Which High School for Learning Differences & Special Ed?

Parent Q&A

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  • Mild intellectual disability

    (2 replies)

    My 13 year old was diagnosed with mild intellectual disability. Does anyone know if Lindamood Bell program could be helpful. I am also looking for any private school recommendations in the area. Thanks 

    It completely depends on what the actual diagnosis is. FWIW in the community we generally use the term 'neurodiverse' as opposed to 'intellectual disability,' which is pretty outdated (and potentially derogatory). Our student is ND and has multiple discrete diagnoses, among them dyslexia and dyscalculia. In our case, Lindamood Bell was a waste of time and (much) money - but others here have found it helpful for their kids, again it all depends on the specifics of the diagnosis. If you had the school district run the testing on your child and this label was the result, I would highly recommend an outside evaluation with a competent educational psychologist to decipher exactly what areas are in need of remediation. It may be that an educational therapist can help within the regular school setting. There are several recent recommendations in the archives for schools that support neurodiverse students. Good luck!

    Thank you for your feedback. Much appreciated. The diagnosis/term is based on independent testing. The school testing had it as ‘other health impairment’. 

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  • High school suggestions for an unusual kid

    (15 replies)

    We’re considering a move to the Bay Area for a new job opportunity. Our 14 year old daughter has been assessed by a psychologist and is considered highly gifted, struggles with slow processing speed, anxiety and some depression. She’s also extremely shy and has difficulty making friends.  She does very well academically, but cannot find similar peers and consequently hates school (ugh). She’s a bit eccentric, quirky, not mainstream in her hobbies or tastes, which makes finding friends even harder. She’s also very artistic and loves making elaborate costumes, crafts and working with her hands. Any suggestions for a smaller, private high school that might be a good fit? Of course we’re aware she may not gain entry into a particular school but we’re just starting our investigation. Many thanks all! 

    Although I do not have firsthand experience at either school, sounds like you might want to look into Maybeck and also Oakland School for the Arts in the production track?

    The Bay Area is quite large, with 9 counties, so if you can be a little more specific on location, you might get better answers. That said, Maybeck in Berkeley might be a good fit. https://www.maybeckhs.org/

    I know brilliant quirky kids who have thrived at Maybeck (private school in Berkeley), Oakland School for the Arts (charter school in Oakland), and Berkeley High School.

    I agree with post re: Maybeck and Oakland School for the Arts! I have had one kid at OSA and one currently at Maybeck. Both schools=fantastic. OSA is full of quirky kids, most with some sort of having a different brain. My daughter excelled there and due to her LD can barely read. OSA has great support and help. Maybeck is small, also has quirky but somewhat more like a traditional school. Both extremely okay with "different." Good luck.

    I highly recommend Bayhill High School in Berkeley. Our daughter is a first-year, and it has been transformative for her, both academically and socially. The school is dedicated to students with a range of learning differences; teachers are not only well trained in teaching and inspiring such students, blending a strong sense of accountability and respect with appropriate support, but they also tend to stay on at the school for a very long time. There is very little turnover, even nowadays, and this is huge. Kudos go to Donna Austin, the head of the school, who really really gets these kids. You should know that the school is tiny (80+ students, total, at the moment), with a large percentage of commuters (because it is so special). This has advantages and disadvantages, but for us it is great so far.

    This sounds like it could have been written by me back when my daughter was in high school.  After my daughter who meets this description almost to the T tried a few other school environments, she finally landed at Holden High School and it fit her like a glove. 

    Try Holden High in Orinda.  It's small, and very artsy and flexible.  

    Try Holden High in Orinda.  It's small, artsy and flexible, and can support learning differences.  My kid is dyslexic and also 2E and he loved it.  We left the area, but we know kids who went there who were dyslexic, had anxiety, OCD, and ADHD.  It's also near the Orinca BART, so easy to get to by public transport. 

    I second the suggestion of Oakland School for the Arts. For some artistic and quirky kids, it is a godsend. My attended daughter many years ago and I know admissions have changed since then (it used to be by audition, but now I think it is an application? Not sure), so you would need to look into that. It also used to be harder to start in high school, rather than middle school, since fewer openings were available, but not sure now. These are things you would need to look into. 

    You might want to check out Maybeck HS (https://www.maybeckhs.org/) - they seem to specialize in embracing quirky kids.

    Maybeck would be worth checking out. Also Drew School in San Francisco.

    Good Luck!

    I'm a Head of a K-8 Independent School in the East Bay and have toured a number of high schools so I'm well informed about the landscape. I also have two kids (now adults) who attended high schools in the East Bay. Without knowing your daughter, it's hard to really know where she would do best, but I recommend checking out Bay Hill, Orinda Academy, Holden High School, Maybeck, Tilden Prep, and Fusion Academy.

    Your child sounds a lot like mine. We're exploring high school options right now and leaning toward Holden High School in Orinda. If a more demanding academic program works for your kid, you'll have more options, like Maybeck. If you end up moving to the area and would like to connect, please get in touch!

    My son, who struggles with OCD, ADHD and slow processing speed, has had a great experience at Tilden Prep in Albany, Classes are all one-on-one, so essentially private tutoring, but in a really nice community academic environment on Solano Avenue. Even though kids aren't in class together, there are lunchtime clubs, potlucks, field trips, and group art classes, so he's developed friendships and a really nice sense of community at the school. The extremely friendly staff has been happy to assist where he needs support around time and task completion, and his teachers are wonderful. Definitely worth checking out for your daughter. Good luck!

    Thank you all for your wonderful ideas. Much appreciated.

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  • We’re looking at these high schools for next year:

    Sterne, Maybeck, Drew, Bay School, maybe Orinda Academy. Possibly St Mary’s. 

    I have an academically capable child who wants strong arts and is diagnosed with ADHD, anxiety and possibly some OCD. Gender expansiveness / Q+ / non-binary / trans is also in the picture. 

    I’d love to hear from families, current students & recent graduates— I’m interested in what worked and what didn’t, and how the schools handled both. 

    What’s the drug use like at any of these schools, for real?

    Anyone have experience with accommodations?

    How did administration at any of these schools respond during a problem?

    Thanks for all feedback.

    Maybeck was a fabulous school for my transgender kiddo with ADHD and anxiety. Caring and interesting teachers, quirky and kind other students, smaller class sizes and interesting classes academically.  They also have a learning specialist who gives students a hand as well as a loving therapist.  However, there was alot of drug use among the kids - Not sure if this is more than other high schools but was a concern.   They hired a new head of school this year so we don't know the new leadership. The relatively new Dean is wonderful and very kind, engaged. 

    My child attended Maybeck all four years and is in college now. I have zero complaints. Overall it was the perfect fit. She is transgender but transitioned after high school. She also is neuro-diverse and 2E. Maybeck was very accommodating to her needs and allowed her extra time on tests. There are many gender-expansive, gender-fluid, transgender, and other LQBTQ kids at the school. It always felt like a comfortable place for kids who were a little different from "societal norms." She is curious and academically motivated. The teachers really try to understand each kid's unique characteristics. It's a small school, and I don't know much about the current art program. My kid did extra-curricular stuff outside of school. There was some drug use, which we were able to nip in the bud when we realized what was happening; like at most high schools, I think it really depends on who your kid decides to hang out with. Good luck!

    My gay kid with ADHD and anxiety who was always academically capable but struggled in the classroom and socially has absolutely thrived at Drew.  Cannot say enough good things about the teachers and their approach, where they see and encourage my kid's strengths.  Teachers have been encouraging about trying new things and it has been transformative.  My kid has accommodations (time, computer use) and it works fine.  While I think the academic expectations are high, it is not the pressure cooker some of the other schools are.  My kid says that the prescription/stimulent drug use is much less than at other schools (though maybe not the vaping/gummies which seems to be prevalent everywhere).  Also, lots of gender expansive, fluid and LGBTQ+ kids and support from the administration, teachers and other kids.  The arts program is very strong/supported, both performing and visual (on visual, that's what I hear from others and see from the art shows).  We really love the school. 

  • School for bright 13YO with severe anxiety

    (3 replies)


    I have a 13 years old, and still going through an IEP, for severe anxiety, he has a 3.8 GPA and very smart, currently was suggested to have an online school but I feel he is missing on being with kids same age, he is an awesome bass guitar player, do you know of any school that  has music or a program to accommodate him?

    Try Bentley school in lafayette. They have great personalized approach to learning and have  nuerodiversity club. They also have an amazing jazz band/music program and small class size-- at around 60-80 kids per grade in HS.

    If the tuition is a factor definitely apply for their financial aid. Theres no harm in submitting and yoh may be surprised what you may qualify for.

    Not sure if you are talking about high school- but if you are- Marin School if the Arts is a public school- kids from east bay commute there via carpool.  Tours for next year are happening now- thry have a rock band etc… lots of opportunities snd a warm community.  Good luck!  

    Thank you so much!💕

  • We are seeking a school where our child can thrive with dyslexia and also have stable friendships. Our child is very social. We are seeking other Oakland based parents who may commute and carpool with other families as it seems that both Charles Armstrong and Northbridge are quite a commute. If other Oakland families are also attending a school locally we would be interested in hearing more about your child's experience. Lindamood Bell is the only option that we can see in Oakland/Berkeley which is located in an office building We are seeking a school that also has outdoor space for movement with a larger school size.

    We were at Raskob in 2021 but left when it was apparent that the school was going to close. Many of the parents I know from the school are doing a variety of options. I actually haven't heard of any parents doing Charles Armstrong or Northbridge. A few are at small schools in Concord/Walnut Creek that specialize in dyslexia. Others are trying to make local private schools work (TBS, Aurora). I heard of one family sending their daughter to Sterne in SF. We are actually looking into that school for our son next year. The commute from Oakland to SF feels more sustainable and according to the school, many families from Oakland/East Bay area carpool. It's a well-established school that goes up to 12th grade. There is also a mom from Raskob that is planning to open her own school for kids with dyslexia in the Orinda/Moraga area. Message me if you want more info. Good luck with your search!

    Hope Academy in Concord.    There's also Star Academy in Hayward.   It's an NPS, so district might pay for it.  

    I forgot to add Sterne School in SF and Charles Armstrong in Belmont, although the commute would be a beast.  Having said that, when my kids were at Raskob we had kids coming from Livermore, Discovery Bay, Pittsburg, and Clayton.  One kid came in their own school bus from SF.

  • We have a 14-year-old freshman at BHS and it is becoming markedly clear already that BHS is just going to be too much (or not enough, in some respects) for him. We've had another child go through BHS, so we know the deal. 

    Our child has dealt with severe anxiety/depression throughout the pandemic, which has gotten much better but he still struggles a lot with anxiety at school. Remote learning was a sum-zero situation for him. Just didn't work; he doesn't learn via Zoom. He struggles with ADHD—executive function and auditory processing are especially challenging for him and he is already failing most of his classes at BHS. He does not have any behavior problems at school.

    Until distance learning started in middle of 7th grade, he was an A and B student. In elementary school he was always really good at math and a passionate reader. Writing has always been a bit challenging for him. He's a very social kid when he feels comfortable; he really wants to be around his peers as much as possible.

    We are looking at both Bayhill and Orinda Academy in search of a smaller, calmer, more supportive learning environment where he can get a bit more individualized attention and some help with executive function. We'd love to hear from parents who considered both of these schools, or are at one or the other and can speak to how it is serving their child's needs.

    Though I have little experience with Bayhill or Orinda Academy, I highly recommend Holden High. It is small, extremely supportive and many kids are like yours. My child is really beginning to thrive, is highly engaged in her classes and has found kind, supportive friends and teachers

    Our son is quite similar to your son from the description you wrote. We considered Bayhill and Orinda Academy last year for his first year of High School to start this year. I will start by saying that regardless of what my husband and I thought about either school, our son did not have buy-in, so neither school ended up anywhere past the online introductions or Zoom welcome for parents considering the school. He ended up at Oakland Tech (he had imagined going there since he was young) and we are working with his teachers for his IEP accommodations. It's far from perfect, but we are muddling through.

    Both schools seemed to be quite on-point about bringing students through their programs with lots of teacher-led support and allowing students to work at their own pace. Both schools differ in class size and programs that occur outside the classroom. Both had administrative staff that were engaged and friendly. We liked the arts programs and teachers we saw online for both. Orinda appeared to have a robust social interaction model. We dealt with Bayhill more and saw the campus in-person in Jan of 2020, and felt that they would be a good fit for our son. We did not have a chance to visit Orinda Academy in person but I sense they had more outdoor spaces.

    I really think it will come down to his interest, which school environment he thinks might feel more comfortable to him, how much stress or anxiety he will experience if he has a long commute, if he feels curious or drawn to either, etc. 

    Hope that helps. Good luck with the search.

    My son has started his third year at Orinda Academy. He is thriving there. The teachers and administrators are skillful and supportive, the environment is calm, and small classes mean individualized attention. The curriculum is the same standard curriculum as BHS and they have honors classes for kids who need more of a challenge.  There is none of the hallway chaos that caused so much hyped up behavior and anxiety at larger schools. I highly recommend OA. It saved our kid. 

    My daughter attended Orinda Academy and loved it! She struggled with anxiety, like your son, but immediately felt comfortable at OA and looked forward to going to school each morning. The classes at OA are small and they teachers do a good job of tailoring their classes to the abilities of each kid. My daughter was well-prepared for college (and just graduated.) The only downside of the school that I saw was the size - there aren’t many clubs or sports to choose from - and the boys outnumbered the girls significantly.

  • High School for daughter with depression

    (12 replies)

    My daughter is dealing with depression and has survived a suicide attempt. She went back to high school, 10th grade, but sadly is now dealing with memories of being molested by a middle school teacher. She also has ADHD. She is bright but is having problems with motivation and is not keeping up. The pandemic has not helped. She is on meds, doing therapy and it seems that her high school is becoming part of the problem. I have heard of Orinda Academy  and Bayhill High School but the posts  are a few years old and seem to reference boys. Does anyone have experience with these schools and girls? Are there other schools, other suggestions. She has had the most painful and  difficult year of her life and we need to find a safe supportive school for her. Help!!!!

    Could look into Holden High in Orinda.  My friend's son with ADHD, anxiety, and depression went there and had a good experience, graduating a few years ago.  I went to see him once, because we were meeting for coffee at a local cafe (and he got the time wrong), and there was a kid outside playing the guitar and helpful kids inside.  At the time they opened a few hours early and the students could hang out in the lounge.  

    Other suggestions: Some kind of exercise she enjoys.  tennis, running, bicycling, hiking. .Even following an exercise or dance routine on a screen is better than sitting around all day, but getting out in green spaces can also be very helpful. Also, meditation, guided or not. Start yourself, and ask her to join, so it is less pressure. 

    Hi, really sorry your daughter (and you) are going through this. One of my closest friends enrolled her daughter in Holden, and she has found it a really supportive environment her teen who has a range of mental health and academic challenges.

    Mentoring academy is very one-on-one and supportive, my son was very drawn to that community and a friend of ours has a daughter who goes there.  Maybe it will click for her?  I hope she feels better soon!

    Also, I second the suggestion of group activities, exercise.  There are great online communities, e.g. I go to  makingwavesstudio.com (a zumba class that moved to online, lots of love and encouragement, if she likes to dance!).

    My daughter has struggled trauma and depression and is right now at a Residential Treatment Program. It’s a very hard decision to come to but we had to make sure she was safe. I do know a lot of kids who return from RTC go to Orinda Academy with good results. We looked seriously into Bayhill and it’s a great school but at the time did not resonate with our daughter. The admit process requires kids to do visits, interviews and shadowing so they have to be motivated. Good luck. It’s a hard road and I hope you find a good placement for her. 

    My daughter went to Orinda Academy and loved it - she looked forward to going to school everyday, which was a great relief for our family. The teachers are very warm and supportive towards the kids.  The academics were good - very individualized to each student and my daughter was well-prepared for college. The downside was the small size of the school - and the population of girl students was even smaller.  

    My son, who is dyslexic, was absolutely MISERABLE in school for years- until we discovered Bayhill High School in Berkeley.  He started in 10th grade and is now in 12th.  It literally brings tears to my eyes to think about how much happier he has been since we made the switch- after years of suffering, we’ve finally found the right school for him.  Class size is very small- most have about 6 to 8 students- I think his biggest class ever had about 10 or 12.  The school is really great at giving the students enough support for them to be successful.  My son also told me that, unlike other schools he has attended, there are no mean kids at Bayhill.  That’s been his experience anyway.  They shifted relatively seamlessly to distance learning last March, and although my son does not like distance learning, he’s still managing to do ok.  There are definitely fewer girls than boys at the school, and since I don’t have a girl I can’t comment on what the experience is like for girls there, but if you contact the school they may be able to put you in touch with some parents of girls who can share their experience.  We also visited Orinda Academy and that seemed like a good option too.  Best of luck to you in finding a good match for your daughter!

    Our daughter had success at Tilden Prep, in a similar situation. It’s one-on-one instruction, conducted at the student’s own pace. My daughter missed an entire semester of school due to depression and she was able to get caught up at Tilden. You are welcome to contact me for more info. 

    My daughter who had struggled somewhat with Executive Function issues as well as dyslexia and depression attended Orinda Academy for her senior year and graduated in 2018. She felt like the community was really supportive and the faculty was a good combination of understanding and motivating. One positive sign for us was that she often brought up what they were discussing in classes or projects they were working on. She wanted to have a  "regular" high school experience (pre-COVID) without intense and unmanageable pressure. While she didn't really need the extra support the school provides in terms of tracking missing assignments, we were reassured to know that it was there in case things went awry. Our daughter also benefitted from the presence of  a Coyote Coast onsite counselor that she could check in with if she was having a hard day as well as Mollie Mowatt, then Dean of Students--who had a really great manner and was a good problem-solver. We drove my daughter to school from Berkeley initially, and then she started taking BART--and would walk to school with other students and get picked up by the school commuter van. I breathed a sigh of relief knowing she was in good hands all day. 

    I second the suggestion for Holden High. My teen went there all 4 years of high school, graduating last spring. You won't find a more responsive and supportive place for a teen struggling with the issues you describe. If you contact them, they can put you in touch with a current or recent parent who can talk to you about your specific situation. Good luck to you and your daughter! 

    Please check out Holden High in Orinda. My teen with mental health challenges, after trying several other high school environments,has thrived there.  My teen feels supported there and valued. The distance learning curriculum at Holden has been great as well and includes weekly therapy, ongoing support from an academic advisor and community meetings. The school even offers family therapy and parents support groups, all included in the curriculum. Holden has been a lifesaver for our family. 

    Sorry to hear your daughter is having such a tough time! My daughter is in 10th grade and has severe depression (and some childhood PTSD) and after trying quite a few different therapies, a therapist I trust mentioned DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy) which seems to address the exact issues she has with herself. (helpful rundown here: https://www.centerforebt.com/dbt-video-esme-shaller-phd/

    She's going to be starting a residential program at Newport Academy in San Rafael that provides DBT and ACT (to help her buy in to the idea that things can be better - she couldn't bring herself to honestly participate in the therapy at home, but is actually cautiously excited to start there). I stumbled across a lot of the info, so happy to share if your daughter seems to have similar struggles.

  • Parents: we're Berkeley parents of an 8th grade kid who we just learned is both gifted and has lots of learning differences (twice exceptional is the term). Berkeley High now seems like it might be a battle, if not a disaster (please tell me if you have an opinion on this). Private school is not in the budget but we'd consider anything, even moving for four years, if there's a bay area (or slightly beyond) school that can both inspire my kid to explore her natural gifts (mostly creative) and support her in her challenges with math and reading, etc. I thank you in advance for any recommendations for public or private or parochial options that have worked for your 2e kid, or your kid with learning differences.

    Berkeley Independent Study might be a good option for your kid, especially during this time of remote learning. My non-2E kid went there several years ago and thrived. BIS is already set up for individualized instruction, and they know what they are doing. If your kid wants some classroom experience, after the pandemic is over, she can take one or two classes at the regular Berkeley High school and still be enrolled at BIS. My 2E kid went to Maybeck, which offers a rich program for kids that learn differently. 2E kids vary quite a bit. It seems that many are self learners and just want the freedom to explore areas that interest them. BIS could provide enough structure and flexibility for this. Good luck! I know it’s a long road.


    Check out Millennium High School in Piedmont.  I have heard good things about the program.


    Our daughter is 2E, having a high IQ combined with ADHD, slow processing speed, and specific learning deficits in some areas, especially math and spelling.  We knew she had ADHD by 2nd grade, but didn't understand the extent of her intelligence and deficits until several years later. She was in a private school through 8th grade and now attends Berkeley High, where she has a 504 plan.

    Private schools are not required to deal with learning problems.  Most will do what they can, but since they are typically small and operate on a shoestring, their options are limited.  Our daughter's private school gave her the informal equivalent of a 504 and some additional help.  We were OK with what we received, but some other parents of kids with ADHD were deeply dissatisfied.

    The teachers our kid had at Berkeley High in 9th grade were uniformly excellent, and she loved them.  In our short experience we have found BHS teachers on average to be as good as the best we encountered in private school. What gave our some difficulty was the sheer size and hubbub of BHS, because she's not very good at screening out noise and stimulation.

    On the advice of the people who did her private, pre-BHS neuropsych assessment, we sought an IEP.  BHS denied this because, even though in some areas our kid is at least two years behind what her IQ should allow her to achieve, she's not behind her average peers.  Special ed at Berkeley High, moreover, deals with unilaterally and often profoundly disabled kids.  While there are enough 2E kids at Berkeley High that they should be able to give them targeted support, given budget constraints this isn't happening.  So far we are OK with her 504.

    Regarding the choice between private and public schools: in general neither one is really set up well for 2E kids, and that's sad given the potentially unrealized potential of these kids.  A private school may be more likely to listen to your concerns but won't be compelled to deal with them.  There are a few private high schools out there for 2E kids but I suspect they're very expensive.  Some friends of ours have found that Bishop O'Dowd High School has been quite supportive of their kids with ADHD.  O'Dowd is a large parochial school and charges (I think) around 2/3 the cost of most local private high schools.  For any private school, make sure you know what they can really do for your child before you hand over the money.

    Finally, if your kid attends public school, you can put some of that private-school tuition money into targeted tutoring for your child.  That's the choice we made.

  • Hello,

    Im moving to the Bay Area soon with my 15 year old son who had PANDAS several years ago and suffers from some lingering anxiety. If anyone has any info on high schools (public or private) that has a comprehensive plan for kids when they have panic attacks, or experience general anxiety, I would appreciate the help. He’s very bright but because he had to be home schooled for a few years due to getting treatment, he might have some trouble with huge work loads. Looking for a smaller school where the faculty and student body are supportive. Thank you so much! Take good care everyone!

    I would suggest the Summit public charter schools. A lot of the school is reverse classroom format so be sure it is a good fit first. However they have mentor groups and you stay with your group for all four years so the other students really get to know you. The school is small 100 per grade and so there is already a teacher you can go to. 


    I would highly recommend Bayhill High School in Berkeley. They are a NPS.

    Best wishes.

    Take a look at Maybeck in Berkeley. It is small, supportive, joyful, and calm, with great teachers and administrators -- they can adeptly provide accommodations and adjustments without hassle or headaches. My son just finished 9th grade year there -- it was a wonderful experience. And, they transitioned to online teaching very smoothly in March. My son continued to have interesting assignments, classroom discussions, check-ins with teachers, contact groups, and all-school events from home. I feel very lucky that he had such a great year. 

    You might also look at Orinda Academy. I don't have any personal experience with it, but have heard good things. 

    Good luck with your move and welcome (in advance) to the Bay Area!  

    I know one teen with anxiety and panic attacks who had a good experience at Orinda Academy. 

    It sounds like you are looking for a school like Holden High School in Orinda. It is super small (40 students total) and very supportive. Check them out at holdenhigh.org. 


    You might want to check out Orinda Academy.  It's a small private school in Orinda, and they have wonderful support for kids with anxiety. They have two counselors that are there to support the students, as well as an amazing head of school, Sue Porter, who is a psychologist as well, and has a wonderful rapport with all of the students. The teachers are so dedicated to the students, and because the class sizes are so small, they really know each student very well. The classes are academically rigorous and at times, challenging, but the teachers are very understanding and are willing to adapt or modify if there are difficulties with completing an assignment, or meeting a deadline, due to learning differences or emotional issues.  My son struggles with anxiety, and it's been a very supportive atmosphere for him.  Please feel free to contact me, and I'd happy to chat.  Take care and good luck with your search!

    You didn't mention if your child is in a social group, getting social group therapy and/or individual therapy, but you may want to check out Sue Diamond.  Since your child has been homeschooled, your son may benefit by social group therapy.  Sue is an amazing professional and has been conducting groups via zoom during the pandemic. 

    Additionally, have you checked SOS for students in Montclair?  Beth Samuelson runs a fantastic program to help with executive functioning and balancing workloads. 

    We could not have done it without Sue and Beth! 

     Good Luck!!

    You should check out Bayhill High School in Berkeley. They specialize in helping kids who need extra support. It's a very small high school with a college prep curriculum. My son graduated 2 years ago and had a good experience for his 3 years there - very small classes, flexible and customized curriculum, and very caring, engaged teachers who genuinely like teenagers including lots of great male role models. One of my son's friends at Bayhill was a young woman who had intense anxiety issues but was extremely bright and very academically motivated. She really blossomed there. It might be a great place for your son.

    Please check out Holden High School, a small school in Orinda that provides extra support for students with anxiety or depression, as well as a manageable work load. Our son just graduated and Holden was a wonderful, transformative environment for him, where he learned to handle his anxiety and thrive. The school is small (40 students) and provides a small, nurturing community where each student is seen as an individual. One of the school's co-directors is a licensed therapist who supervises interns who provide weekly check-in sessions for every student.

    The school attracts students who are looking for a small, personalized high school for a variety of reasons. Dealing with anxiety and depression are just some of the reasons students attend. Students who want to explore independent interests, take community college classes, learn through practical experience, or explore the arts all find a place at Holden. There is a learning specialist on staff, and the small class sizes (3-12 students) ensure that learning differences can be easily accommodated. Students can also take advanced classes (or extra honors work) in different subject areas, and while receiving additional help in another subject area. Homework battles disappeared, because there are homework labs in the school day to complete a lot of the work, the workload is reasonable, and the school encourages students to take charge of their own learning.

    Finally, Holden was well-prepared to transition to zoom-based learning, and had switched to zoom-based classes in mid-March. No one knows at this point what the fall and winter will bring, but Holden will be well-positioned to provide a caring, personalized, and effective learning environment for high school students during the pandemic and beyond.

    Please feel free to contact me personally if you'd like more information about the school. I recommend Holden wholeheartedly!

    he school has a licensed therapist on staff (one of the co-directorwho pro

    I am a violin teacher in Saratoga. I am part of this site as a grandparent. I would highly recommend a musical instrument for your son if he doesn't play one already. Music can be healing to the soul, just like therapy and EMDR. It resets the brain. I have observed for many years the beneficial effect of music on my students, especially now under the current pandemic.

    Hi, I second the school recommendations made by other parents. I also want to provide additional detail on College Prep, a school that I am most familiar with. (My son is a College Prep grad.) College Prep is an academically demanding place, and the homework load is considerable. But, it also is a warm, open, and supportive place, starting with the teachers. (The teachers are the "crown jewel" of College Prep.) It may not be the right place for everyone, and if you want to ensure that your child can successfully transition to a new place and out of the residual health impact from PANDAS without the added stress of a big work load, College Prep is probably not the right place for your child either. But, I want to make sure that other readers do not come away from the impression that College Prep is uncaring. For my son who is sensitive and is somewhat different from most other kids, he found College Prep to be an accepting and safe place. All of his teachers had an open door policy and were actively interested and invested in his (and other students') success. Good luck with your move! 

    I also want to chip in about the college prep, in particularly with regard to your son's situation.  You mentioned two important issues: huge work loads and mental health issues.  Because of these, college prep is not the right school for him.  As a parent of the current CPS student, I can testify that these two issues are exactly two of the major problems with CPS. The home work loads are unreasonably heavy, and some teachers or perhaps many parents equate huge home work loads to vigorous learning, and it creates kids who are tired of or are losing interest in learning. Mental health is a major problem in the student population, but the school refuses to do anything other than the superficial lip services. In fact the school is so worried about its "branding" that it actively suppressed any negative voices from the students, including suppressing student surveys on mental health.  What you see on the surface is not necessarily the true color. 

    I have lived in the Bay Area in west contra costa for over 15 years. I have advocated for better education and better practices in WCCUSD for years. In my experience I recommend you NOT ENROLL your kid in this district, they have limited budget for helping  kids with special needs or any kind of mental health problem, and no compassion when making decisions about them. The schools staff aren’t trained to help kids in crisis and most of those kids end up arrested for misconduct or punish with suspensions instead of addressing the main issue, which is provide mental health support and resources on school sites for students with mental health problems. 

    As a current College Prep parent, I want to offer a different view than another reply. My child has extremely high anxiety and the school has been amazing. The support system is outstanding - both the school counselor and the teachers worked with my student to come up with a plan that was very accommodating but still allowed my student to learn and engage. One only needs to ask, and the school will work with the student and family. True, there are many families who might feel that tons of homework or an acceptance brand-name university is the end all be all goal, but definitely not everyone and one could say this for so many schools in the area, both public and private. It's a stellar education and ideal for kids who really want to learn with others who feel the same. I'm tired of the bad rap it gets, especially when my child's friends at schools like Oakland Tech, Berkeley High, and Bishop O'Dowd get even more homework that my student does at CPS. 

  • My son has an IEP and starts high school next year. We are looking for any feedback on how Berkeley High, Millennium High or Bayhill are for a child who needs a lot of extra help and remediation. We aren’t exploring other schools so any feedback on these three only is REALLY appreciated! It’s a confusing process and since he didn’t get the help he needed in middle school I’m really nervous about making the wrong decision for high school. We are relatively new to the area so need some help! THANK YOU! 

    I can only respond with personal experience about Berkeley High. My stepson had very specific special needs that were totally ignored and in fact exacerbated. He was nearly flunking out when we transferred him to El Cerrito High; once there, he got straight As, personal attention, and was no longer lost in the shuffle between in-fighting teachers and departments competing for students' time. I'm glad we got him out but the low grades were an issue at college-application time. As in, he didn't get into any UCs. That's all I can tell you. 

    I did a lot of research for my special needs son and we went with Bayhill, started Aug 2019. It is all about fit and I urge you to schedule a tour at all of your schools of interest.

    I think Bayhill.is a fantastic school for different learners looking to find their "peeps" while finding their niche in school and that Donna Austin, the director of admissions, is an incredible support person and knows exactly if this is the school for your student. 

    Best wishes in your search.

    My daughter attended Millennial High.  Because it is a part of the Piedmont Schools we were told it has the most resources of the three schools you mentioned.  This came from a therapist who coaches people on IEPs.  I do believe this was true at the time.  She graduated in 2015.  That said, I have heard things have changed under the current superintendent.... Still, it is a small school and kids do have the options of taking some classes at PHS.  They were extremely flexible with our daughter and we are grateful.

  • Hi,

    I am looking for more recent experiences with St. Joe's High school in Alameda for students with identified learning disabilities? No behavior problems, but dyslexia and slow processing. Any information would be so helpful!  These decisions are so hard! 


    I do not have a student there so cannot speak to your specific question, however I do have a LD student and believe it is really important that when they are entering any private school you do your due diligence in investigating any support system a school has in place for LD students, because their HS academic success is so very important. I would recommend that you contact their learning specialist directly and have a discussion about what programs they have in place to help your student, and compare them to other schools to which you are also applying. The decisions ARE hard and it's best to be as educated as possible. Good luck!

  • Searching for Magic Mystery School

    (3 replies)

    The schools that are NOT the magic mystery school although each has it's merits for the right student: Seneca schools, Spectrum Center, Phillips Academy, Oak Hill, Fusion, Holden, Tilden Prep, Mentoring Academy, Bayhill, Springstone, Orion, Rise Institute. Maybe you know the mystery school for the smart high school east bay area kid who needs some specific emotional regulation support. This magical mystery school is not too restrictive so as to make a kid feel like they're bad nor does it employ physical restraint, yet it has some positive therapeutic aspects. It has small class sizes and individual attention, solid academics plus opportunities to make friends and is supportive towards all kinds of diversity. If you know where this magical place exists, please let me know. Bonus if it's a NPS certified school that accepts IEPs. I have to lighten my post with a bit of humor, else this search will do me in. Seriously. Know a place? Have creative solutions?

    Boy, I remember this search. So sorry you're not able to find the One. You might check out the Santa Rosa Anova Center for Education (not the Concord location) and Stanbridge Academy in San Mateo. Good luck.  —Mom of Dysregulated Teen

    For us, this school is the Marchus school in Concord. It's changed our lives.

    If I forgot to add Anova, it was because I blocked it out. Our family had a traumatic experience with Anova because they use dangerous restraint practices. I would never again send my child to an Anova school. They STILL use these practices instead of positive behavior support plans, so no thank you. Been there, done that.

  • Alternatives to Tilden Prep?

    (6 replies)

    My sophomore, who has been in and out of school for the last two years, is currently at Tilden Prep and making strides. We are not sure, however, that we can afford to do this for another 2 years at the tune of 40,000. In addition, our child is wanting some more social interaction than a one to one learning situation provides her with. I don’t think our public school (Albany) is the right place for her. Does anyone have any suggestions of a good private school with small classrooms and a supportive environment for students with academic anxieties and learning differences? Thank you in advance!

    Maybeck offers exactly what you’re describing—I t’s almost as expensive as Tilden though. St. Mary’s is cheaper but maybe less good with learning  differences. 

    Hello, I graduated from Holy Names high and so did my niece 23 years later. I loved that it’s an all girls school and college prep. Don’t think it’ll be as expensive as Tilden and the class sizes have dropped tremendously since my time (70’s). It may worth your time to do a little research on it and schedule a visit. They’ll soon be celebrating 100 years. 

    Good luck!

    Mentoring Academy in Oakland provides a strong emphasis on community building and may be a good fit for your child.

    Hate to say but most private HSs will put you back $35-50K.  You might look at Mentoring Academy in Rockridge, which will still be a chunk of change.  Also, Holy Names in Oakland is a girls school, but does well with certain kids with LD.  Also, look for charters.   


    You may want to check out Bayhill High in Berkeley. Not certain what the tuition is, but it is designed for students with learning differences and offers a nice community and differentiated instruction.

    This school is our Plan B in the event our kid with dysgraphia can’t get the support plan she needs to manage at public high school.

    Good luck!

    These recommendations are mostly based on doing an overlapping search. Check out Mentoring Academy, Bayhill, there's also Millenium in Piedmont that accepts lot of transfers.  We've also had people suggest Holden and Orinda Academy

  • I am moving from the South Bay to the East Bay for two reasons. 1. to be able to help my mother out more who has been ill. She is in Walnut Creek. 2. To find a better school for my daughter who will be entering 9th grade and has dyslexia and ADHD. She has been in private school her whole life but did not get in to the schools she applied to because of her testing. Specifically, I am interested in anyone who has any info on the following schools and their learning difference programs: Los Lomas, Northgate, Acalanes, College Park, Alhambra Senior High, Cal High. Also open to any of the surrounding area if anyone has any stellar reviews. Private is not an option so please do not suggest that. I have no idea where to get this info so if anyone has any insight, experience or even hear say, I would love to hear from you. Thanks.

    Good luck on your move!  It sounds stressful.  After working in public high schools in San Francisco for 20 years I would say that schools can be different from year to year in the quality of their responses to students with learning differences, depending on the experience and longevity of the administration, counseling, and teaching staff.  Most students with ADHD and dyslexia have a 504 plan or an IEP plan.  If you are not familiar with 504 and IEP take the time now to learn all you can about them.  The school psychologist is a key person, it is great if they are at the school full time but should be at least half time.  I'm a nurse practitioner and have been involved in many 504 plans that worked well, and many that didn't work well. Parent involvement is crucial.  And much of the success of the plan will depend on your daughter, too.  One last thing, has your daughter ever been tested?  Knowing where her strengths and challenges are, in terms of processing and memory, are key to helping making meaningful classroom  accommodations.  It also doesn't hurt if the school has a health center, and a nurse, as these support staff work behind the scenes for the success of your student.  I wish you well!!

    I am not sure about locations, but you might want to check out REALM Charter High School in Berkeley. I teach Special Ed there and we have a good full inclusion program. School is small and focus is on project based learning and college prep.

    Google SEED in Lafayette.  Can't remember the exact acronym but they're a very active parent organization for kids with special needs.  They should know the specs on the area schools.

    Our daughter also has dyslexia and ADHD and has been VERY well served by her school, K2, in El Cerrito.  It is a public charter school and they are wonderful there at working with each child's particular strengths and weaknesses.  Best of luck finding a wonderful school for your daughter!

    I have a child with ADHD and dyslexia (but no behavior issues), so I understand how hard it is to find good options.

    First, I would recommend contacting DREDF to understand the public school process for special needs.  You can talk to a counselor who can provide some information and leads that might be helpful.  DREDF is a free parent information center that helps parents understand their rights for special education kids.  

    You might contact Decoding Dyslexia CA for information, too.  In the past, the website has highlighted school districts that start making positive changes in dyslexia education.

    If your child needs more help than the local school can provide, then Bayhill High School might be an option.  According to Bayhill, "Bayhill High School is the only WASC accredited, A-G approved, NCAA eligible for college admissions, non-public certified school in the greater Bay Area."  

    As a non-public school, the tuition can be paid by parents or it can be covered by the local school district (if your child qualifies by failing in the regular school).  For us, this has been our Plan B if our child starts failing in regular schools, but it hasn't come to that yet.

    Personally, I think the best way to find out whether a school might be a good fit is to call the Principal to discuss my child's needs.  I have found that the Principals are quite honest in discussing what they can offer, and it has allowed me to make better decisions about which schools would be a good (or bad) fit.  

    Also, some school districts sometimes allow kids that don't live in the district to enroll in the alternative high school if they don't have full enrollment. In some  years, Millenium High School in Piedmont will accept certain select out of district students.  It is worth asking the Principals about their out of district policies for enrollment in the district's alternative high school if you think the school would be a good fit.  Please understand, this is just for the alternate high school.  It is almost impossible to get boundary exceptions to attend the regular high schools in a district.

  • We need to start looking for a high school for our smart and challenged kid. High IQ, anxious, social/emotional regulation challenges. I know that mine isn't the only kid like this out there. We are in Oakland. Where do all these kids go? I am finding that schools who handle the emotional/behavioral aspect don't offer appropriately challenging academics and those who offer great academics want nothing to do with emotional/behavioral support. All the websites for the schools that have been recommended to me make it clear that if behavior is an issue, you're out of luck. But his current placement is failing him in a big way. Our IEP is coming at the end of this month and I want to be ready to suggest placements.

    This is a tough one. What about Anova? Of the two campuses for Anova Centers for Education, the Santa Rosa one may be the best fit for the type of student you describe, but there's also a campus in Concord. My son attended Anova for many years, and definitely learned skills to help him manage his anxiety-based behavior issues. He is now able to attend a great public high school, which I see as a huge step forward. The academic piece should be part of the "individualized" portion of the IEP, and a skilled teacher can do it—there just may not be many peers with which to interact at that level. PM me.

    Speaking of academics, I have toured Tilden Prep in Albany and could possibly see it as a solution for a bright kid with anxiety, though just to be clear there is no behavioral support, just the freedom to work at one's own pace and lots of one-on-one attention. Good luck.

    Not sure what your child's issues are but you might check out Mentoring Academy. I was really impressed with the director and the staff.  They will work with kids who have issues but I'm not sure to what extent.  It's a very small learning environment, less than 30 kids.  Good luck in your search!!

    I had a very hard time with this type of placement because a lot of schools that seemed appropriate were not "certified non-public schools", and those were the only types of schools that the IEP would accept. The certified NPS's that had psychological support had a lot of very emotionally disturbed kids in them, and the academics were not high. The only one that seemed moderately appropriate was Bayhill, which wasn't a good fit for us, but you might check it out.  My daughter is placed at Star Academy, which is turning out to be a compromise for us, and not the best placement since a lot of the kids are on the autism spectrum and my daughter is not. Good luck! I am curious to see what others suggest. 

  • Does anyone know of a good public MS and/or HS that has a good program for LD children? I have two children with LD and they are both struggling in the public school system. I can't afford to send them to a private school. 

    This is what Ive learned.

    As our kids mature, it is important to have current comprehensive testing, whose responsibility belongs to your school district. So you need to advocate strongly that your district perform testing on your children to understand the degree of disability and the best practice to intervene. You may need an educational advocate to help you with this process, and you can find a list of advocates through DREDF. We used Toby Adams, toby.adams [at] gmail.com with great results.  

    There are great NPS and Public Charters schools in the Bay Area like Orion Academy, Phillips Academy, and Realm Charter School, who are stakeholders committed to equity education. Our experience at BUSD was less than satisfactory.

    Hi there! I'm sorry for your struggle. As the parent of a LD child in a private school my experience is while some have (limited) resource departments, they are not really equipped (or meant) to fully remediate your child, especially if their LD's are moderate to severe. So 'private school' per se is not necessarily an answer (unless you mean schools ONLY for LD students). I would suggest the route of hiring an Ed Therapist to work with your children as often as you can afford in conjunction with their regular school. I can't speak to the IEP process but assume you have gone that route as well. Wishing you and your kids all the best!

    I totally feel your pain... my daughter is in 10th grade and has ADHD.  I haven't been able to find any good public schools that handle LD's well, and I also think that private schools aren't necessarily the answer either.  I actually just took my daughter out of her high school and she's going to do K12 public school online with a tutor.

    I highly recommend Educational Therapist Amy Cheifetz who has been extremely empowering for my daughter and me.  She's amazing and would be a good resource for you.   Amy's contact info is (510) 207-2995.  She completely changed our lives for the better and I can't say enough how awesome she is.  Good luck!

    As others have mentioned, every child is different and LDs are so varied that what works for one student may not work for another.  IMy comment is just directed at private school cost.  We would never have considered private school for our daughter with LD until public school absolutely wasn't working despite lots of advocacy on our part.  We are middle-income parents ($160,000 for family of 4) and were able to get significant financial aid (2/3 of cost of tuition) for middle and high school.  It depends on a lot of different factors and you need to advocate for yourself/your kid, but if you have 2 kids with LD, I am sure you know all about advocating! Coming up with the remaining 1/3 was still a stretch, but it was definitely the right thing (for us).

  • Hello,

    I'm looking at Orinda Academy, Bayhill High School, Sterne High School, Holden High School and Millenium High School for my child with learning differences. It's hard to tell how these schools might be similar or different. Anybody have any thoughts on how to distinguish between these schools? Size, who they serve, extra curricular activities, quality of education, quality of staff, etc? Which serves more kids on the spectrum vs just kids with LD's? 

    thank you,


    You don't mention Springstone and Orion, the primary high schools for kids on the spectrum.  My son went to Springstone and was in a class of 8 kids from sixth grade through 12th (not always the same 8, but many of the same), and as a result, they formed a really tight bond.  The school was great for a number of things, including protecting these teens from everything from smoking to drugs to sex (they knew all about it, but I don't believe that any of them did anything more than look at the internet).  Two and a half years on, my son's graduating class remains a tightly bonded group, and that is more than anything else I could have asked.  My son is not on the spectrum (he has bipolar), but he has learned to get along with a group of friends who all have their particular quirks and stick with them through everything, and that, to me, is the true measure of a great education for this group.  All of the schools will provide about the same educational outcomes, but I don't know how many of them can provide this.  Feel free to contact me.

    I'm in the same position.  I think it depends on your child's specific LD, social and learning profile.  We have experience at Sterne and I was told it's the best in the Bay Area but it's a drive or a BART commute and can be overwhelming for some kids.  Bayhill has an open house tomorrow I believe.  I have a couple friends who have LD children at Orinda Academy and seem to be happy but I know their program, while LD friendly, does not have some of the hardcore supports that our son will need.  Honestly, all the LD specific schools I have researched in the bay area are rather light on academic rigor compared to east coast boarding LD schools.  It's a totally different ballgame but something to think about if you have a "twice exceptional" kiddo who needs some tools and support to uncover her/his gifts without losing their spark.

    My son is thriving at Tilden Preparatory School, which should be on your short list. Some kids simply need one-on-one instruction to learn, and Tilden has the process to successfully do this. Unlike some of the ASD-specific schools, Tilden has the academic curriculum both for the students who are struggling or are looking for something far more challenging than public schools.

    My son has several neuropsychological conditions including dysgraphia. He cannot complete a simple math exam without accommodations and has severe trouble writing anything due to the dysgraphia.  The local school district wouldn't give the necessary accommodations for him to survive, yet he is brilliant in some subjects with an amazing ability to memorize subject matter. Challenges include getting what he knows on paper and helping him see the "big picture" (details that keep running through his mind prevent him from answering test questions). Tilden determined how to he optimally learns within the first two weeks and found him the right teachers for each subject. He improved his writing to an Advanced Placement standard within six months, is improving the way information is processed and communicated, and is challenged in amazing ways. Today he is taking AP and Honors classes, has made friends, and is involved with several clubs. Wow.

    Private schools offering one-on-one instruction can do amazing things with a wide variety of kids, but some are going to be better with certain categories of kids than others. We interviewed several, which you will obviously do. Consider Tilden (Albany and Walnut Creek) during your search.


    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.

  • Anyone know of a high school that could support a teen with significant anxiety/depression who has the potential to attend university? It seems like many schools that provide significant therapeutic support don't fufill the UC A-G requirements. Thanks.

    Holden High School in Orinda.  My kid sounds just like yours.  Holden is a private, college prep school that provides a calm, nurturing therapeutic environment and individual support and works closely with students (and parents) to ensure that they fulfill UC A-G requirements, if that is their goal.  Reasonable tuition as private schools go, and some financial aid available. 

    The Phillips Academy in Alameda is a "Non-Public School" for kids with emotional disabilities.  If your child's IEP allows a NPS placement, you may want to consider this school.  Usually the school district authorizes transportation to and from home as well, if you push for it.  I believe they are very academic with tailored curriculum, compared to other local NPSs.

    Also Tilden Prep in Albany or Walnut Creek, but many parents have to pay out-of-pocket for it.

    You didn't mention in what location you are looking.  If you are flexible enough to go to the peninsula, Lydian Academy and Fusion Academy are good options with 1:1 tutoring models.  It's an expensive route, but literally a life-saving route for my teen.

  • Hello,

    Our son is well-behaved, well-liked, works hard but REALLY struggles academically. He has an IEP and we also supplement with after- school private tutoring. He would not survive school without the extra support. He tries hard but just needs a lot of hand-holding to get his work done. I'm seeking recommendations for high schools in the East Bay that would be a good fit. My biggest concern with putting him in a high school for children with learning differences is that these high schools often have children with behavioral problems or quirky kids or have  very small enrollment. Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with any type of child, it's just that my son doesn't want this type of environment. He wants to be with typically developing peers, play sports, go to school dances, etc but needs a kinder, gentler school that will be accommodating to his learning challenges. So far, Bishop O'Dowd, St. Mary's, Bentley and Athenian have been recommended to me. We also live in the Oakland Tech district and I'd be interested in hearing from people who have Oakland Tech experience for kids with learning challenges? 

    thank you!


    My son, now 21, also well behaved with learning issues went to Bay Hill HS which is now in Berkeley (it was in Oakland when he was  there).
    Bay Hill was established by teachers and parents from Raskob Learning Institute (grades 3-8). Bay HIll and Raskob saved our lives!!
    We were able to get reasonable financial aid for the 3 years my son was there (for 12th grade he went to El Cerrito High).

    Wishing you the best.

    You should definitely look at Bayhill High School.  It's in Berkeley a few blocks north of Berkeley High School.  My son just started there as a sophomore so I don't have much first-hand experience, but my son sounds like your son - he also needs a lot of handholding but he does very well academically if he gets that.  We sought out Bayhill after freshman year at the public high school where he did OK socially and academically thanks to a 504 plan and a ton of intervention from us. But he needs MUCH more scaffolding to learn and succeed than the public school was able to provide. So far we are all very pleased with the school. Bayhill's curriculum is college prep and follows state standards closely, but the teaching style is customized for kids with learning differences. They don't accept kids with behavioral issues although there do seem to be quirky kids here and there. It's pretty diverse - kids come from all over the east bay, many of them are there because their school district placed them and pays their tuition, so it's not your typical affluent mostly white private school.  Classes are very small, no more than 10 kids. So the teachers know exactly where every kid is, and can support them as needed. There are only 20 kids per grade, 80 total in the school, so socializing is easy for shy kid like mine.  The first week at Bayhill my son told me excitedly that he likes being called on in class at Bayhill, because he knows the answers, so he can help out his classmates.  This is in contrast to last year, where he was the slow kid in class who got complaints and teasing because he was holding up his group. Bayhill is not a big school, but they seem to make an effort to offer the same kinds of activities as bigger schools. There is an after school sports program, there are clubs that meet twice a week during the school day, kids can leave the campus at lunchtime, there are dances throughout the year, lots of field trips, and a prom - Bay cruise with dinner and a DJ!  Everybody I talked to seems happy to be there, including the teachers. I know that their freshman class is full to capacity but when we applied they had a few openings for sophomores and juniors, and it is not unusual for kids to come in after freshman year.  Good luck with your search and feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Private high school for disorganized smart kid

Oct 2013

My child is very smart (scores high on standardized tests/IQ) but fails in school due to disorganization and lack of time management and not turning in homework. We don't think public high school is the way to go even with an IEP for Executive Functioning Disorder. From our experience, public schools don't seem to get smart but disorganized, really!! Our school district is highly rated but that doesn't make a difference. We've tried organizational help but it doesn't stick and gets expensive with the amount of support needed and for the frustration and cost we could pay for private school. We're looking at private schools in the East Bay and would love to hear from other parents. We heard about the Mentoring Academy and Tilden Prep. Any experience with either? Any other schools we should consider? Thanks. Anxious Mom of Smart but Disorganized Student

We had a great experience with the Mentoring Academy after a disastrous experience with a small provate school. Mentoring provides a self-paced, individualized learning experience. The director, John Muster, is a caring and engaged individual. He will spend significant time and energy getting to know your child and designing a program that is a good fit. He looks at the whole child \xc3\xa2\xe2\x82\xac\xe2\x80\x9c not just the academic piece. Mentoring is an all-day school with little to no homework (schoolwork is done during school hours, 9-5). This is a wonderful relief if you and your child are tired of homework dance. Hope this helps. MM

Check out Bayhill High School on Bowden Way in Oakland (off of Lakeshore). It's a small high school for kids w/ learning differences of all ranges. My son went there for 3 years (he's now at El Cerrito High for his Sr. year). The classes are small and the kids get a lot of attention. They learn how to deal with their differences, how to succeed and use their strengths, and to be responsible for getting their work done. Bayhill was a great school for my son for 9, 10, 11th grades. Good luck. anon mom

Do visit Orinda Academy in Orinda and talk with them. Spend a day visiting as well. Sounds far but it's very near the BART station in Orinda and many students take BART there. The faculty and staff are great, small classes and a very good and structured environment. parent of Orinda Grad

Hello- I would like to suggest Holden High School in Orinda, www.holdenhigh.org. It is a small school, with small classes and lots of individualized attention, where each student is recognized for their uniqueness and their unique learning style. The majority of the students travel from all over the East Bay to attend Holden, it is on the BART line.

My student has struggled with being disorganized for many years. Before Holden, when he finally did complete his homework, he would forget to turn it in. There was no organization to his backpack or planner. When we found Holden, (this is his second full year at Holden, after spending grades k-9 in public school), helping him to be organized was one of our first priorities. And within a couple of months this was no longer a problem. His grades have improved dramatically, his attendance is fine, he loves his school.

One of the other many things we love about Holden is that the students are not overloaded with homework and are given ample time during the school week to complete it, thus eliminating homework battles at home.

There is much more I could say about Holden, including how the students are supported emotionally as well as academically, but you can learn more by visiting their website, or better yet, have your child go for a visit.

Hope this is helpful to you. Good luck in your search. A grateful parent

We are parents of a 13-year-old 8th grader who is high-achieving, but disorganized. Starting with 7th grade, we enrolled him at Tilden Prep. It's been a great fit for him. The one-on-one teaching keeps him focused and moving forward. The school is well-managed and extremely responsive. We definitely encourage you to check it out. Berkeley Dad


High school for LD student with dyslexia

Jan 2011


We are moving to Berkeley and wondering if BHS is a good fit for our dyslexic son coming from Charles Armstrong in Belmont. He prefers small classrooms, using his computer in class to take notes and requires quite a bit of tutoring in math. We do have an IEP in place but I wonder if anyone has had a good experience who LD kids at BHS. Are there any other private school options? sylvie

Take a look at Bayhill High School in Oakland. It's a private school with NPS status. It specializes in kids with language-based learning differences. Bayhill parent

There are several private HS within driving distance of Berkeley that specialize in students with LD. The one I recommend is Bayhill in Oakland. I can't remember the names of many others... sorry. I would guess that they all belong to professional organizations perhaps your current school could provide some names. If not try calling the Raskob Day School in Oakland. They are a 3-8 school that specializes in this area and they can probably give you names of some schools their students go on to. in the same boat


High School for learning disabled teen

Nov 2009


With our LD son in 8th grade it's time to start looking at high schools for next year. UGH!!! Our son has reading/processing/organizing issues. He's a hand on and visual learner. Also some ADD. He's currently at Raskob (and only for 8th grade). What high schools did you apply for for your ld kids? We were very impressed with Bay Hills, are considering possibly maybe our local public school as a last resort (and would have to get an IEP or 504)...Maybeck and Drew were suggested to me as possiblities. They seem very academic according to their websites. Any other hs's for ld kids? Also...I've been told that sometimes a district has to pay for a child to go to private school if that child can't be accomodated in the district. How does that work? Thanks in advance, anon mom

Our ninth grade daughter is attending Star Academy in San Rafael. It's a wonderful school, but, obviously much less convenient to those of us here in the East Bay. We looked at Bay Hill and really liked it, but it wouldn't have met our daughter's needs. Star Academy has many services that she needed built into the program, such as OT, Lindamood-Bell and speech therapy. Your son may not need as many services, but that is all available at Star. We were lucky enough to connect with other families from the East Bay and we're in a carpool, which really helps out on transportation. Here is their website if you're interested: http://www.staracademy.org


High School for learning disabled teens

Oct 2008


HI All, My 13 yo son has a pretty severe learning disability. He is in 7th grade in a private school and is being so amazingly accomodated. We feel very lucky and grateful. He sees an ed. therapist, tutor, psycho therapist...OY!!! My question is....what do we do for high school? Our local public hs is not an option. I know about the hs near Lake Merrit that is connected to Raskob and that is a great option, but.....what if he doesn't get in? Where else do we go? Do any of the other public districts have transfer accomodations for ld kids? WHat other private hs's do? He's not a self motivator so an independant hs program is not the thing for him. Thanks in advance. thinking ahead

You should know about a terrific high school option for your child. By way of background, my son attended Raskob for six years (grades 4-9). Although we live by Lake Merritt, we opted to send him to Sterne School in San Francisco for his remaining high school years. Sterne has been around for over 30 years and was started by instructors affiliated w/UCSF's dyslexia program -- a pioneering center dating all the way back to the 1950's. Sterne has been fully accredited for many years, has a highly experienced and loving faculty, a cheerful and friendly student body (with a mix of dyslexia, NLD, Aspergers, and ADHD), a great technology program (employing Kurzweil, for instance), enrichment classes, optional tutoring, a new experiential learning program (students will go to Yosemite this fall), AND it has a brand new head of school, Ed McManis, who spent 25 years in executive and academic leadership roles at Denver Academy. (Denver Academy is one of the premier LD schools internationally.) There are many East Bay families who have placed their middle and high school students at Sterne, so there are reliable and convenient carpool, as well as public transit, options. We could not be happier with the education our 16 year-old son is receiving. Check it out at http://www.sterneschool.org; or call Ed directly at 415-922-6081. You'll find him to be very friendly and down-to-earth. I'd also be happy to talk to you. Sincerely, Kathleen

I think it's great that you're thinking ahead for HS now. It helps to start going to open houses and networking with other parents now. As for getting district funding for a private school placement, I've never heard of that happening without significant effort by the parents. That said, maybe have a look at the following schools:

  -  Stanbridge Academy in San Mateo: http://stanbridgeportal-com.web08.winsvr.net/ -  Sterne School in SF: http://www.sterneschool.org/site/sterne/ -  Star Academy: http://www.staracademy.org/ -  Children's Learning Center: http://www.clcalameda.com/ 

See also schools listed at: http://www.baprivateschools.com/specialed.htm and http://parents.berkeley.edu/recommend/schools/ld_schools.html (this page)

Good luck! Meri

Take a look at Orinda Academy (private, in Orinda), The Gateway School (public, in SF but accepts kids from all over the Bay Area, through a lottery system), and Drew (private, SF). Also check out the Parents Education Network, or PEN, a tremendous resource, sponsoring lectures, workshops and a well maintained website: www.parentseducationnetwork.org .

Orinda Academy is not specifically for kids with learning disabilities; but they do have a learning specialist on staff and make an effort to accept and accommodate varied learning styles. Classes are small and kids can participate in multiple grade levels simultaneously to match their skill set (e.g. 12th grade English and Algebra I in the same year). Most classes use a mastery learning system, in which grades can be improved by making corrections. Mandatory study halls for those who do not complete homework encourage development of good study habits.

Gateway is a public school specifically for LD kids, but open to others as well. It accepts students from around the Bay, with a wide range of abilities and disabilities. Call to find out the details on admissions.

Drew, in SF, is similar to Orinda Academy, twice as big, older, with newer facilities and higher tuition. -OA parent

I missed your original post but I wanted to mention Children's Learning Center in Alameda. They have two separate buildings, one for younger kids and the other for kids up through high school. My son went there for six years and was able to transition to the public high school full-time. I never paid for any of it because I hired a special ed lawyer (for the second time) who negotiated with the school district and got approval for my son's placement there. However, this agreement happened nine years ago, so I'm not sure how different things are now. Nancy


Schools for Bipolar Teens

April 2008


My teenager needs a school geared to bipolar kids. Does anyone have any recommendations for schools that really treat the underlying stresses of being bipolar? Thanks so much.

If your son is high-school aged, you might consider Millenium High School, the Piedmont School District's alternative high school. It's my impression that inter-district transfers into MHS may be easier than transfers into other Piedmont schools. I have found the Piedmont School District to be very supportive of my bipolar child's educational and health issues.

Also, are you aware of the New Hope Support Group, which meets monthly in Lafayette? It's a group for parents of bipolar, school-aged children and is a good source of info. and support. For more info, you can contact 3kids1dog [at] comcast.net. Fellow parent

High School Choices for LD kids

Sept 2006

Looking into to appropriate high schools for LD kids. Would like a high school in the East Bay, but would consider a San Francisco setting. Any thoughts or recommendations would be appreciated.

Recommended: Raskob School

High school for Berkeley 14-y-o with emotional impairment

July 2005

My 14 yr old nephew is coming to live with me from Michigan. He has an IEP there and has a designation of emotionally impaired. He has had a very rough life (mom doing drugs, chaos etc), has anxiety, is angry probably has ADHD and possibly bipolar. He is on meds but says they dont work. I need to find an appropriate high school for him. We live in Berkeley and I believe if he goes to BHS he will end up lost, doing drugs, and running around. He needs a lot of structure and not too much freedom at the moment. I am open to private school if need be, and am open to feedback about BHS. Thanks!

I'm sorry your nephew has had to suffer through this and think it's wonderful that you are taking him in. I would strongly advise against Berkeley High for a kid in such a situation. It's very anonymous, he WILL get lost, and worse, it will be nearly impossible for someone with problesm to avoid having those problems become much worse. I say this knowing Berkely HIgh is great for some kids, but not kids with problems, as I learned from hard experience. Instead, I'd recommend (1) Getting all the IEP information you have from his current school and getting started getting an appoiontment with the special ed. dept. in Berkeley Unified (you will need to write to ask for an appointment, they will do all they can to avoid helping you, be persistent and eventually they are great). There are schools that are o! ptions for him as a EI student that will be free because of his status that could be very beneficial. Once you have a clear and strong sense of what has been happening in his old school AND you get to know him, you will have a better idea what he needs. Get him in the most contained, supportive environment you can find. (2) Get him in to see one of the fantastic child psychiatrists around here to evaluate the meds he's tried, what's happening, working, not working, etc. RIGHT AWAY. The temptation to wait is not a great idea. Even if you decide against meds, you will know why you are deciding that and what has been tried before. (3) Investigate small, supportive private schools if you decide (after really looking at them and your nephew) that the special ed. schools (which can be great) are not the best option. I would particularly look at Orinda Academy as a place that can really ''hold'' a child! well and still provide a great academic and other programs. It's in Orinda but accessible by BART and there are lots of berkeley kids there.

Best of luck to you. This process will take time but your efforts to help this kid will be very rewarding. Hang in there. Anon

School for Teen with Learning Disability

November 2003

As a mother of a teen boy with severe learning disability that affects the language area, I am seeking recommendations for high schools. He has an IEP and is currently placed in a private school for kids with LD. Can anyone recommend a high school that provides an appropriate environment for him-he is great at math/science, willing to work and is not a behavior prob Trying to keep ahead of the game

My neighbor's son graduated from Spraings Academy in central Contra Costa County. (Their offices were in Orinda, but the school was in Lafayette, near BART, but they may have moved). He is severly learning disabled and he is now attending college. His mother, a low income single parent, fought with WCCUSD and eventually was able to get the district to pay for his high school education there as the district was unable to accomodate him. I believe she had help from RCEB. He attended Contra Costa College with assistance from their disabled students program and he will be attending UC Santa Cruz with assistance from Dept. of Rehab. She was also able to obtain Social Security Disability payments for her son which greatly assisted the process. Good Luck

I saw a query from a parent looking for a high school for her son with language disabilities. I, too am hunting for a school that knows what it is doing regarding high school students with a variety of learning differences. My daughter is very bright and deep, very talented and having a heck of a time at a private high school which is noted for accepting kids with learning differences. She has plenty brains but very very slow processing. This means she really cannot take in and put out the volume of product required of regular high school kids within the same time constraints. What takes the average student half an hour, my daughter will need three hours to accomplish. Some of it is anxiety (!!bad anxiety), and some of it is ADD, but some of it is neurological. She's no slacker, and her work is A+ work. It's just slow and tortured. She's currently taking two academic classes (English and Algebra) in the 10th grade, and has time in her life for virtually nothing else. We have gotten her a homework coach who comes every day to help her. Still, if she's sick one day, you can imagine how awful it is for her to catch up. The teachers love her. She participates in class, asks intelligent, probing, original questions and always has good ideas to contribute, but the physical output of paperwork is controlling every moment of her life. Her self esteem is suffering. The school wants to add on classes, and I can't seem to get some of the teachers to adjust homework for her. She also plays a musical instrument and is a gifted actress. She loves learning, but I'm afraid she's going to be turned off if this keeps up. I wish we could skip high school and all this anguish because I know she'll be a terrific adult. What do we do for such a kid? Tobie

Mid-Peninsula High School

Nov 2002

I just happened to run into your site tonight. I live in Saratoga, Ca. I know this is not your area, but if you are still getting requests for schools that will support and help high school kids with ADHD and other LD's to succeed, I found only one on the PENINSULA, that is not either accelerated, or so remedial that you would not consider it. It is MIDPENINSULA HS< Willow Road, Menlo Park/Palo Alto. They have a ratio of 15 to one. My son has severe ADHD. He went from a D- average in Middle School, and no hope of any support from the public schools (Saratoga/Cupertino) to a B+ average in Sophomore year and now,on the road to a decent HS Career Good Luck Roselle , USC Parent