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A typical education at an atypical school

From the outside, Camelot Therapeutic Day School, housed in the former Claremont Elementary School in Pulaski, looks like a typical school building.
However, Camelot, which opened in August 2007, is not a school for typical students.
The children who attend Camelot are students who have been unable to succeed in the public school system due to the severity of their disabilities, including autism, specific learning disabilities, orthopedic impairment, developmental delay, multiple disabilities, social/emotional disabilities, traumatic brain injury and other health impairments.
A majority of the students at Camelot have autism, according to the school’s principal, Dr. John Wenrich. He noted that during the current summer session, 20 students have been enrolled at Camelot, and during the regular school year, that number is close to the same.
He also said that about one-third of the students are from Pulaski County, and the others are from areas across the New River Valley, along with Wythe County and Galax.
Much like traditional public school settings, Camelot includes grade specific classrooms, a library, playground, gymnasium, stage, and cafeteria, where the children are served breakfast and lunch.
However, there are also several amenities that set Camelot apart from the public schools within Pulaski County, including a "comfort room," featuring bean bags, stuffed animals, weight blankets, balls and other items, where students can go if they need to leave their classroom for a few minutes to calm themselves during the school day, along with a room used for physical and occupational therapy.
In regards to academics, Camelot’s curriculum is based on the requirements set by the Virginia Standards of Learning and provides courses in English, math, science, social studies and history.
The students receive group and individual instruction, Wenrich said, adding that along with the main instructor and a classroom aide for each class, the students who require additional help work one-on-one with classroom aides.
"We have a high staff to student ratio," he said.
As for Camelot’s therapeutic program, recreational and art activities are used to "facilitate the development of responsibility, effective decision-making, assertiveness, sportsmanship, positive self-expression and social and emotional growth," according to an informational brochure about the school.
Julie Sears, the school’s executive director, said examples of these activities include field trips, use of the YMCA’s aquatic facilities, gymnastics, equine therapy, music and art therapy with the help of Radford University interns, pet therapy with the help of a group called "Ladies with Leashes," and additional opportunities throughout the school year.
Sears said that the staff at Camelot engages in internal training constantly throughout the school year, and also has opportunities to involve community members and agencies, such as local school system employees and the Department of Social Services, in training workshops.
For example, earlier this month, Camelot hosted a training session provided by Mike Terkeltaub, executive director for Triad Training and Consulting Services.
Terkeltaub has over 20 years experience developing, implementing, and operating community-based programming for at-risk youth and families.
Those in attendance received training on strength-based treatment, which works with the strengths and competencies of children, adolescents, and their families as well as the strengths of all community services, with the goal that through collaboration, meaningful change can be achieved for children with exceptional needs.
Sears said that in the future, the school hopes to open up more similar training opportunities for the community to take part in.
For more information about Camelot Therapeutic Day School in Pulaski, visit www.camelotforkids.org or call (540) 980-1007.

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A typical education at an atypical school

From the outside, Camelot Therapeutic Day School, housed in the former Claremont Elementary School in Pulaski, looks like a typical school building.
However, Camelot, which opened in August 2007, is not a school for typical students.
The children who attend Camelot are students who have been unable to succeed in the public school system due to the severity of their disabilities, including autism, specific learning disabilities, orthopedic impairment, developmental delay, multiple disabilities, social/emotional disabilities, traumatic brain injury and other health impairments.
A majority of the students at Camelot have autism, according to the school’s principal, Dr. John Wenrich. He noted that during the current summer session, 20 students have been enrolled at Camelot, and during the regular school year, that number is close to the same.
He also said that about one-third of the students are from Pulaski County, and the others are from areas across the New River Valley, along with Wythe County and Galax.
Much like traditional public school settings, Camelot includes grade specific classrooms, a library, playground, gymnasium, stage, and cafeteria, where the children are served breakfast and lunch.
However, there are also several amenities that set Camelot apart from the public schools within Pulaski County, including a "comfort room," featuring bean bags, stuffed animals, weight blankets, balls and other items, where students can go if they need to leave their classroom for a few minutes to calm themselves during the school day, along with a room used for physical and occupational therapy.
In regards to academics, Camelot’s curriculum is based on the requirements set by the Virginia Standards of Learning and provides courses in English, math, science, social studies and history.
The students receive group and individual instruction, Wenrich said, adding that along with the main instructor and a classroom aide for each class, the students who require additional help work one-on-one with classroom aides.
"We have a high staff to student ratio," he said.
As for Camelot’s therapeutic program, recreational and art activities are used to "facilitate the development of responsibility, effective decision-making, assertiveness, sportsmanship, positive self-expression and social and emotional growth," according to an informational brochure about the school.
Julie Sears, the school’s executive director, said examples of these activities include field trips, use of the YMCA’s aquatic facilities, gymnastics, equine therapy, music and art therapy with the help of Radford University interns, pet therapy with the help of a group called "Ladies with Leashes," and additional opportunities throughout the school year.
Sears said that the staff at Camelot engages in internal training constantly throughout the school year, and also has opportunities to involve community members and agencies, such as local school system employees and the Department of Social Services, in training workshops.
For example, earlier this month, Camelot hosted a training session provided by Mike Terkeltaub, executive director for Triad Training and Consulting Services.
Terkeltaub has over 20 years experience developing, implementing, and operating community-based programming for at-risk youth and families.
Those in attendance received training on strength-based treatment, which works with the strengths and competencies of children, adolescents, and their families as well as the strengths of all community services, with the goal that through collaboration, meaningful change can be achieved for children with exceptional needs.
Sears said that in the future, the school hopes to open up more similar training opportunities for the community to take part in.
For more information about Camelot Therapeutic Day School in Pulaski, visit www.camelotforkids.org or call (540) 980-1007.

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