Orinda Academy or Bentley for teen with ADHD

We are considering both Orinda Academy and Bentley for our son. He is very intelligent, sweet, and a super hard-worker. He has ADHD and this makes homework take twice as long as it would for the average kid. He also struggles with his organizational skills and executive functioning skills. He does well academically in a middle school with very little homework, but we are concerned about the increased demands/complexity of high school.

OA seems like it would be great for him, wondering if it would be academically challenging enough? It seems like the students are doing their individual work, not sure if that means they might not be challenged enough by the teachers or fellow students?

Bentley seems to also offer the small class sizes and academic challenge, but I’m wondering how much they can accommodate learning differences and ADHD and whether they work explicitly on organizational skills and executive functioning.

Also wondering about whether drugs/delinquency a problem at either school? How is the social scene?

Any advice appreciated !

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My son sounds very much like your son;  very intelligient, sweet and a super hard worker.  Now an 11th grader, he thrives at Sterne School in San Francisco.  Any inconvenience due to the school being in San Francisco is worth the effort to get there.  Concerns regarding academic challenge will be taken care of with the tailored curriculum.  They provide opportunities for the kids to perform community service which helps on the college applications.  They also look out for his non-academic future with the Bridges program. That program worked with my son to land a job at the Exploratorium.  His counselor is always available if any issues come up.  He is earning his own money and is so fun to watch as he matures before my eyes.  So my advice is to check out Sterne School.

I have a son attending Orinda Academy who is now a junior. We've been there since middle school and he has thrived in every way. Orinda Academy is a great school for learning difference kids as they are not the "different" kids, they just learn differently. One of the things I love about the school is that it meets the student where they are academically and challenges them at their level. For example the math classes have multiple grades of students, depending on their skill level and need to be challenged. Orinda Academy challenges the students academically, while supporting them to be successful with that challenge. 

For ninth graders, there is a study skills class which is a great tool for helping kids with executive functioning struggles. They also have open periods to work on homework at school with teacher support. Orinda Academy has strict policies about behavior/drugs/alcohol. The kids there are warm and welcoming to new students and they embrace friendships between grade levels.

You can tell we've had a great experience here! I'm happy to email or chat with you about our experiences here. Just pm me!


Hi there.  Our son began Orinda Academy in the 8th grade, and is currently in the 9th grade.  Like your son, he is intelligent and has always been academically successful.  He also has had executive functioning challenges, slightly different than you describe, but for certain projects he really needs a lot of help from us or his teachers to "scaffold" the assignment, or to reassure him that he's completing an open-ended challenge in the "right" way.  Orinda Academy gets an A+ for accommodation. The school recognizes (actually, not just in their marketing materials) that different kids learn in different ways, and that teachers need to provide different learning activities or timelines for each kid.  The school uses technology a great deal, so it is always easy for kids and parents to find out what the assignments are, when they are due, and how the student is progressing.  It is also very easy to reach and communicate with the teachers and the administration.  The class sizes are indeed small, and although we wish for a slightly larger group, there are definite benefits to the amount of flexibility and individual attention that the teachers can give each child.  The school offers a class on study skills which all 9th graders take.  The students are generally warm and inclusive, and in our experience there is no problem at the school with drugs or delinquency.  Our son may "max out" in certain subject areas before he reaches 12th grade, but we anticipate that the school will once again be flexible and accommodating in meeting his needs, though we have not yet worked out the details of this.  A useful bit of advice I got long ago: Visit both schools and look for a kid who resembles the profile of your kid.  How do the kids and teachers respond to that kid?  Is s/he thriving?  You will know intuitively whether your kid can find "his people" at that school. 

Our daughter graduated from Orinda Academy in 2012, and four years later has her Psychology degree and continuing in the healthcare field.  She's dyslexic and has always had to work so hard to succeed, but has.  No place is perfect for our kids with learning differences but we liked Orinda Academy and are glad we made that choice.  There was a mix of teachers but most are terrific, willing to challenge each student to a higher level and work with each student and family 1/1 where needed.  Roger made a big difference when he came to the school.  

I can’t really speak to how your son might do at Bentley, but my daughter attends Orinda Academy (OA), and she has some of the same issues as your son (hard-working and very bright but struggles with executive functioning and organizing). She’s been very happy there and is currently a senior, waiting to hear back from colleges.

We considered several other schools in the area similar to Bentley in some ways, as well as our local public school (too chaotic, a lot of pressure to smoke pot at school). Ultimately, we decided that even though our daughter could handle the rigors of other private schools in the area in terms of “smarts,” we wanted her to have both a college prep education and a real life in high school. We were concerned that she’d be up until 12am (and later) week nights doing homework—something we’d witnessed in friends’ children who, like my daughter, are highly motivated but who process content at a different pace. I’m a teacher, and I know that sometimes schools develop a culture around competitiveness even when the school itself is trying to encourage a healthy balance, and Bay Area private schools are no exception. This doesn’t seem to be the case at OA: I see my daughter work hard, but there also seems to be a general sense of camaraderie in her class. She is able to complete a reasonable amount of homework in the supervised study hall—though of course she does bring some work home, and she often stays an extra period at the end of the day to work individually or with friends. Long-term projects have seemed both challenging and designed to teach students how to break work down into doable steps, which is really, really important for our daughter given her issues with executive functioning. As she’s matured and had the opportunity to tackle multi-step academic processes without getting stressed out, I’ve seen her confidence build and she’s got a kind of “I can do this” attitude that’s extending beyond school (phew!)

Our daughter seems appropriately challenged at Orinda Academy but still has time to spend with the rest of the family, with friends on weekends and to pursue her true passion, music. She has made good friends at school and just completed the college application process without going nuts, thanks to a really good college counselor at OA (who kept in touch with us behind the scenes so we wouldn’t go nuts!) Drugs and delinquency have not been a problem at OA that we’re aware of. It’s a small, caring community and the administration and teachers seem to be very on top of things.

This balanced experience is exactly what we wanted for our daughter’s high school years: and when she considered attending a somewhat larger school where academic competition was more a part of the school culture, the decision was a pretty easy one for her. She knew that she didn’t want to push so hard in high school that she’d already be burned out by the time she got to college--and with her learning differences, that would have been a real possibility.

Best of luck to you in whatever you decide…