mural soccer, basketball and track and field for its older students and intramural basketball for the younger ones. The school also provides a rotating weekly schedule of non-academic classes, such as music and art.

Currently, Bedford educates around 140 students and accepts those in first through ninth grades. It is the only full-time school for children with learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, on the south side of Atlanta. Bedford categorizes a learning disability as a cognitive dysfunction, frequently hereditary, characterized by an inability to deal with written symbols, despite average or above-average intelligence, conventional instruction and socio-cultural opportunity. Some of the signs of a learning disability can include short attention span, poor ability to organize, slowness in finishing work and an impaired ability to concentrate.

Of course, increased performance in school and eventual transition to a traditional environment are two of the wonderful benefits of attending Bedford. Perhaps the most encouraging reward is the decrease in frustration within the entire family. The child's newfound success eases much of the stress that has been brought home from disappointments at school. When students leave Bedford, they have also learned how to become their own advocates and ask for help when they need it. This, surely, is a worthwhile lesson for anyone.

The Specifics

Grades: 1-9

Affiliation: None

Total Teachers: 18

Annual Tuition Range: $13,200

Open House: Call for appt.

Location: Fairburn

5665 Milam Rd.
Fairburn, GA 30123

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