Orion Academy (California)

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Orion Academy[1] is a private high school in Moraga, California for students challenged by Asperger's Syndrome, Nonverbal Learning Disorder (NLD), and other neurocognitive disabilities. It offers a college preparatory program for grades 9-12.

The school maintains a staff-to-student ratio of 1:4 with an average class size of eight. Over 90% of its graduates attend college or post secondary training.[1]

Orion Academy is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC),[2] has a 180-day curriculum, and is approved as a nonpublic school[3] by the State of California.


Orion Academy opened in 2000 through the efforts of Dr. Kathryn Stewart and parents of children who were unsuccessful in traditional schools. Suffering from severe difficulty with information processing and lacking social skills, these children as students typically failed most or all of their courses.

The founders' goals were to create an "Orion community" of students, faculty, staff, and families to work "collaboratively to help students discover and develop their individual gifts and strengths, become self-advocates, and realize their full potential. A safe, thoughtfully prepared environment encourages mutual trust, respect, and acceptance among those in its school community."[4] Since its founding, the school has been located at 350 Rheem Boulevard in Moraga, California. The school expanded significantly in 2006, more than doubling its space.

Faculty and staff[edit]

Orion Academy has teachers in language arts, math, science, special education, social science, and social skills.[5] Kathryn Stewart, Ph.D., is Orion Academy's Executive Director. A licensed clinical psychologist, focused on child, adolescent and family therapy, she has a background in Special Education as both a teacher and administrator. She is the author of a book, Helping Children with NLD or Asperger's Syndrome: A Parents Guide (New Harbinger Press). She gives conference speeches, is an adjunct professor at The Wright Institute in Berkeley, California teaches a graduate course for University of California-Berkeley Extension, and teaches courses at John F. Kennedy University in Pleasant Hill, California.

History of Orion Academy[edit]

In 1988, Sue Thompson, Judy Lewis, and Kathy Allen, all involved with Nonverbal Learning Disorder, met with Dr. Kathryn Stewart to ask her to set-up a school for students with Nonverbal Learning Disorder or Asperger's Syndrome. They introduced Dr. Stewart to Aaron and Val Simon, parents of a child with Asperger's Syndrome who were interested in funding a school. With funding from the Simons and two years of meetings, Orion Academy welcomed its first eight students taught by four teachers in September 2000. By June 2001, there were twelve students.[6]

Current offerings[edit]

More than 35 college preparatory courses are offered to 60 students with a staff including 20 professionals. Extracurricular activities include chess club, student council, a travel program, and a track team. Orion-specific activities include the Dog Program, an occupational therapy class, a mandatory personal project class, social skills groups, laptop computers as a basis of all work done by students, mandated volunteer experiences, and internships opportunities."[6]

Parent involvement is mandatory including the formation of the Parent Teachers Organization, Monthly Speaker Forums, and an annual seminar on post-secondary transition planning.

Orion Academy usually holds an annual open house.[7]


  1. ^ a b "Orion Academy". Retrieved August 24, 2013. 
  2. ^ See http://www.wascweb.org/ Retrieved 2013/8/24
  3. ^ For information on nonpublic schools, see http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/oii/nonpublic/index.html Retrieved 2013/8/26
  4. ^ "About Orion Academy". Retrieved August 24, 2013. 
  5. ^ See school website http://www.orionacademy.org/about/faculty-and-staff/ Retrieved 2013/8/24
  6. ^ a b See http://www.orionacademy.org/about/history-of-orion-academy/ Retrieved 2013/8/24
  7. ^ "Open House RSVP". Retrieved August 25, 2013. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 37°51′40″N 122°7′43″W / 37.86111°N 122.12861°W / 37.86111; -122.12861