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Find Out What's So Special About the Gillen Brewer School

Find Out What's So Special About the Gillen Brewer School

Small classes and a strong parent partnership help this school’s students achieve their potential.

The Gillen Brewer School, an independent school that focuses on special needs education helps its students grow through individualized attention, remarkably low student to staff ratios, and a strong relationship with the families it serves. With students who have a variety of special needs, including autism and ADD, and a team of in-house therapists and specialists, Gillen Brewer takes a special approach to special needs education.

Name of School: The Gillen Brewer School

Grades: The school does not have grades; students range in age from 2-10 years old

Size of student body: Approximately 86

Educational approach or philosophy: This coeducational school’s official mission is straightforward: to educate and support its students to become confident, independent, and engaged learners. To accomplish this goal, “we partner with our families,” says Julian Parham Santana, Gillen Brewer’s director of marketing and outreach admissions officer. “We want to make sure that what we’re doing at school is being mirrored at home and that what works at home is being reflected at school. We do a lot of support groups for our parents as well as a workshop for grandparents on Grandparents Day. It’s about being one team with the family and working together.”

What makes the school unique: “We have a pretty wide range of needs here in our school,” Santana says. “We have kids on the autism spectrum, we’ve got receptive and expressive language disorders, sensory integration disorders, and we have some ADHD/ADD kids.” Preschool classes are limited to just eight children each, and in addition to a head teacher, each classroom has two associate teachers. Older classes are limited to six to 10 children each, depending on each child’s level of need. “Another thing that makes us actually unique is we have our own team of psychologists, occupational therapists, and speech-language pathologists in house. We have five of each,” Santana shares. One of each type of therapist is assigned to each class at all times, “so it’s really a team of six that is working with the kids,” Santana explains. Classes are held 12 months per year.

Gillen Brewer constantly evaluates its students, who come from all boroughs of New York City except Staten Island, to make sure they’re in the proper setting for optimal learning. Some children are ultimately mainstreamed while others eventually move on to other facilities for children with special needs. The school also hosts an annual panel “where we have alumni from the school come back to the school and talk about their experiences in high school and college and beyond,” Santana says. “We have success stories like kids going on to colleges and continuing their education and becoming independent contributors to society.”


Main image: A science class at the Gillen Brewer School

Courtesy the Gillen Brewer School

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Deborah Skolnik

Author: Deborah Skolnik, a graduate of Cornell University, lives in Westchester with her husband and two daughters, and enjoys writing, cooking, and gardening. See More

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