Vista Learning Center welcomes first class of students

AMHERST – Regional Services and Education Center Inc. recently launched Vista Learning Center, a new academic program for students in grades 5-8 who have not been successful in traditional learning environments. Vista is approved by the New Hampshire Department of Education for autism, speech language impairment, emotional disturbance and other health impaired students, including those with anxiety, ADHD or school phobia.

“Our focus is on understanding the underlying issue that is prompting behavior issues or other ways of acting out that disrupt a student’s ability to learn and be part of a classroom community,” said Amanda Reed, an educator for Vista. “With a focus on understanding themselves, their community and social skills, we can create personalized learning that addresses the whole child, not just one part of their life.”

With a capacity of 10 students, a “no labels” policy and parent involvement integrated into the middle school program’s curriculum, Vista is set apart from other programs for students with learning disabilities. Reed, along with an external community coordinator who helps connect students with social and volunteer opportunities throughout New Hampshire, doesn’t let students use their diagnosis as a crutch.

“We take the time to find out what external environmental factors could be causing a problem,” Reed said. “With autism, for example, something as subtle as a ticking clock could pose a distraction and prompt a disruptive response for a student. When everything else isn’t working, behavior becomes a coping mechanism and our approach is to understand what the student is trying to solve by exhibiting it.”

At Vista, that process happens in real time as issues are addressed as they happen and educators offer immediate feedback for students. This reduces distractions to other students in class while helping students process the external environment in a productive way. The supportive environment mirrors that at Vista’s sister program at The RSEC Academy Middle School, which also helps students with learning challenges be successful. Grading is competency-based (rather than based on the traditional “A” through “F” model) to evaluate a range of skills based on Common Core Standards and grade levels, and includes room to acknowledge growth in social skills and community connections.

“Our job is to discover what might be happening between home and school where those skills aren’t coming through, and work with parents and students to find ways to work through it,” Reed said.

Vista Learning Center is open to students in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, including from the following school districts and school administrative units (SAUs): Amherst; Merrimack; Epping; Raymond; Exeter; Nashua; Manchester; Hooksett; Pembroke; Hudson; Derry; Londonderry; Goffstown; Pittsfield; Concord; Chester; Hampstead; Fremont; Rye; Salem; Windham; Hampton; Northwood; Barrington; Bow; and Deerfield.

For more information about RSEC and its unique mission for helping students of all ages and abilities with learning challenges, visit rsec.org.

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