We found it very hard to assess whether Orion Academy was right for our child, who also has a complicated profile. We enrolled one year, but it didn't work for us. I think that the school should have recognized this earlier, but I suspect they were willing to give it a try because they had many open slots that year. Before deciding to enroll, I talked to some parents. After our child started and we got to know them, these parents explained they were not comfortable being candid with us because it's hard to be anonymous in such a small school. However, they had wondered from the start whether our child would fit in based on what I had to say. From the first interview visit, our child consistently told us that it didn't feel right -- we should have paid more attention to that than to anything else, but we were desperate to try an option close to our home. Our eventual choice is no longer an option for high school. I wish you the best in finding a good placement for your son.
My stepson went to Orion and loved it there. It was easy for him to make friends there, and the teachers did a good job of keeping him focused on school, made sure homework got done, etc. Another option to consider might be Orinda Academy? They aren’t specifically focused on ASD kids, like the others, but they support kids with different learning styles and they are more college-prep focused than Orion.
When our son was diagnosed with ASD, we did an exhaustive search and found Orion Academy in Moraga was one of the few high schools specifically for college-bound students who have Asperger's or NLD. They provide an academically challenging curriculum that is structured, rich in its offering, and nurturing in developing personal growth, responsibility and independence. In the span of 18 months at Orion our son has seen remarkable progress, with a tight group of friends that he hangs out with on weekends as well as in school, a leader in clubs, on the honor roll and a clear plan for working on his specific challenges. The school's focus on "scaffolding" your child towards independence, while providing rigorous academics, makes it unique. Our son had attended a more general LD school in San Francisco -- they were well intentioned but didn't have the right expertise, it wasn't challenging enough and our son was bored. I mention this because schools have a tendency to position themselves as LD institutions when your child's specific challenge can make a significant difference on their ability to provide supports. Orion is not for everyone, but they are one of the best at supporting ASD/NLD students in an academically rigorous environment. Good luck with your search. You're welcome to contact me.
Archived Q&A and Reviews
Does anyone have any experience with Orion Academy?
Hello- Is there anyone out there who has experience with Orion Academy for my son who has Aspergers's with extreme anxiety and depression. I would like to get some feedback re: how well they work with the students, how well their teaching methods work and any other comments. Mom of Aspie
My stepson attended Orion for freshman through senior years. It was, at the time, the only option for him but we were excited by many aspects of the program and hopeful that we had found a great place for his high school years. Over time, however, it became clear that the director was focused on the success of students who arrived with a certain academic profile. In no way did we feel a commitment to our son or a willingness to accommodate his unique combination of strengths and weaknesses. We came to understand only after several years post-graduation, that he had been deeply traumatized by his experience there. If your child is ASD but has a high IQ, is destined for a 4-year university, and has impressive professional goals, Orion may be the right place. If not, I'd point myself in another direction. Best of luck, Anon
Yes, we have experience with Orion. My child is kind of sensitive about me posting personal stuff, but you can contact me by email.
My son attended for 3 years and graduated from Orion Academy. If you would like to talk, contact my email address.
Has your daughter visited either of the schools you're looking into? Our child's visit at Orion and the impressions shared with us told us a lot. I think that many students find a respite from teasing and bullying there and find it easier to make friends, but it's hard to say how an individual will fit in without trying it. The director's book will give you a good idea about the school's approaches and program. If you'd like to chat with us about our experience with Orion, you can contact me at yahoo.com. another parent
Does any one have any experience with, or information about, Orion Academy in Moraga? It is a very new private school for children with learning disabilities which we are considering for high school. They are having an open house this month which we will attend, but we are hoping for objective info since it is so new and very expensive. For other parents looking for alternatives, the open house is Oct. 17 from 6:00 to 8:00. Their phone number is 925 377-0789, and you need to RSVP by Oct. 12 for the open house.
I think you will find when you attend the openhouse this month that Orion is a school designed for a very specific kind of disability, namely those disorders which fall along the autistic scale and kids who have been diagnosed with NLD (non-verbal learning disorder). It is probably a great school and is a true godsend if it is what you need. For those of the rest of us with kids with your more dyslexia kind of stuff, there is not really much out there. We are always looking. It's kinda scary. We are at Raskob right now, we always have parents return to talk of their experiences at high school after Raskob (which goes through middle school). Some schools work out, some do not. Some work with the kids even though they have no one on staff who has the specific training, some boot the kids out after a couple of months because they (the schools) are college prep and don't consider these kids college material. It is far easier, we hear, to find a college for these kids than a high school in this area. This is still so unbelievable to me since there is such a need, and the numbers of kids who could benefit is astronomical.
Regarding Orion school. I have heard the director speak at a professional meeting for therapists in Alameda County. She struck me as professional, caring and realistic about the progress severely learning disabled children can accomplish. She was speaking regarding Asperger's disorder. Peggy '