Valley View School is a true therapeutic boarding school. It has excellent therapeutic offerings. Still one very high priority is on keeping the experience for its students as close to a conventional boarding school life as possible. We at FamilyLight have literally enjoyed watching the school grow in sophistication over many years of being familiar with them, adapting to changing needs of families and expanding knowledge of how best to foster positive changes in the young men it serves. At the same time it has retained some traditions from which some other and programs have moved on, using what we believe is wisdom and discretion in choosing which traditions to maintain.
More detail about Valley View's history can be found on Valley View's website. We believe the linked information is a fair and accurate account (checked May 30, 2018), if not tending somewhat to understate Dr. Spiva's courage and originality. When he created Valley View School, this kind of resource was without precedent and truly unique. Remember, Valley View school was founded before privately funded programs were generally well received.
We understand that Valley View did include publicly funded students in the very beginning, but Dr. Spiva was one of the very first to reach out to parents who wanted to guide the process for themselves and fund their son's education and treatment. Gradually privately funded students replaced the publicly funded client base.
The result is a therapeutic and educational offering that is truly unique. That uniqueness creates a situation in which Valley View becomes probably the only true "fit" for the students for whom it is best suited and not a good fit at all for some whose diagnostics and demographics might initially appear to be well within the range that Valley View describes in its promotional material. However, we do not mean to imply dishonesty in promotion; we believe the admission process will help parents and referral sources to clarify accurately who is a fit and who is not. We do not believe Valley View would ever intentionally encourage a family to enroll a boy who clearly did not belong there.
Please note, however: Where most therapeutic schools base usual length of stay on therapeutic progress, Valley View bases length of stay on an academic calendar (more about that down this page). Where most therapeutic schools operate on a 365 day year even while trying to get most of their students home for holidays, Valley View shuts down between school terms and through the December/ January holiday period. But typical of Valley View flexibility, we have seen them provide for care of students during "shut down" periods when those students cannot go home for one reason or another.
Valley View School serves boys in an age group with flexible boundaries but usually involves middle school age and younger high school years at time of initial enrollment. The Valley View School Website states ages 10 to 15 at time of admission. Valley View can and does offer a curriculum that includes all high school grades and can issue a high school diploma. Their website shows courses routinely offered; we have experienced them adding courses not on this list needed for boys who need them for graduation and/ or college preparation even if only one student will take that course. We believe the peer culture of the school is maintained in a manner that protects the middle school age group, including very young boys with some challenges reading social cues, while ensuring that the high school students enrolled will feel that their greater maturity is respected.
Valley View School will enroll new students at any time space is available, but like most non-therapeutic schools and unlike most therapeutic facilities Valley View school seeks enrollment based upon school terms and an academic years. Where most therapeutic schools set their length of stay based upon the achievement of therapeutic goals, Valley View encourages students once enrolled to remain at least until the end of the following academic year regardless of therapeutic progress. The last time we checked they required that parents contract to keep their son at Valley View School until the end of the academic year at the time of first enrollment. Parents are told at time of the initial enrollment that they expect the student to be re-enrolled for the following academic year and for the intervening summer, although that has not been contractually binding in our experience. In many cases, a third academic year of study at Valley View is strongly recommended. More than three academic years at Valley View is unusual, but it does happen when the need arises. All other things being equal, Valley View encourages at least one academic year in a secondary school with a less restrictive setting before moving on to college, but a student not ready to make that transition may remain at Valley View to high school graduation.
Academics at Valley View are delivered with quality. The curriculum is clearly college preparatory, but with structure for all and help for those who need it. Classes are small. Although his is not a tutorial type school, Valley View School has been known to offer a course for just one student, when that has been necessary to that student. Where most therapeutic schools offer only one foreign language (usually Spanish), Valley View offers both Spanish and French. Teachers are committed to the success of the students. Support for artistic endeavors is quite substantial and much greater than we might suspect of most therapeutic boarding schools for boys.
In our experience, Valley View school has intentionally attempted to avoid being understood as a learning disability school. However they have become proficient in helping students with mild to moderate learning challenges. As Valley View describes this themselves:
We are not an LD school, but we do have many elements built into our program to assist students with academic deficits. The majority of our students have strong academic potential, but face challenges such as processing and executive functioning deficits, working memory challenges, and ADD/ADHD. (Copied November 7, 2015)
If you are in doubt about whether their learning support services are strong enough to meet your son's needs, let them help you to assess that. In our experience, not only does Valley View School not exaggerate their capability in this situation; we think they tend to understate their competence with learning issues.
In addition to very strong therapeutics and academics, we also see their athletic program as remarkable. At one time all Valley View students were required to participate in one sport every season. They have now backed off that requirement allowing some non-athletic activities as an alternative. Still the athletic program remains high quality and includes some interscholastic competitions. We think that a boy who is very athletic and otherwise fits Valley Views mission and admission criteria will find this offering major "plus" in inspiring the boy to engage academically, therapeutically, and socially.
For boys who have been turned off to athletics because they don't believe they can succeed in athletic situations, this athletic program can be an enormous benefit. The coaches see their role as a teaching role, just as much as the algebra teacher. This school can do a tremendous job in turning around a boy who suffers from the self perception of always being the "last picked."
One attractive "extra" at Valley View is the international travel program. As an extra cost option, the Valley View team will periodically take Valley View boys on trips to exciting destinations far away. These trips are educational as well as a time for the boys to enjoy themselves and enjoy being with friends from school. If you can name an exotic international destination, Valley View has probably been there and will go again sometime in the future.
If you have a boy between age ten and fifteen whom you believe will fit the criteria stated on the Valley View website, we encourage you to consider Valley View. Before getting committed, make sure you fully understand how this school differs from other schools and programs that serve boys with a similar clinical profile and how that relates to your son's total personality and your family's way of living.
We have one other suggestion regarding wilderness programs and Valley View School. If you are quite confident that you will be enrolling your son at Valley View and are thinking about a wilderness program first, we strongly urge you to talk to Valley View about this before committing to the wilderness program. In addition to our reluctance to recommend wilderness for any preadolescent except in very special situations, many boys who are right for Valley View simply do not need that intervention prior to enrolling at Valley View. Let Valley View admission people help you with that decision. If you do use a wilderness program first, listen to the wilderness program's assessment of your son and review your choice of program to follow wilderness based upon what the wilderness program tells you.
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Last Updated May 30, 2018. At this date we are checking whether some details here remain accurate. Our previous complete update was July 2016.