Frequently Asked Questions
Spectrum Academy is a tuition-free public charter school for students with autism who require mild to moderate support in the classroom. We provide small class sizes, with individualized instruction and innovative social skills curriculum. We help students reach their fullest potential academically, socially, and emotionally, leading to productive and successful futures.
How and when did Spectrum Academy begin?
In 2006, a group of parents frustrated with the educational opportunities available for students with autism, took it upon themselves to ensure the academic success of their children. Spectrum Academy opened with 150 students in North Salt Lake. Now, in 2020 there are campuses in North Salt Lake and Pleasant Grove serving over 1400 students from across the Wasatch Front.
What makes Spectrum different from other schools?
So many things! The short answer is smaller class sizes, differentiated instruction, in-house Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy, Behavior Specialists, and Mental Health staff. There is a Teacher and Paraprofessional in every classroom. Social Skills curriculum is built into every student's schedule, and we have the expertise to recognize and implement accommodations for the unique needs of each of our students.
What is differentiated instruction?
Classroom instruction is differentiated based on each students’ needs. This is done to help each student grow and progress from where they are currently.
What is a paraprofessional?
They provide extra support to students throughout the day, and assist teachers in the classroom. For students, they help de-escalate, take students on breaks if needed, support students at lunch and recess, assist students in and out of carpool, etc. They support teachers with small group instruction, data collection, and individualized instruction.
What is social skills curriculum?
Social Skills classes are designed to help our students develop skills to aid them in their relationships with their families, friends and in their communities. In Kindergarten they learn the basics like “What does this face mean? (emotion)”, Elementary progresses with “If you get lost in a store…”, “How to make a friend…”, etc.. In Middle School students learn about employment, resumes, interviews, hygiene, eating out, etc.. High School is built around transition planning (parents involved) where they are learning life skills, employment skills and helping to create a plan for their future goals; college, technical training, employment, etc.
How many students are in each class?
It varies slightly depending on academic levels, but we try to cap our classes at 15-18 students.
What does a Spectrum Academy classroom look/feel like?
We strive to keep our classrooms simplistic and find ways to draw the focus to the front of the room. Important information is posted at the front of the room such as school rules, daily schedule, level system, etc. Each teacher will group or change tables for the needs of their classes.
How can Spectrum meet the sensory needs of my student?
Each classroom has a designated break area that students can use with weighted blankets, and/or noise cancelling headphones. Most rooms have alternative lighting to reduce the mental disruption that can come from fluorescent lights. We also have an entire classroom dedicated to helping students regulate. Our OT room will meet the needs of your student no matter what their regulation needs may be.
Does my student need an Autism diagnosis or IEP to attend?
No. We take any student who gets accepted through the lottery system, regardless of diagnosis.
What related services are offered at Spectrum Academy?
Spectrum Academy has a variety of related services onsite, including:
Mental Health Specialists
Adapted PE Specialists
How are Related Services provided?
Services are determined by the IEP team annually. Usually students have a designated amount of therapy minutes per month. Services can also be provided via a 504 plan or through the Response to Intervention (RTI) process. Services may be provided as “push-in” or “pull out” services.
Push-in services: The practitioner or specialist works in the classroom with the student(s) individually or in groups to provide related services, and differentiated and supportive instruction while promoting inclusive education.
Pullout services: Student(s) are taken out of the general education classroom and services are provided in another setting like the OT room or Speech therapy office.
Research shows that “push-in” services help students to better generalize skills in the classroom and progress towards goals faster.
The advantages of push-in services include:
Better generalization of skills when they are practiced in the general education setting with peers
Fewer transitions during the day or changes in routines which can be disruptive
Students miss less instructional time when they are not pulled out of class
The general education classroom is the Least Restrictive Environment
Specialists are able to model intervention strategies for the classroom staff, who then carry those interventions over across the student’s entire school day
Spectrum Academy’s unique environmental setup and programming, including smaller class sizes, full-time onsite therapists, and therapists’ collaborative relationships with teachers, allow “push-in services” to be the norm instead of the exception.
Each building has an Occupational Therapy room, including sensory and suspension equipment, for evaluations and treatment sessions and a quiet sensory room to meet the sensory needs of all students. Classroom staff and paraprofessionals are trained by OT staff to safely use equipment to facilitate sensory diets, sensory breaks, and self-regulation strategies to meet a child's specific needs.
Speech Therapists have individual offices that are quiet environments to facilitate small group and individual therapy sessions addressing skills that need to be pre-taught before they can be generalized to the classroom.
What about Assistive Technology?
Spectrum Academy has many assistive technology resources that are utilized daily in classrooms to accommodate individual students needs; for example, it is not uncommon to see students using noise-canceling headphones, wi-fi headphones for white noise or calming music, adaptive seating (wobble stool, therapy ball) for movement needs, slant boards, pencil grips, chrome extensions on computers, speech to text, or text to speech software and other individualized adaptations and accommodations as needed.
Spectrum Academy Related Services Providers also provide whole classroom instruction in the Elementary general education classes at least once a month to promote child find of students that may require services and for RTI interventions and collaboration with teachers.
What is the expected behavior for students and staff?
Appropriate behavior in public settings is a requirement of life for members of any society. Public charter schools are instruments of society and, therefore, the community that supports a public charter school district has the right to expect school officials to maintain a safe and secure environment and to ensure that students, school personnel, and visitors to a school campus (including online) conduct themselves in an orderly, courteous, dignified, and respectful manner. This being said, we also understand that our focus as a charter school is on serving students with High Functioning Autism. Students with Autism, by virtue of the underlying points of diagnosis of social deficits and rigidity, often struggle with self-regulation. Spectrum Academy has implemented Positive Behavioral Supports throughout the school to support our students.
Other Behavioral Supports?
Other behavior supports that are school-wide are visual schedules, a level system to reinforce expected school behavior, and token economy systems. When students engage in behavior that is above and beyond for them, they are recognized for that behavior by receiving a Principals Club ticket to be entered for a drawing. Students are also taught social skills as part of their daily curriculum. Students are permitted to take breaks when needed, preferably in their classrooms, but they also take breaks in the hall, OT rooms, with their paraprofessionals, or other areas of the school.
Additional support is given for students who often struggle with behavior. Small group instruction is given to assist the learning of specific social/behavioral skills that they may be missing.
For students who consistently struggle with behavior, our Behavior Specialists create Behavior Intervention Plans (BIP) by doing a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) to understand the function of the students’ behavior and know what interventions will help the student learn the skills they need to get what they need in a socially appropriate way. We have a Student Support Team that can assist teachers or paraprofessionals if the student becomes too escalated to maintain a learning environment in the classroom. The Student Support Team is there to help the student calm down and return to a place where learning can begin again. If ever a student becomes a danger to themselves or others, they are taken to a safe space until they are able to return to safety. This is always a last resort, and all state guidelines and laws are followed to ensure safety and the best possible outcome for the student.
We love our students and strive to teach them the behavioral and social skills that will help them be as successful as they can be as members of the school and community.
Do you offer transportation?
We don’t offer transportation, but we do try to help you find other families to carpool with. Once enrolled, we can help you find other families in your area. It’s then up to you to reach out and connect with them.
Is there tuition?
No, we are a public charter school so there are no fees other than the typical registration fees you’d pay at any public school in 7th-12+ grades. We do ask that each family volunteer 40 hours per school year (+10 per additional child attending).
How can I complete my Volunteer Hours?
There are many activities throughout the school year that we need parent help with. From our annual school fundraising events to individual classroom activities. These hours can be completed by any adult family member.
In order to work in classrooms, or directly with students, each volunteer must complete a Spectrum specific live scan background check.
You can also count money spent toward your volunteer hours, every $10 in donations (snacks, school supplies, monetary) equals 1 hour of volunteer time.
Do I need a background check to Volunteer at the school?
YES! We are extremely careful with who we allow to have access to our students.
How do I get a background check?
NORTH SALT LAKE: When you are ready to complete the check, you will come to the front office to pay. We then give you a paper to take to the Police Department, pay their fingerprinting fee, complete the scan and bring the paper back to the front office.
PLEASANT GROVE: Pick up a signed Request for Electronic Application background check and pay the processing fee at the school front office if applicable and receive further instructions.
How often do I need to complete my background check?
You only have to do this once for the duration of your student(s) time at Spectrum!
Do you offer a hot lunch option?
Yes. We are part of the National school lunch program and our hot lunch meals are prepared by Ascent Academy and brought here daily. The hot meals include access to the salad bar where students are encouraged to take as many fruits and vegetables as they wish. Because Ascent academy needs to know how many meals to send, you must order on line 5 days in advance. Many students have unique dietary needs and are better served by bringing lunch from home. At the intermediate and high school we provide two microwaves for student use, but those are very busy and have sometimes long lines. The elementary school does not have access to microwaves. To order go here: https://spectrumacademy.h1.hotlunchonline.net/
Do you offer before or after school childcare?
NORTH SALT LAKE: Spectrum Academy does not offer before or after school childcare. However, we do partner with a local daycare called Dream Catchers Academy for after school care. After school, we will transport them to Dreamcatchers for care until you can come pick them up. They have limited availability so contact them soon! http://www.dreamcatchersacademyutah.com/
PLEASANT GROVE: We do offer before and after school childcare. There is an initial deposit of $50.00 per family that you will need to pay when you complete the Panther Club policy and agreement. Students can be dropped off starting at 7:30am and ending at 5:30pm. The fee that you will be billed is $4.00 per hour (prorated) for the first child, $3.00 per hour for the second child, $2.00 per hour for each additional child. Students needing 1:1 will be billed at a rate of $11.00 an hour, 3:1 will be billed at a rate of $8.00 an hour. Statements are sent at the end of each month and must be paid by the 15th of the following month.
What if my child has unique medical needs?
We have nursing staff at each campus who will set up a healthcare plan, administer medications and work with you individually about your students’ needs.
I would like to further discuss the needs of my student.
Please email your questions to any of our office staff and/or administrators listed below.
North Salt Lake Elementary School Office (Grades K-3):
Email Amelia Thelin Phone 801-936-0318 Opt. 1
North Salt Lake STARS Office: Email Tracy Smith or call 801-936-0318 Opt. 4
Pleasant Grove STARS/Elementary/Middle School Office (Grades K-8):
Email Martha McIff Phone 801-785-9019 Opt 1.
Pleasant Grove High School Office (Grades 9-12):
Email Sarah Gilbertson Phone 801-785-9019 Opt. 2