The Pinnacle Difference

At The Pinnacle School, social cognition and executive function skills are the foundation of our program. Together with a challenging hands-on, multisensory curriculum, we meet students where they are and carefully raise the bar to ensure they are met with success while simultaneously teaching them how to overcome challenges.  

We focus on rebuilding self-esteem, resilience, and an enthusiasm for learning by identifying students’ strengths, creating opportunities for small successes, and building on them daily. Students begin to see their own potential and gain confidence.

We include our students as insightful members of their team. By doing so, they learn the important role they have in their own problem-solving, and we teach them the strategies to make meaningful strides forward. This individualized and scaffolded approach enables our students to reach their true potential, and flourish.

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Given the robust nature of our team we are able to identify lagging skills that have often prevented students from making meaningful academic and social gains in the past.

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Using our wrap-around approach which includes experienced teachers and related, specialized services such as psychologists, speech and language pathologists, occupational therapists and behavioral support We can meet each student where they are build upon successes in order to improve self esteem, resilience and the willingness to become an active participant in their educational experience.

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Our first step with our students is to foster trust and mutual respect. This is the foundation to effectively collaborate with our students, dig below the surface and address core skill challenges.

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When students present with academic deficits, educators understand that there is a missing skill set. A key difference at Pinnacle is that we view behavioral, social and emotional and executive function challenges in the same way: as the result of a lagging skill indicating that further instruction is necessary. When we approach our students from this perspective, students are more apt to collaborate and problem-solve with adults, because the conversation is not about what is “wrong” with them, but what skill they need to develop or challenge they need to overcome. This subtle but significant shift allows us to gain a deeper understanding of our students and allows for collaboration and fosters positive relationships.

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For all students, but particularly for students with learning and attention difficulties, executive functions strategies and focused effort helps them bridge the gaps between their skills and the academic demands they face.

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With effective strategy use, they perform more efficiently, experience academic success and develop a positive academic self-concept.

Development of EF skills is consistently integrated into classroom content and lessons through a monthly EF theme. Our psychologists and teachers introduce students to a new EF skill each month, and this skill set is reinforced in the classroom through modeling, lessons, and direct practice. We use a variety of resources to help students develop their EF skills, including work by Peg Dawson, Richard Guare, Lynn Meltzer, and Research ILD's SMARTS Executive Function curriculum.

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Social Cognition and Core Values are key to our program and are the foundation of effective communication and relationships. In order for students to interpret the social world around them, …

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...they must become vigilant and astute observers of themselves and the world around them. This enables them to get the “whole picture” and understand the hidden messages behind both verbal and nonverbal actions and intentions.

According to Michelle Garcia Winner’s Social Thinking framework, social cognition is, “The process by which we interpret the thoughts, beliefs, intentions, emotions, knowledge and actions of another person along with the context of the situation to understand that person’s experience.” Our curriculum is designed to foster the development of social self-awareness, perspective-taking or Theory of Mind, self regulation, executive functioning, social-emotional understanding, and social skills.

Many of our students intellectually know the rules but can’t apply it in the moment. We teach these skills in specific classes and most importantly, embed it throughout the day by coaching students in the moment. This scaffolded approach enables students to ‘own’ these essential skills and take them into their lives beyond Pinnacle.

Our research-based curriculum integrates the work of Michelle Garcia Winner, Jeanette McAfee, Ellen McGinnis, and Jed E. Baker, among others. Students gain insight into social reciprocity—the give and take of communication—and learn ways to build and maintain friendships.