Our Program: Sheppard Pratt School in Cumberland
We take pride in connecting our students with everything that they need to thrive. With small class sizes, and a low student-to-staff ratio, personal attention and compassionate care are our top priorities.
Following the admissions process, we meet with each new student and their family to evaluate the student’s needs and review their Individualized Education Program (IEP) to determine the best placement for each student.
Our students are grouped according to age, social skills, behaviors, and ability, ensuring that they are working alongside peers in a supportive environment. We have two distinct programs, Cedar Court (for our students with emotional and behavioral disabilities) and Birch Court (for our students with autism spectrum disorder). While our programs are run separately, we are one school, and many of our facilities, team members, and services are shared.
Many students also have a behavioral plan, helping maintain a calm and safe environment for academic learning as well as for gaining independence and life skills. We meet our students at their level, ensuring that they are comfortable and can communicate appropriately so that learning comes more easily and effectively.
We prepare students for their futures, understanding that our students need more than what a traditional school can provide. We ensure that everything we do is educational, functional, and practical, preparing our students with the tools they will need to excel beyond the classroom.
Internships and Vocational Training
We partner with several local businesses to provide unpaid internships for our students. Each week, you can find our Birch Court students at local businesses learning valuable real-world job skills. Our students can be found in local restaurants, schools, hotels, retail stores, and more. The students take pride in their work, whether it be vacuuming or learning what it takes to make sure a restaurant is ready to open for the day, such as filling the sugar caddies or washing dishes. While our Cedar Court students focus on academic and behavioral goals throughout the year, during the summer months, these students have the opportunity to participate in internships through the Western Maryland Consortium.
Preparing for independence continues at school, where our students gain additional functional and transferable skills by working in the greenhouse, the fishery, or the classrooms. Our students are given jobs such as helping with the snack cart, recycling, or collecting lunch orders. Each job provides multiple opportunities for learning life skills and problem solving. We individualize these positions for the students based on their goals and needs. For example, a student that needs to work on social skills may collect lunch orders around the school, while a student working on more advanced vocational skills may work in our greenhouse watering plants and selling them to customers from the local community. These jobs and internships build confidence, language skills, and self-esteem, while also preparing our students for life after school.
Healthy Choices and Fitness
We care about the whole person and we want our students to be healthy, both physically and emotionally. As part of our program, our students learn to make healthy choices, both in terms of what they eat and how they live. Many of our internship sites require our students to wear uniforms, so our students learn to do their laundry. We also have a full-sized kitchen and pantry on campus, and our students take a culinary arts class, where they learn to prepare meals and make healthy food choices. Our students also tackle other daily chores and learn personal hygiene skills as they prepare for independence. In addition, we provide our students with opportunities to venture into the community to shop for healthy food options or pick appropriate choices off a restaurant menu, while simultaneously allowing our students to hone their communication, social, and coping skills.
We also focus on fitness and motor skills: we have a gymnasium and both programs have fully-equipped sensory rooms. When appropriate, our students also receive occupational therapy and speech therapy as set forth in their IEPs. Our students love to be active, and regularly engage with our physical education teacher, occupational therapists, and each other, whether it be inside or, as the weather permits, outdoors on the playground or on our athletic fields.
Interactive Learning and Events
We create a warm and welcoming atmosphere at The Sheppard Pratt School in Cumberland, and that is evident in everything we do. Our curriculum is hands-on and practical, and often involves crafts, manipulatives, and technology. Every classroom is equipped with an interactive whiteboard, allowing our teachers and aides to access supplemental learning materials, videos, and the Internet. Every Cedar Court student has an iPad to help them access the curriculum, and many of our Birch Court students also use personal devices to help them communicate with each other and staff. To help encourage social skills as well as a sense of community, we host events throughout the year, including our Spring Fling, holiday parties, Autism Bake Sale, and our carnival. These activities are enjoyed by both students and staff, and we encourage families to participate as well.