Cajal Academy welcomes bright and gifted children—both those with disabilities and those without—to learn together in a single, inclusive community with both an intellectually challenging curriculum and the therapeutic services that twice exceptional students need to unlock their gifts. Cajal Academy is founded on a number of core beliefs:
That children need challenge, opportunity and community with their peers to develop their gifts;
That education should be as individualized as the learners we seek to educate;
That scientific advances in understanding the brain, the body and how they intersect should be the basis of educational programming;
That children build resilience for their own challenges and compassion for those of others when they understand the science behind the human experience;
That children can be empowered to take agency over their own learning, social and emotional outcomes, through personalized strategies they can use to self-monitor, self-regulate and self-advocate;
That diversity is a critical component of the educational experience, and extends well beyond racial, economic and religious diversity to include differences in how we are neurologically “wired”; and
That no child should have to choose between learning with their peers and having their learning needs met.
We are redesigning education and the classroom experience from the ground up based on these principles. We are building in the expertise and tiered levels of support that are required to support some of our community’s least-served learners, including twice exceptional and gifted learners, neuro-diverse children, “sensory kids” and those having chronic medical conditions. To facilitate this, we are building a coalition of scientific and educational leaders and practitioners to bring together neuropsychological, neurophysiological and educational research in a way that has not been done before.
Cajal Academy is proud to be a member of Workspace Education’s Microschool Incubator and intend to seek accreditation for our program. We launched a small pilot program in spring 2019 at Workspace Education’s facility in Bethel, CT and will evaluate opportunities to relocate our program in lower Fairfield County as we grow.
Meet the people behind Cajal Academy
Cajal Academy was born out of one mom’s struggle to find a school where both the learning and physiological needs of her twice exceptional kids could be met. Over a number of years, she had watched her children transform through their work with occupational therapist Heather Edwards and her commitment for sharing with kids the science behind their challenges, along with practical tools they can use to monitor, manage and advocate for their needs. With the help of medical experts and internationally-renowned neuropsychologist Dr. Stephen Mattis, PhD, the two came to a deeper view of the complex inter-relationships between the basic neurology and immunology of the human body and the mind’s availability to learn, to recall, to calculate and to self-regulate—and thus the power of integrating these insights into the classroom.
Yet there was no school bringing this science to bear, so Cheryl, a social entrepreneur and former litigator, set out to build one.
Starting with a small pilot program for Cheryl’s highly-complex, twice exceptional younger child, they developed a systematic and data-driven approach to understanding the myriad, inter-related connections that inform a child’s life-lived and academic experiences, and a skill-by-skill approach to differentiate instruction so that new content is delivered through each child’s strongest learning mode, while therapeutic services and games are employed to improve on their weaknesses. In just a short time, the results were nothing short of transformative as he began to experience his own significant gifts and his perspective shifted from “what’s wrong with me” to “it’s just science.” Reading scores soared from a year below grade level to several years above. Math shifted from an unsurmountable obstacle to the realization that his language center simply couldn’t keep up with the speed of his math intuition. And focused work times shifted from twenty minute sessions to an hour and forty.
Seeing his success, Cheryl became determined to create a platform on which the benefits of this integrated, neuropsychological and neurophsyiological approach could be implemented directly into the classroom to empower all children, regardless of disability. Beginning in fall, 2019 this program will be expanded to a cohort of up to 12 children, with the hopes of eventually growing to a student population of approximately one hundred K-12 students.
Find out more about the people behind our program: