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Jeffery Lindeland is a two-sport athlete for Belmont High School who successfully fundraises on behalf of his teams and is reaching academic goals in a grade-level math class. Five years ago, his mother, Joy Anne Moses, did not know any of these things were possible.
Diagnosed with a cognitive and expressive speech delay during an early intervention evaluation when he was two, Lindeland’s diagnosis was eventually designated as pervasive developmental delay not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and schizoaffective disorder. For years, his social and academic difficulties prevented him from enjoying school or participating in any extracurricular activities. Nevertheless, with the support of the staff at Pathways Academy at McLean Hospital, Lindeland is now thriving.
Lindeland enrolled at Pathways Academy in the sixth grade after his mother realized that he needed more specialized services than the public school system could provide.
“It was a very rough time for Jeffery,” said Moses. “What should have been the simple process of getting him to school was incredibly difficult. Each and every interaction with him was extremely adversarial, and he had a tough time transitioning between activities. The flexibility offered through Pathways ensured that Jeffery would be able to adapt and ultimately succeed academically and socially.”
Pathways Academy is a private, year-round school that provides an alternative school environment for students with autism spectrum disorders, such as Asperger syndrome and related disorders, nonverbal learning disabilities, sensory processing disorder, socialization and peer-relations problems, anxiety disorders, and school phobias. Under the direction of Roya Ostovar, PhD, the school focuses on ensuring that students like Lindeland are able to overcome the obstacles that prevent them from succeeding academically and socially in other school environments.
“We have created a balanced approach to encourage the growth of our students without pushing them beyond their comfort level and causing any additional anxiety about school and learning,” said Ostovar. “The small size of our classrooms allow us to adapt our educational and clinical services to the needs of each individual student and their learning style. For example, we are able to reduce transitions during the day by having teachers switch classrooms instead of the students. Our goal at Pathways is to ensure that our students have a successful academic experience.”
Moses also noted that the support of Lindeland’s therapist, David Perna, PhD, has been invaluable, in that he consistently challenges Lindeland by encouraging him to use the skills he has learned at Pathways to do things such as interacting with friends and people in his neighborhood and church community. Lindeland recently passed his MCAS and earned an “A” in Algebra II at Belmont High School this past spring.
However, not all his accomplishments have been in the classroom. Lindeland has earned starting positions on both the junior varsity baseball and football teams at Belmont High School. He has also been able to put his new social skills to good use while raising funds for his teams and has been very successful while going door-to-door.
Moses credits Pathways with being instrumental in Lindeland reaching new heights in and out of the classroom. “Pathways meets kids where they are and helps them grow, something that would not have been possible in another school environment. They also encourage perseverance, an invaluable tool that Jeffery will be able to apply to any life situation in which he may find himself.”
Lindeland continues to practice the skills he has gained at Pathways as he trains this summer to be ready for the football season at Belmont High School and plans to tackle another math course, as well as adding English, in the fall. With the support of staff at Pathways and his coaches at Belmont High School, Lindeland has plans to give a presentation to his fellow athletes about how participating in team sports can help kids with learning disabilities and mental health issues.