Manayunk welcomes new special education school

The Y.A.L.E. school for children with special needs is opening another facility.

After earning a well-known name in New Jersey, the Y.A.L.E School for children with special needs will expand to the Manayunk area to meet the overwhelming demand of children and their families from Philadelphia and the surrounding areas.

Originating in 1976, the Y.A.L.E School has spent many years providing an extensive curriculum for children with disorders ranging from autism to anxiety. The school provides  a hands-on learning environment, and a place where the children feel safe and at home.

“There are a lot of kids coming from Philadelphia and the surrounding areas such as King of Prussia that wanted to enroll in our New Jersey campus [so] we needed to build a location that was more accessible for families in the Philadelphia area,” said Lauren Bell, the school’s program director. “We are currently renting out a rectory in Manayunk where we have a transition school set up for our older students.”

A transition school is used to expand skills such as cooking, cleaning and learning different means of transportation. This type of program is targeted for the schools’ oldest students, who range from high school-aged to 21 years old.

Bell taught in the Philadelphia school district for six years before moving to New Jersey. She began working for the Y.A.L.E School 10 years ago, and has earned her certification for teaching special-ed students.

“Working at the Y.A.L.E School is such a rewarding experience,” Bell said. “The teachers also go through very extensive training regarding bullying. The kids are taught to speak up and learn to advocate for themselves, they are encouraged to write anonymous complaints to the counselors if they have a specific issue.”

As far as funding goes, parents can pay for the tuition themselves, or there is an option that involves a reimbursement from the school district.

“We have gotten a great welcome from people and business owners in the Manayunk area and we love the location,” said Bell.

Bell said the curriculum ensures a lot of project-based learning. The school also uses a program called STEAM, which aids students in the ability to dive more deeply into science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics programs, all taught in the school’s hands-on learning experience.

The Manayunk campus is set to open this coming fall for grades six to eight. The school is still accepting new students for this year.

“We really want to promote a place for high academics, where the students’ interests are embraced and cultivated,” Bell said. “They will be able to see a bright future for themselves, and use hands on learning to find the right fit into our society.”

Julia Chiango can be reached at

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