Frequently Asked Questions

How are students referred to the Bradley Schools?

Students are referred by their school district when the district determines that the Bradley School is an appropriate placement that can address the goals in the student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP). The Bradley School directors review the referral information to determine whether they have openings suited for the child, and to identify the most appropriate classroom, which is sometimes in a different Bradley School location. They then contact the district and family to arrange an intake interview to learn more and finalize decisions around location and classroom.

Families may not self-refer to the Bradley School. The referral must come from the special education director in the school district. Only students with an active IEP or being referred to develop one are admitted. Learn more about referrals.

Can we pay for the school ourselves?

No tuitions are privately paid; all students are referred and funded by their school district.

Do you accept insurance?

Private insurance coverage is not used to fund any aspect of placement at the Bradley Schools. If families arrange for medication management with a psychiatrist affiliated with the schools, that is an insurance-funded service that is considered outpatient care and not part of the school services. (See more below.)

Can I come and visit at the Bradley School?

Once a school department has referred a student, we can arrange a visit. Touring the building depends upon the activities occurring in the school on that day, which we cannot always predict. The best opportunity to see classrooms is after school has been dismissed.

There are multiple sites....which would my child attend?

The placement is determined by clinical directors, who consider a number of factors in determining the best location to meet a student’s needs. The factors include age, developmental and learning needs, behavioral needs, and the placements with available openings that are closest in location to the student’s home.

What are partnership programs?

Partnership programs are classrooms that are located in public schools with special education, behavioral, and clinical staff and services provided by Bradley Schools. These programs enable students to access inclusive/less restrictive educational environments to the extent that they are ready, providing an optimal arrangement for transition out of the Bradley Schools. The clinical directors at the schools carefully review the behavioral and learning profiles of students to determine whether they are suited to these classrooms. Learn more about our programs.

Do you have speech and language, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and adapted physical education?

All services that are outlined in the student’s IEP will be provided when a student is placed at the Bradley Schools. Physical therapy services are not provided by Bradley, so typically arrangements are made with the student’s school district to provide those services. In the partnership classrooms, each of these therapy services is often provided by the school district’s therapists.

Do you offer subjects such as art and music?

Art class is offered one semester, and music class the alternate semester (the order of these varies by location). These are contracted out to private providers, currently the Newport Art Museum and The Music School of the Rhode Island Philharmonic.

What are the classrooms like?

Classrooms are staffed by a special education teacher and a classroom behavior specialist, and have a low student-to-staff ratio, which varies by age and student needs. The schedule is similar to most schools, but often a bit more structured. Academics are aligned with the Common Core standards, and there are traditional and digital learning tools, creating a “blended learning” environment. Students use books, group and individual activities, tablets, and computers to access the curricula.

My child is in a special education classroom already. What is different about the Bradley School that makes you think he’ll do better?

Our classrooms do look like special education classrooms in a public school. However, the difference lies in training, experience, and clinical support. The special education teacher, classroom behavior specialist, and when relevant speech and language pathologist and occupational therapist work together as a team, with a clinical psychologist or licensed clinical social worker serving as the consultant and team leader. A nurse and child psychiatrist consult to the clinical team to track students’ medical and psychiatric needs. The classroom team meets regularly to track students’ progress and adjust programming to create a situation that will allow the student to progress academically. Ongoing clinical support is available to the team and student, to assist with identifying solutions that may help overcome obstacles.

Another big difference that families notice is that their child is not sent home for misbehavior. Our goal is to help the student learn to function in school, and to cope with challenges within the classroom. We identify social-emotional learning goals for the student, so that they are better able to settle into the learning environment and its demands.

How do you help students change?

There are many factors that we address. First, we evaluate—formal testing if needed, review of testing and intensive observation. This provides us with information about a student’s learning style and needs. We also observe behavior, and track data to learn about the patterns of a student’s behavioral challenges. We then work to help them change any behaviors that are not serving a positive function, and to develop new behaviors that help them to cope and learn. Last, our clinical team observes the student and consults to the team; they assist with addressing any psychiatric needs, in collaboration with families and providers. Our goal is for students to learn to cope with their emotional challenges so that they can become successful in school.

Are students punished when they have a behavior problem?

Our philosophy is that positive reinforcement is what promotes change. What is positive reinforcement? It is a positive outcome that follows the desired school-related behavior. These reinforcers can be intrinsic, such as pride in a job well done, or extrinsic, such as a good grade, teacher praise, social time with a peer or adult, a short time engaging in an enjoyable activity once work is done, or occasionally a tangible reward that the student earns. Our goal is that doing a good job becomes rewarding enough; we work to wean “artificial” reinforcement once a new positive behavior is established and self-sustaining.

My child has a therapist and a psychiatrist that they have worked with for a long time. Do they have to participate in counseling at school? Is medication management a part of the services?

No, individual therapy is neither mandatory nor expected for most students. Our clinicians work with your providers to learn about your child and to provide information about their presentation and performance in school. When therapy occurs, it is to address obstacles that relate to school challenges. Our school clinicians also provide clinical support at times when a student might experience a crisis. Often, clinicians work with the classroom as a group, or through consultation to the classroom staff, to build skills for stress management, socialization, anger management, and other coping strategies.

Our psychiatrist and clinical nurse specialist occasionally provide medication management if there is not a child psychiatrist involved, if the current provider would like a consultation, or if the family is awaiting services. They are able to do this as outpatient providers, i.e., students’ private insurance is accessed since this is not a school service. We encourage families to stay involved with their child’s community providers; this ensures that students will have community supports when their school placement at Bradley ends. It also provides the family with more support than would be available through a school placement.

Do students leave your school, or will they have to graduate from there?

Many students are with us for the short term. From the time students enter our program, we are charting a course for their transition back to a less restrictive environment. We work with the school district to find alternative classrooms in the public school system that can address a student's IEP goals, and work to develop the child’s skills to be successful in that type of environment.

What are the factors that predict how long a child will stay? Age, learning and developmental challenges, severity of behavioral challenges, and psychiatric needs are all factors that determine the answer to that question. Each student is unique and will require a different pathway to more independence. Families are informed of and involved in every step of that process.

Students can earn a RI, MA, or CT diploma when attending the Bradley Schools. We collaborate with the school department to ensure that all graduation requirements of the student’s home district are addressed.

Can you provide an education to students with autism?

Approximately 1/3 of our students are dealing with an autism spectrum disorder or other developmental challenge. Our staff receive ongoing training and support in meeting the unique learning needs of these students. Our clinicians work with the family and providers to ensure coordinated care and educational planning.