UC Irvine's middle school for students with ADHD, autism finds success

IRVINE, Calif. (KABC) -- Most of the students at a special school in Irvine have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism or anxiety issues.

The school's curriculum is based on mounds of research from the National Institutes of Health and the University of California. Administrators say the children are learning life lessons that will help them just as much as reading, writing and arithmetic will.

Students at UC Irvine's Child Development Center learn more than history and science.

"What the program aims to do is teach those social skills or those communication skills that we don't necessarily put any emphasis on in traditional schooling," said Sabrina Schuck, Ph.D., the facility's executive director.

Fourteen-year-old Dominic Caito has been here since second grade, when his ADHD started to make public school tough. He's thrived at the Development Center.

"It was really important for him to be in an environment where he could be successful, and so the extra prompting, the extra time if necessary, the extra coaching would help him kind of get through the things he needed to get through," said Michael Caito, Dominic's father.

The children get training in communication, behavior, anger and anxiety management and more. And there's a behavioral specialist in class for positive reinforcement.

"Having the relationship with the teacher, but also the behavioral specialists that are in the classroom that are constantly giving the feedback, the feedback, the feedback, which goes with his personality of the ADHD," said Carol Caito, Dominic's mother.

Schuck pioneered this middle school program and still tweaks the curriculum.

"It is very much a laboratory school environment in which we are collaborating with investigators across the university to try new things that we believe support our mission and our model and are in line with our philosophy," said Schuck.

Parents take an eight-week training program and go to weekly meetings, so they can help ease the kids from school back into real life.

UC Irvine has expanded the school and this year it opened the children's school to 119 students - about 50 more than the year before.

It will be a private school at first, and tuition will be about $36,000. But Schuck and her team are applying for certifications to make the school accessible to more families.
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