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LOCAL IMPACT

Making a profound impact on neurodivergent youth.

School counsellor Jennifer Landaverde harnesses WE Well-being’s evidence-based resources to build critical social and emotional learning skills for her students.

microsoftteams-image-9.png
LOCAL IMPACT

Making a profound impact on neurodivergent youth.

School counsellor Jennifer Landaverde harnesses WE Well-being’s evidence-based resources to build critical social and emotional learning skills for her students.

Aiden* was having problems with their friends. Nothing serious. Just the usual kinds of social issues that often arise between kids in the 6th grade. But for neurodivergent youth like Aiden and their peers at Seattle’s Academy for Precision Learning, even minor conflicts can be more difficult to work through.

School counselor Jennifer Landaverde tried talking with Aiden, but the youth just shut conversations down. Then, using resources from WE Well-being, Landaverde developed a curriculum on communication and relationships which included daily journal-writing. And the breakthrough came. There, on the pages of Aiden’s journal entries, were all the words they wouldn’t say out loud. Their thoughts and feelings on their friends. Their understanding of how their actions affected others. Now Landaverde had the foundation to help Aiden work through their conflicts.

The Academy for Precision Learning (APL) is a school founded in 2007 to provide a more fulfilling and engaging education for neurodiverse children, from kindergarten through to Grade 12, who are managing challenges like autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). There are students across the full spectrum of learning ability and cognitive function, which can create a challenge for faculty.

Landaverde is a trained mental health therapist who joined APL several years ago to serve as school counselor. In addition to meeting one-on-one with students to support them through personal challenges, Landaverde teaches some fun classes like makeup artistry and facepainting, and she runs school activities like the Sewing Club and Dungeons & Dragons Club. (She is also, she notes with some pride, the resident DJ for school dances). However, one of her biggest accomplishments has been designing a Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum for the school, with a lot of support from WE Well-being.

"The difference has been astounding. I have time to actually see the students and be involved in the classes." - Jennifer Landaverde
"The difference has been astounding. I have time to actually see the students and be involved in the classes." - Jennifer Landaverde

Every day, students begin with an ‘advisory period’—a kind of homeroom where they check in about current projects and assignments. Now, with Landaverde’s curriculum, that period also has time dedicated to topics like bullying, healthy relationships, interpersonal communication, and managing emotions. The lessons include practical activities like the journal writing that helped Aiden open up.

“Communication and emotions are something our learners struggle with the most. How they’re communicating emotion through body language, how other’s emotions are affecting them,” says Landaverde. “Another challenge for them is healthy relationships. They struggle with understanding different levels of friendship.” When Landaverde first began developing her SEL curriculum for the school, it was a massively labor-intensive project. Gathering and preparing information, designing practical activities, and presenting it all in an engaging package that would inspire and motivate students. Landaverde estimates it was taking her as much as 12 hours a week, every week through the school year, just to ensure teachers had a general curriculum with materials every day.

WE Well-being's evidence-based resources changed everything. With the topics, research, and guidance for activities already there, Landaverde says she has been able to develop a whole year’s worth of curriculum in just a couple of weeks. She is now able to devote more attention to creating tailored individual curriculum materials for teachers who want to address particular issues. And even better, the support from WE Well-being means Landaverde now has much more breathing room for working one-on-one with students.

“The difference has been astounding. I have time to actually see the students and be involved in the classes,” she says. “Because that’s what I want to do.”

*Name changed to protect their privacy.

WE Well-being is supported by the Hershey Company’s Heartwarming Project.  Learn more about how the Heartwarming Project helps kids and teens build well-being skills and celebrates the power of connection for youth well-being here. 

Hershey Heart Warming Project
Hershey Heart Warming Project