From Chickens to Children – one student’s quest for friendship

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Alice Griffin’s son, Daniel, who has high functioning Autism, did well in elementary school because, she said, the teachers worked with him.  

As middle school approached, Griffin said she knew she didn’t want Daniel bussed far away to be on a campus with other children on the autism spectrum, as was the school district’s policy. Griffin made the decision to send him to a district charter school.

“The myth was that they don’t get bullied at charter schools,” she said. “Sadly, that just wasn’t the case.”

Daniel had a hard time fitting in, Griffin said.

Alice Griffin (left) and her husband Rick (right) celebrate their son Daniel’s (center) outgoing nature and independence, after he gained confidence and friendship at Newton Learning Center.
Alice Griffin (left) and her husband Rick (right) celebrate their son Daniel’s (center) outgoing nature and independence, after he gained confidence and friendship at Newton Learning Center.

“Nobody would sit with him at lunch,” she said. “He would do anything the other kids told him to do to try to make friends and as such, was suspended once for behavior. He went from being a B student to a D or F student.”

The school had farmyard chickens, and Daniel spent a lot of time outside with them.

“His only friends were literally the school’s chickens,” she said.

Griffin said Daniel is very social, and loves people, which is typically not the case for kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders. She said she knew something had to change and that Daniel needed to be in a place where he could make real friends.

She met a teacher from Newton Learning Center Northern Nevada at a fundraiser and learned that Newton is a school for high-functioning students on the autism spectrum.

“When we came in for a tour, I was scared for Daniel, but a kid he knew from summer camp greeted him, and my fears were gone,” she said, adding: “After half the day at Newton Learning Center, Daniel didn’t want to go back to the charter school. He learned more at NLC in half a day than he did at the charter school all year.”  

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Griffin said Daniel has grown leaps and bounds, and is far ahead academically than before Newton.

“Where he had reading comprehension trouble before, now his vocabulary and comprehension have expanded,” she said. “He is so far above grade level in math now, they are trying new ways to work with him in math.”

Daniel had become very clingy in the seventh grade, prior to enrolling at Newton.

“At that age, he wasn’t able to be away from us, even in church,” she said. “He now serves communion and he’s the lay reader. He reads scripture in front of the entire church. He doesn’t need us at his side anymore.”

While he was in the public-school district, Griffin said she worried Daniel would become a homebody, alone and unable to contribute to society, but now she is confident he has a future, maybe in IT or anything he wants to do.

Griffin said her husband had cancer a few years ago which naturally upset Daniel.

“Newton Learning Center is safe for the kids, they are not bullied and they can learn to handle emotional issues,” she said. “The Newton teachers supported him mentally at school, while I supported my husband at home. I fear that would not have happened in the school district and they would have sent him home, as they often did when he was upset or acted out.”

To parents considering moving their children out of the school district, Griffin said they don’t have to worry about their kids being in danger at Newton Learning Center.

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“They are included and never bullied,” she said. “The kids at Newton are so welcoming – it’s enough to make your heart break. You’ll want do anything you can to get your kids here.”

Alice Griffin, enjoying the great outdoors.

About Newton Learning Center and Second Start Learning Disabilities Programs, Inc.

Newton Learning Center is a member of the Second Start Learning Disabilities Programs, Inc. family. Founded in 1974 in San Jose, California, Second Start Learning Disabilities Programs, Inc. was created to offer tutorial and diagnostic clinics to children with severe disabilities, such as autism. The program grew to add multi-disciplinary, academic and therapeutic programs as well as offering services to at-risk children with special needs. Today, Second Start Learning Disabilities Programs, Inc. operates four schools in Northern California and Northern Nevada including Pine Hill San Jose, Newton Learning Center San Jose, Pine Hill South Monterey and Newton Learning Center Northern Nevada.

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1 Comment

  1. Let’s have more good news stories like these. I know this is sponsored content and I think we all could use more stories about people overcoming and thriving. Such stories help change the trajectories of our thoughts, our beliefs about the all the negatives in our world and they bring hope and possibilities our way.

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