Special Needs Schools

What Are Special Needs Schools?

Every child charts a unique educational path, but not every school can accommodate specialized needs. If your teenager is struggling to keep up with their peers, you’ve probably explored alternative options. Perhaps you’ve obtained an individual education plan or requested special needs support, but are still discouraged by continual setbacks and challenges.

When enrolled at a special needs school, students receive a high-quality education that meets state standards while accommodating their individual strengths, limitations, and learning styles. At special needs schools, teachers trained in special education collaborate with other experts—including speech pathologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and child psychologists—to give students the resources that they need to thrive.  

Smaller class sizes minimize sensory overload while ensuring that every child receives one-on-one attention from their teachers and therapists. At special needs schools, students:

  • Develop confidence through positive, healthy interactions with peers and adults
  • Build life skills, such as budgeting and fitness, that help thrive beyond the classroom
  • Discover the studying habits that work best for them
  • Find a strong support network that understands their struggles and celebrates their successes
  • Enjoy meaningful, personalized interactions with specialized educators and therapists

Even the curriculum in a special needs school is designed to remain academically challenging and interesting without leaving any students behind. This focused, supportive learning environment doesn’t just help students learn to read and write. It also teaches them to focus their attention in a productive way, interact appropriately with both peers and adults, and build lifelong confidence in their own potential.

Who do special needs schools help?

Wondering whether your student would benefit from a more customized educational plan and a more supportive learning environment? If they’re struggling to succeed in a traditional school setting, it might be time to explore educational programs like New Focus Academy. 

Special needs schools serve students with a variety of unique mental, behavioral, and emotional needs. Here are just a few of the populations with whom we routinely work:

  • Students with learning disabilities, such as dyslexia or nonverbal learning deficits, who struggle to keep pace with peers in a traditional classroom setting
  • Students with serious attention disorders, like ADD and ADHD
  • Students across the autism spectrum, whose special processing needs are often neglected in public schools
  • Students who have suffered brain damage, whether through prenatal substance exposure or traumatic injury, and have difficulty retaining
  • Students with social, emotional, or communication disorders that create barriers to healthy and meaningful interaction

Many of these students have been told—whether through the words of their peers or the actions of their teachers—that they are not intelligent or confident enough to succeed in school and in life. This simply isn’t true. With the right guidance and encouragement, every New Focus Academy student learns to maximize their strengths and conquer their challenges.

How does New Focus Academy help teens on the autism spectrum?

New Focus Academy is a state-of-the-art, residential special needs school designed specifically for students between the ages of 12 and 18. Located in beautiful Heber City, Utah—within reach of many world-class recreational and outdoor activities—our special needs school equips young men to live with autonomy, responsibility, and dignity.

Many of our students believe that their learning difficulties, developmental delays, or behavioral issues will prevent them from living a happy and healthy life. Constantly impeded by a fear of “failing” or “making mistakes,” they may quietly withdraw from social activities and academic pursuits. After one too many discouraging events or disparaging remarks, they may simply stop trying altogether. This is a sad waste of potential.

At New Focus Academy, our goal is for each student to foster an independent, confident mindset. We believe that every young adult, given the right support and resources, can thrive in the classroom, workplace, and beyond. Here are the five stages of our customizable, targeted treatment approach:


  • Awareness: Through interviews and assessments, we identify the unique limitations that keep each student from success.
  • Targeting: We invite the student to take part in their treatment by naming the challenges they most want to conquer.
  • Strategies: With the student and their family, we chart a treatment plan that accommodates his struggles while emphasizing his strengths.
  • Implementation: After learning new life skills and coping methods, we review progress frequently and adjust treatment plans when necessary.
  • Fluency: We know that a student is ready to leave our special needs school when he can adapt quickly to unexpected situations, make important life decisions, and choose healthy habits over damaging ones.  


One of the most important elements of our approach is the welcoming, supportive environment. The New Focus Academy treatment team cultivates an atmosphere of encouragement that honors respect, integrity, and personal responsibility.

Through personalized academic courses, intensive therapy sessions, exciting recreational activities, and social activities, our students improve a little each day. This dependable, visible progress is enormously beneficial to students who have

After each success, our students gain a bit more confidence and move a bit further toward self-sufficiency and self-reliance. Together, we work on building these small victories into lifelong motivation.

Treatment Programming at New Focus Academy

At New Focus Academy, educators and therapists work together to build a welcoming, supportive, and challenging environment for every student. Many of our students have failed to flourish in the “one size fits all” atmosphere of a traditional classroom, but our treatment team recognizes and celebrates every student’s individuality.  

Since each student responds differently to treatment, all successful special needs schools utilize a range of therapeutic interventions. Here are just a few of the methods New Focus Academy uses to reach out to our students:

  • Individual therapy sessions give students time with an experienced, trustworthy mentor who can help them evaluate their progress and discuss goals for the future.
  • Daily group therapy sessions, which occur every day, help students bond with peers through discussion, music, reflection, and life skills development.
  • Weekly recreational therapy might include activities like rock climbing or hiking, and gives students the chance to stretch their muscles and broaden their horizons while building healthy camaraderie with peers

Each student’s customized treatment plan is overseen by a knowledgeable, friendly coach with years of experience helping students succeed. Coaches get to know their students well, building rapport and establishing trust as the relationship develops, and offer a helpful hand or a friendly shoulder when the student needs one.

New Focus Academy tests a wide variety of evidence-based treatments to identify the combination that best suits each student. Through motivational interviewing and resiliency therapy, we teach residents to persevere through tough circumstances and find solutions to complex problems. Through sessions on self-efficacy and self-confidence, we encourage them to think boldly and creatively while taking pride in their achievements.

Helping Teens with Special Needs Build Life Skills

Classroom activities and therapy sessions are the first step toward an independent life, but true self-reliance comes from knowledge of basic life skills and responsibilities. At New Focus Academy, we build these invaluable lifelong habits through:

  • Dependable Scheduling: Routines and habits are powerful tools when used properly. We implement a stable, predictable schedule so students can prepare for each new day.
  • Household Chores: No one likes them, but everyone needs to lend a hand! Every New Focus Academy student takes responsibility for their own space and belongings.
  • Meal Preparation: Knowing how to safely prepare nutritious, delicious food is one of the first steps toward independence. All our students participate in planning, budgeting, cooking, and enjoying healthy meals together.
  • Physical Activity: Getting outdoors isn’t just a great way to challenge yourself and implement new life skills—it’s also the easiest way to stay fit and healthy! By exploring the beautiful Utah landscape, students build their muscles and expand their minds.
  • Social Support: Community involvement nourishes the soul and strengthens the spirit. Since many of our students have experienced the same challenges and setbacks, they can offer encouragement and advice.

These practical skills are crucial to staying healthy and building confidence. Even more important, however, are the strong values and convictions we encourage in every student. New Focus Academy residents learn to respect themselves and others, work through doubts and failures, take responsibility for their actions, and take the decent, honorable path at every opportunity.

Each student will need a wide and flexible variety of life skills to succeed at this point in their lives, but these values ground them in integrity and compassion for many years to come. If you’re interested in learning more, or think that New Focus Academy might be the right special needs school for your teenager, please contact us at 844-313-6749.