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New Vista School Programs
Direct Instruction

At New Vista School the primary focus of the Reading and Language Arts Center (RLAC) is to help students read for understanding. This can be challenging, as most individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are hyperlexic, Students with hyperlexia have extremely strong word-decoding skills but often times very weak comprehension skills.            

Researchers at Yale University (Randi, Newman & Grigorenko, 2010) found that hyperlexics benefit from reading interventions that address the cognitive processes of comprehension.

This means that we teach students how to:      
    • Develop a purpose and ask questions while reading      
    • Determine importance       
    • Identify cause and effect relationships       
    • Use sensory and emotional images       
    • Form predictions and make inferences. 
These abstract concepts are taught with visual and auditory reinforcements. We use Thinking Maps to illustrate relationships within the text and to make connections to what we are reading. Furthermore, we verbally model the thought process involved in comprehension using a research-based best practice known as the Metacognitive Think Aloud Protocol.

In addition, researchers at the Department of Interdisciplinary Learning and Teaching at the University of Texas found that Direct Instruction (DI) is an affective method for delivering these types of cognitive-centered reading interventions to students with ASD (Flores & Ganz, 2007).           

In the RLAC we explicitly model comprehension as a cognitive process through a research-based best practice known as the Scaffolded Reading Experience (SRE) - a form of Direct Instruction.            

At the RLAC learning strategies based on the SRE/ DI are incorporated in our entire curriculum. Vocabulary Reading A to Z, Daybook and Sourcebook are rich with opportunities for students to interact with the text in a meaningful way.            

Computer Assisted Instruction  

Reading A-Z and Spelling City
Reading A to Z and Spelling City are two web-based programs that are utilized in the RLAC on a daily basis to improve comprehension, vocabulary and spelling skills.  Reading A to Z is a virtual library of leveled electronic books that provides students with explicit modeling of reading fluency. The books are written at 27 levels of difficulty. There are approximately 2200 different books on the website to meet students’ interest as well as offer a variety of content and genres ranging from fantasy to Earth Science. Each word of the book is highlighted as it is read allowing for readers to follow along with their eyes.  Students are able to listen, read silently, and even record themselves reading each individual story.  A comprehension quiz accompanies all stories, with each question addressing various components of reading comprehension.  For example, a report may indicate that a student has missed the last four questions that require the skill of compare and contrast. Reports are generated at the end of the week to show which areas students are struggling with the most.  This allows for specific, targeted instruction as a way to address the individual needs of our students. 

Comprehension is the overall goal of all reading instruction.  It is best taught at the developmental or instructional level of the student.  Teacher-guided use of eight cognitive comprehension strategies in combination is the most effective approach to building comprehension skills, according to the National Reading Panel.  The goal is to scaffold instruction in a gradual release-of-responsibility model until the reader is able to use strategies without the assistance of the teacher (Pearson and Gallagher, 1983).  The National Reading Panel concluded in its research analysis that cognitive-strategy instruction results in significant gains in reading comprehension. ReadingA-Z uses the strategies necessary for reading comprehension in each lesson.  See chart below:




Monitoring understanding

Monitoring understanding means being an active, thoughtful reader.  Readers are aware of their thought processes and their use of reading strategies.

Analyzing story structure

Students understand story elements, such as sequences, setting, characters, and events.

Answering questions

Teachers ask questions to guide student understanding.

Generating questions

Students generate their own questions regarding who, what, when, where, why and how.


Students identify main ideas and relevant details of text.

Incorporating multiple strategies

Teachers model how to apply a combination of strategies to extract meaning from text.

Employing cooperative grouping

Students work together learning and using comprehension strategies.

Using graphic organizers

Students draw meaning and relationships to represent elements and ideas embedded within the text. 

Mathematics Program

The Math Lab is overseen by a math specialist whose responsibilities include program development and instruction. Math placement is dependent upon any of the following: coursework completion, current math assessments, standardized testing and student work samples.

The New Vista School math program seeks to develop students’ math skills to their optimum potential.

The Math Lab utilizes the following math materials and/or programs:

  • California state-approved math textbooks
    1. Pearson Prentice Hall: California Pre-Algebra
    2. McDougal Littell: Algebra 1, Concepts and Skills
    3. McDougal Littell: Geometry, Concepts and Skills
    4. McDougal Littell: California Algebra 2
  • ST Math™ (K-5 and Algebra Readiness)*
  • Singapore Math
    1. Standards-based textbooks 2-5
    2. Standards-based workbooks 2-5
  • AGS Consumer Mathematics
  • Various supplemental texts and manipulatives

* ST Math™ is a cornerstone of math at New Vista School and was developed by Mind Research Institute’s Education Division. This academic, computer program is based on decades of neuroscience and education research which uses a visual approach through instructional software. The software’s unique approach of connecting students special temporal reasoning abilities, allows them to understand higher level math concepts. The program allows students to work at their own pace. ST Math is offered 2 times per week with 45 minute sessions and is integrated into direct math instruction and curriculum.

Social Skills Program

School-wide values are part of the everyday experience at New Vista School. Implementing a school-wide value system creates a common language for parents, teachers and students to navigate their social world. The New Vista Social Skills Program is a school-wide program supported all-day, across all settings.

New Vista school-wide values include: 

  •     Responsibility
  •     Respect
  •     Safety
  •     Taking Initiative
  •     Problem Solving 

Social skills classes are a part of every student’s daily schedule. Daily social skills are taught using enriched and modified curriculum and teaching strategies that include the research-based UCLA PEERS curriculum (Program for the Evaluation and Enrichment of Relational Skills), consultation and materials from Kelly McKinnon, MA, BCBA, Social Behavior Mapping to problem solve real-life social challenges, "journaling" to grasp student’s perspective and understanding on new topics introduced and Self-Video Feedback to promote generalization of social skills in real-life situations. Visual supports are used to enhance lessons. Weekly family communication update occurs in the form of homework and/or pictures of activities participated in that week, to aid generalization and family discussion.

During naturally occurring social opportunities including lunch and passing periods, support is provided to ensure students are using skills taught, to ensure students have a peer group to socialize with and to develop friendships. Lunch clubs including Game Club, Lego Club, and Sports Club are teacher-facilitated and student-led structured environments to facilitate and enhance social skills.

After school clubs including Girls Club, Book Club, Yearbook Club and Science Club occur weekly. Additionally, students have the opportunity to organize their own clubs based on their specialized areas of interest. New Vista School feels it is important for all students to be contributing members of their school and local communities. Community opportunities are provided both on and off campus.

Students at New Vista School will be expected to meet various responsibilities including leading student announcements, operating the student snack bar, maintaining a student bulletin board and planning student events and outings. These opportunities will provide New Vista School students with an avenue to develop appropriate life and social skills which will support them into their adult years.

A school-wide Positive Behavior Support Program is used to reinforce students who are demonstrating school values and classroom expectations. Classroom expectations are visually posted and reviewed daily. Students who are demonstrating school-wide values and following classroom expectations will be rewarded each class. Students earn privileges, including free dress days, prizes and school-wide recognition.

High School Transition Program

The New Vista Transition Program is a vital part of your child’s education. Research shows us that students with ASD struggle to complete college, gain a positive work ethic, maintain satisfactory employment and experience the fulfillment of an independent life after they graduate from High School. In response to this, the Transition program is tasked with helping students prepare for the challenges they will face after New Vista School. To accomplish this, each facet of the program helps students to gain the necessary skills in a particular domain (area) of their future life.

These domains include:

  • Social Skills
  • College/Vocational Readiness
  • Executive Functioning/Personal Organization
  • Career/Vocational Exploration
  • Employment
  • Independent Living Skills
  • Personal Finance
  • Community Participation
  • Transportation
  • Friendships and Support Systems

Specifically, the New Vista Transition program consists of a series of classes and community based instruction activities that help students to develop appropriate goals, work habits and personal competencies. In completing this program, your child will have a greatly increased chance of leading a rich and fulfilling life after New Vista School.

12+ Transition Program:  LevelUp

Designed for students aged 18 – 24 years old, LevelUp, the New Vista 12+ Transition Program, seeks to assist young adults to bridge the gap between High School and Adult Life. This program uses a module approach to provide highly individualized assistance that is customized to the unique needs of each student. Of note, the majority of this program takes place in community settings that allow for the real world practice of new skills.

LevelUp consists of the following modules:

  • Credit Recovery/Academic Remediation
  • Social Skills in the World of Work and School
  • Career/Vocational Assessment
  • Career Exploration and Development
  • College & Technical School Assistance
  • Employment
  • Independent Living/Transportation
  • Personal Finance
  • Life Coaching

If you have any questions or would like more information about LevelUp, the New Vista 12+ Transition Program, please contact Pam Albonni, Director of Transition Programs, at

Academic Programs

High School Academics and Transition Skills Program Grades 9 – 12

New Vista School offers a High School program which provides academic learning and transition support for students looking toward a college or vocational placement. Course offerings encourage academic excellence, intellectual stimulation and executive functioning skills, while incorporating social skills development into the curriculum. Students placed in the academic and transition program must attend six periods a day.

New Vista School offers a High School program which provides academic learning and transition support for students looking toward a college or vocational placement. Course offerings encourage academic excellence, intellectual stimulation and executive functioning skills, while incorporating social skills development into the curriculum. Students placed in the academic and transition program must attend six periods a day.

Teachers consult and collaborate with one another to correlate topics being taught in order to fully enhance student learning and the curriculum is based on the California Teaching Standards which has been adopted to meet the needs of New Vista School students. A cross-curriculum approach is maintained.

Students are NOT required to take and/or pass any high stake exit exams in order to receive their diploma. Students may earn a High School diploma by meeting New Vista School’s requirement of 225 credits in the following areas.   A total of 225 credits are required for graduation.

Year courses = 10 Credit
Semester Courses = 5 Credits
Semester Courses (meets 2 or 3 times a week) =
2.5 Credits

English: 4 Years (40)
Health: .5 Years (5)
Mathematics: 3 Years (30)
Physical Education: 2 Years (equivalency) (20)
Science: 2 Years, including one class in each of the following areas (20)
        - Physical Science
        - Life Science
Social Skills: 2 Years (20)
Social Studies: 3 Years (30)
        - World History
        - US History
        - American/Government Economics
Transition: 2 Years (20)
Electives: (40)

High School Interdisciplinary and Transition Skills Program Grades 9 – 12

In addition, New Vista School provides a second program which leads to a High School Certificate of Completion. Students are enrolled in the High School Interdisciplinary and Transition Skills Program when a student has demonstrated the need for a more specialized and intense education.

Students in this program are provided with a curriculum which includes social and life skills that prepare students as they move towards further independence and competence in everyday life. Students are also typically enrolled in the Reading Specialist Program, Math Program and a Writing Skills Program. 

Our focus is to provide curriculum that helps each of our students develop self-advocacy skills, further academic skills, transportation and mobility skills and community involvement while incorporating social skill development. Our aim is to help students learn, develop, and strengthen their communication, problem solving and decision making skills so they can use these tools to successfully navigate through adult life. This includes, but is not limited to, general academic classes.

Students are NOT required to take and/or pass any high stake exit exam in order to receive their Certificate of Completion.

English/Reading: 4 Years (40)
Mathematics: 3 Years (30)
Physical Education: 2 Years (20)
Science: 2 Years including any of the following (20):
        - Science in Everyday Life
        - Science in the News
Social Skills: 2 Years (20)
Social Studies: 2 Years (20)
        - Applied U.S. History & Geography
        - Applied American Government and Economics
Transition: 2 Years (20)
Electives: (15)
Reading Lab: 4 Years (40)

Middle School Academic and Transition Skills Program Grades 6 – 8 New Vista School offers a Middle School Academic/Transition Program which provides students with academic growth opportunities while integrating social skills development throughout the curriculum. All students are enrolled in the core curriculum courses which are guided by the California Teaching Standards:

  • English/Literature
  • Mathematics
  • Health
  • Science
  • Social Studies
  • Computers
  • Electives

Curriculum is molded to meet the achievement levels of each student. Students are placed in mathematics coursework based on their current achievement and performance levels. Students are placed in English or Writing classes (or both) depending on need.

Students have the opportunity to select elective courses at the beginning of each school semester. Availability of elective opportunities will be based on academic, transition and social skills needs and at the discretion of New Vista School faculty.

Modified Academics for Middle School Education Grades 6 - 8

Students are enrolled in this program when a student has demonstrated the need for a more individualized and specialized education. All students at New Vista School are on an Individualized Program and some require modification and remediation to skill levels.

This curriculum includes math, social studies, science and literature. All subjects are based on the California Standards and are reflective of current student achievement levels.  Students will develop executive functioning skills, self-advocacy skills and social skills in addition to furthering academic achievement. Students will participate in the Reading Specialist Program 2 periods a day.  This curriculum is geared to develop and strengthen our students' communication and decision making skills so they can successfully navigate their future.

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