The Bridge School
Course of Study

Overview: Introduction

The key goal of our Education and Research Program is to ensure that our students have access to high-quality curriculum and instruction so that they may meet or exceed the knowledge and skills outlined in the state's academic content standards. The Bridge School provides systematic, personalized curriculum and instruction that encompass a broad range of knowledge, skills and abilities across all subject areas with concurrent emphasis on supporting students' use of assistive technologies (AT), development of communicative competence with augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems, and attainment of self-determination skills. Viewing research as a resource to guide our practices, we adapt, customize, implement and document intervention approaches, curricular activities, and instructional supports and strategies in ways that best address the needs of our students in The Bridge School context and beyond.

Guiding Principles

The design of The Bridge School's Education Program is guided by our values of:

  • Supporting our students' ability to communicate functionally in the educational environment
  • Identifying the most effective and efficient modes of communication across communication partners, environments, instructional contexts, and social activities
  • Providing students access to the general education curriculum through active participation in all classroom activities
  • Supporting the functional use of assistive technologies, including augmentative and alternative communication devices, techniques and strategies to maximize participation in daily life
  • Providing inclusion experiences and meaningful participation, both academically and socially, in appropriate grade-level general education settings and the community at large
  • Using both student-centered and family-centered planning approaches that incorporate their preferences and priorities
  • As part of instruction, providing training for communication partners in students' environments, including home, school and community
  • Ensuring educational accountability such that student assessment appropriately measures and tracks student progress to report to families, to guide instructional adjustments and decision-making, and for IEP purposes
  • Building functional and age-appropriate life skills across domains
  • Expanding our students' social networks
  • Encouraging self-determination as a life skill that leads to a positive quality of life
  • Using research findings as a resource for practice
  • Transitioning students to their home school districts in the least restrictive environment
  • Providing long-term support to students and their educational teams in their home school district

Our Course of Study

This graphic illustrates the components of our Education Program. The 'Bands of the Rainbow' represent our curricular content areas that include all General Education Core Subjects for preschool and elementary grades and our three specialized areas.

  • Preschool: General Education Preschool Activities and Content Areas
  • Elementary Grades K-8: General Education Core Content Areas
  • Specialized Curricular Area: Mobility and Assistive Technology
  • Specialized Curricular Area: Communicative Competence with AAC
  • Specialized Curricular Area: Self-Determination

Curriculum and instruction are influenced by more than content knowledge and specialized learning objectives. The "Towers of the Bridge" represent crucial areas and issues that support and connect a grade-level course of study for our students. In this area we outline the approaches and processes that we use to support a broad range of student learning and outcomes across each of the above content areas.

  • Standards and Assessment describes foundational learning progressions and competencies that guide our curriculum and instruction.
  • Curriculum and Instruction provides overview of our preschool and elementary programs including illustrated lesson plans.
  • Learning Environments describes how our location on a public school campus, our classrooms, garden, playground, and local community provide a range of accessible physical contexts for instruction and learning, as well as ongoing opportunities for inclusion, field trips, and more.
  • Professional Development describes our collaborative team approach, our classroom staff roles, and professional development activities.

General Education Core Subjects

At each grade level we offer all required Core Subject areas for Preschool and Kindergarten through Grade 8. These subject areas or content areas (curriculum) describe the "what" our students need to know and do as a result of their educational experiences. "Curriculum embraces the broader meanings and purposes of education and represents the knowledge and skills identified as significant for students' success and participation in their daily lives." (Stump & Bigge, 2005).

Preschool Core Subject Areas

Preschoolers thrive when they experience a curriculum that integrates all learning areas in ways that are motivating, predictable, meaningful, and developmentally appropriate. Our preschoolers' daily schedule is carefully organized "activity by activity" versus by subject areas. All required core content areas for preschoolers are systematically addressed across the day and include:

  • Social-Emotional Development
  • Language and Literacy
  • English Language Development
  • Mathematics
  • Visual and Performing Arts
  • Physical Development
  • Health
  • History/Social Science
  • Science

Elementary Subject Areas

The competencies described for preschoolers become more differentiated as children move into the elementary grades. Therefore, Core Subject areas addressed at the Elementary Grade level address California's Common Core Standards. At the elementary grade level, our weekly student schedule is organized by core subject areas that include:

  • English/Language Arts/Language
  • Mathematics
  • Visual/Performing Arts
  • Modified Physical Education
  • Health
  • History/Social Science
  • Science

The outer bands of the rainbow represent Bridge School's Specialized Curricular Areas.

Specialized Curricular Areas

Our curriculum and instruction is significantly enriched for our students by our additional focus on three specialized curricular areas: Mobility and Assistive Technology, Communicative Competence with AAC, and Self-Determination. For a variety of reasons, our students may require specific, systematic instruction in these specialized curricular areas to address essential content and skill development that:

  • May be unique to the educational needs of students with complex communication needs associated with severe speech and physical impairment, and/or
  • General education peers may learn through experiences at home, school, and in the community.

Communicative Competence with AAC

Communicative Competence is considered an urgent, priority skill area for Bridge School students because proficiency with AAC/AT tools & strategies creates access, participation, motivation, and achievement in all curricular areas. AAC incorporates each student's full communication abilities and may include any existing speech, vocalizations, or gestures, as well as the use of communication boards and Speech Generating Devices (SGD). In this section we describe how we address the full range of communication modes and technologies as our students participate in ongoing instructional activities and social interactions.

Mobility and Assistive Technology

In order to meaningfully engage as active participants and access a full curriculum, Bridge School students learn to use a wide range of assistive technologies in the context of ongoing curricular activities. In this section of the website, we describe the implementation of assistive technologies used by Bridge School students in our preschool, elementary, and middle school grades and beyond. These areas include:

  • AAC/SGD
  • Mobility
  • Computer Access
  • Positioning
  • Mounting Equipment
  • Electronic Aids for Daily Living (EADL)

Self-Determination

The Bridge School Self-Determination Curriculum provides students with the necessary tools and supports to become causal agents in their own lives through informed decision-making, thoughtful planning, and persistent action to achieve their goals. Becoming a self-determined individual involves learning about oneself, including one's strengths and interests. It involves using this knowledge to make decisions, and then communicating effectively to establish oneself as the primary agent in moving forward toward goal setting, attainment of those goals and greater independence. Bridge School students learn to express their individuality using multi-modal communication strategies and devices and learn to assert their independence with the necessary assistive technology devices and supports in place.