The Parish School Brings a One-of-a-Kind Education to Houston Area Special Needs Students

The Parish School has been educating kids ages 2-12 who have communication delays and learning differences since 1983.
The Parish School has been educating kids ages 2-12 who have communication delays and learning differences since 1983.

Since opening its doors in 1983, The Parish School has been on a mission to educate and empower kids with communication delays and learning differences across the greater Houston area. Now situated on a 17-acre hill country summer camp-inspired campus, the nationally-recognized special needs school offers students ages 2 to 12 a nurturing nature-based learning environment, complete with an on-site pediatric therapy clinic that helps children to truly thrive.

The list of what makes this West Houston school one of a kind is a long one. The thoughtfully-designed campus features light-filled classrooms housed in cozy limestone cottages, explorable winding nature trails, 3-acre adventure play area where kids can engage in child-directed play, and even a popular "turtle garden," where a long-time staff member brings her shelled pets for the students to visit. The approachable teachers, who are casually dressed and called by their first names, are carefully trained to reframe any negative rules or comments into positive ones—think "walking feet" instead of "no running"—to help students build relationships and confidence. Grades and grade levels are pushed aside in favor of multi-age/multi-level groups, like the "Tigers" or "Armadillos," that give every child the chance to belong to a team and be successful, to avoid the stigma of "being behind."

Meanwhile, the program's philosophy—affectionately dubbed "The Parish Way"—certainly helps to set the special education school apart. Parish prioritizes a highly collaborative environment, where the instructional staff, therapists, specialists, and administrators work together closely to deliver a fully-integrated education approach that's personalized to fit the needs of each individual student. Effective communication is at the crux of the curriculum, with early childhood levels taught by certified speech-language pathologists and elementary classes led by special education teachers with the help of SLPs. Visual and auditory learning support is also top of mind, with the school utilizing photos and visual calendars in classrooms, as well as a special sound system that enhances teachers' voices during group instruction. And nature studies, science, and the arts are strongly emphasized to cultivate communication, social competence, creativity, and curiosity in even the youngest learners.

Of course, the on-site clinic, The Carruth Center, might be the most unique thing about The Parish School. Originally established to provide families at Parish with easy access to individual speech therapy, the center now serves the school as well as the greater community. It offers a full array of assessment and therapeutic services, including speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, music therapy, mental health services, Social Thinking® groups, summer camps, and developmental assessments. The Carruth Center doesn't believe in "one-size-fits-all" approaches and instead, much like Parish, focuses on individualized, coordinated, child-centered services.

If you're the parent of a child with communication delays or learning differences, visit The Parish School website to learn more about their empowering approach to special education. You can also request more information or a tour, or go ahead and apply right now!

All photos courtesy of The Parish School

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