Supporting Student Success

Affectionately known as “The O-School,” The Sonia Shankman Orthogenic School combines a traditional learning model with innovative, supportive therapies. Find out how this can help your student.

If you’re a parent of a student on the autism spectrum, with a mood disorder, or a mental health challenge like depression, you know all too well that some educational settings are not a good fit for your child. Or maybe you’re just beginning the school journey and don’t know where to turn.

The Sonia Shankman Orthogenic School (O-School) has been helping bright, creative students with diverse challenges for decades by seamlessly melding complex clinical care with a rich school experience. “Our program is designed to support the whole child,” says Executive Director Diana Kon, Ed.D.

A proven approach

For students who struggled in other settings, the O-School’s relational approach can help them thrive. The O-School team takes the time to get to know each student, and that trust becomes the basis for growth. Students always have a clinically trained and trusted adult they can turn to when facing daily challenges.

“We meet each student where they are,” Kon says. For those who plan to attend college, the O-School has a history of successfully preparing students. If a student needs support to bridge the gap to another school or to the workplace, excellent transition programs are available. 

Innovative and traditional

“Our approach is also an immersive one, something we refer to as our ‘milieu’,” says Kon. “In addition to individual therapies, every component of our school is designed to help students move forward in some important way, and much of the therapeutic work takes place within this milieu. From the structure and flow of the school day, to interactions with teachers and therapists, to the creation of each schedule – these are all designed to help our students grow and progress.”

The O-School also prides itself on offering a rich school experience. In addition to an ambitious core curriculum, the school provides a robust arts program, foreign language courses, departmentalized classrooms, and an array of co-curricular activities.

“Our students enjoy a robust school experience to help develop strong and positive identities as learners,” says Kon. “We also believe it’s critical to our goal of preparing our students to successfully transition back to their neighborhood schools.”

Meeting the needs of the moment

With the mental health needs of Chicago families increasing during the pandemic, the O-School has become a dynamic resource. “While we respect tradition, we are always innovating to meet the needs of the moment,” Kon says.

In addition to the Therapeutic Day School, the O-School now offers a Transition Learning Center for seniors who have completed their academic requirements but who could benefit from some additional life skills and social-emotional development before successfully launching into their post-secondary dreams, whether that be college or career. Last summer, the O-School also launched Camp O, a summer program for campers who need a little extra support to access the joys of summer camp. Finally, the school recently opened a Diagnostic and Evaluation Center, making the O-School’s unique therapeutic and educational lens available to any family who needs it.

Whatever the student’s needs, the O-School is committed to their success. “Our goal is to offer a full continuum of care that could be a resource for every student, regardless of where they are in their journey,” says Kon.

To learn more visit oschool.org.

Jennifer Kales
Jennifer Kales
Content editor Jennifer Kales has been in the business of writing for more than 20 years creating advertising copy, blogs, books and everything in between. She loves helping Chicago Parent clients tell their stories in a way that resonates with audiences.

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