Success for students with behavioral or social setbacks

Identifying issues at young age helps to overcome

BOCA RATON, Fla. - It isn't clear if the Sandy Hook gunman was diagnosed with mental illness, but he's been described as isolated with few social skills. 

The Boca Raton Learning Academy works with students who have behavioral and social issues. For 10-year-old Zachary Kaplan it was proving to be a problem.

"He was very angry when he came here, he had an attitude, was disrespectful and threatening," says Bonnie Jenkins, the Director of the Academy.

At the Academy he received the kind of attention his peers with Asperger Syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorder require.

"When you identify them young and do things to improve their self-esteem, their whole demeanor changes," says Elisabeth Weinstein, the school principal.

Paula Goldberg is a behavior analyst. She works with the kids to help them overcome anger and frustration, and learn to socialize.

"Early identification is crucial. It helps teach them the skills they need at a young age so when they transition to another school they can fit in better,"says Goldberg.

Jenkins says Zachary's progress is impressive.

"He's not doing those behaviors any more, he's a role model for the other kids," says Jenkins.

Most of the children at the school don't have behavioral problems or social issues, but for the handful who do - this is the setting they can get the attention they need.

"We put more emphasis on the social and emotional aspect, because without that, it doesn't matter how smart you are," says Jenkins.

Now Zachary has a better outlook on how to treat his peers.

"Give them good respect," says Zachary.

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