Bridge School (California)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Bridge School is a non-profit organization in Hillsborough, California for children with severe speech and physical impairments. It aims to allow the children to achieve full participation in their communities through Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) and Assistive Technologies (AT). The school was founded by Pegi Young, Jim Forderer and Dr. Marilyn Buzolich in 1986, it has since become a world recognized leader in AAC and AT.


The Bridge School was founded by Pegi Young, Jim Forderer and speech and language pathologist, Dr. Marilyn Buzolich. Pegi Young was inspired to start the school after she was unable to find a suitable school placement for her non-verbal son, Ben Young, who has cerebral palsy. The school opened in 1987 after funds were raised from the 1st Annual Bridge School Benefit concert in 1986. The first student graduated from the school in 1991. A permanent building was constructed for the school on the campus of North Elementary School in 1995 and affords students at the school the opportunity to participate in the general education environment. In 1997, a Teacher in Residence program was established, bringing teachers from countries where the use of AAC and AT is still in its infancy to the school for a year-long placement. This program has since brought teachers from India, Poland, Singapore, Mexico, South Korea and South Africa among other countries.[1] The school opened its preschool program in 2003.


The school has a transitional model and aims to transition all students back to their home districts and is not intended to be a permanent school placement. One of its core beliefs is that educators, families and students must all work collaboratively to allow learning to be effective and families of the students are heavily involved in learning, students are also encouraged to actively participate in their own learning. The school uses technology as a tool for learning and believes that everyone who requires it should have access to a 'holistic communication system'.[2] The use of multi-modal communication is encouraged, encompassing vocalisations, body language, eye contact and gestures as well AAC and AT. The main purpose of the program is to provide children with an effective means of communication and allow children to express themselves. The school employs special education teachers, speech and language pathologists, assistive technologists and instructional assistants.

Benefit Concert[edit]

One of the organization's main sources of funding is the annual benefit concert which is held every October at Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View (CA). It is an acoustic non-profit charity concert organized by Neil Young and his wife Pegi Young (Bridge School founder). The first concert was held in 1986 to support the opening of the school and has been held every year, with the exception of 1987, since. In 2012 the 26th concert was held. Performers generally perform acoustically. Past artists have included Phish, Thom Yorke, Green Day, The Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam, David Bowie, Metallica, Elton John, Foo Fighters, Bob Dylan, The Beach Boys, Mumford & Sons, Florence Welch, and Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers.[3] Neil Young is heavily involved in the organization and promotion of the concert and performs every year. In 2011, a critically acclaimed[4] CD and DVD compilation containing highlights from the concerts was released to commemorate the organizations' 25th Anniversary. There have also been numerous iTunes collections released to raise funds for the school.[5]



Education for individuals with complex speech and physical needs is the main purpose of the organization and both school and pre-school programs are run. The pre-school caters for students aged 3 to 6 years old and the school program caters for students aged 6 to 14 years. Two classrooms allow for up to 14 students. Strategies for dealing with language and communication needs are emphasised within the curriculum alongside standard state curriculum guidelines.


In 2001 the Board of Directors established a Research program to examine their educational practices and understand the impact and effect they have on their students. This research aims to allow the organization to enhance future educational practice at the school as well as share the information they have with the field of AAC and AT worldwide.


A transitional program was developed to aid the transition of students from the Bridge School back to their home schooling districts. It provides support to the students, families and professionals working with the student and aims to ensure all communication strategies are easily used in the student's new setting. It documents the student's individual education and communication needs and helps develop strategies for effective transition. Tools have been developed by the organization to assist the students and their families.


The organization's outreach program allows information gathered at the school through research and experience to be shared with parents, professionals and AAC/AT users internationally. It aims to promote inclusion of AAC/AT users and positively effect the futures of these individuals worldwide. An 'AAC by the Bay' Conference is held every two years to allow international leaders in the field of AAC and AT to gather and share information. Several documents detailing 'Classroom Strategies' for individuals with complex communication needs have been published by the organization to disseminate the knowledge the school has gathered. The organization also holds lectures and provides opportunities for individuals to have hands-on experience with modern assistive technologies and training programs. The Teacher in Residence program also contributes to the organization's outreach.

Bridge Communities Through Alternative Communications (BCTAC) program[edit]

This program provides opportunities for teenagers and young people who use AAC and AT to gather, share ideas and raise awareness of AAC/AT users. The group caters for individuals aged 15 and older and meets monthly. Members plan and hold events, talks and retreats. Some of the program's main goals are to allow opportunity for connection between individuals locally and globally and encourage independence, self-advocacy and self-determination. The use of technology and the Internet is also encouraged in this program.

Building Bridges Training Camp and Institute[edit]

The organization holds a yearly summer camp for AAC/AT users, their siblings and people wishing to work with these individuals. The camp is held in Camp Harmon in Santa Cruz Mountains, CA and lasts approximately one week. An opportunity for individuals to train in the use of AAC/AT is available.

Bridge School News Network (BSNN)[edit]

The organization has a YouTube channel with hundreds of subscribers[6] which features broadcasts from the students. These broadcasts consist of news from the school as well as students interviewing artists performing at the benefit concert. The students use their AAC/AT communication strategies in these broadcasts. This aims to allow the communication strategies being used at the school to be viewed internationally and spread awareness of the organization.


  1. ^ "ISAAC – The Bridge School / ISAAC Teacher-in-Residence Award". Archived from the original on 2013-07-04. Retrieved 2013-07-15.
  2. ^ "Our Mission". Archived from the original on 2013-05-26. Retrieved 2013-07-15.
  3. ^ Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers - Full Concert - 10/02/94 - Shoreline Amphitheatre (OFFICIAL), retrieved 2019-11-01
  4. ^ Valish, Frank. "The Bridge School Benefit Concerts 25th Anniversary Edition | Under The Radar". Retrieved 2013-07-15.
  5. ^ "(United Kingdom) – iTunes – Everything you need to be entertained". Apple. Retrieved 2013-07-15.
  6. ^ "BridgeSchooler". YouTube. Retrieved 2013-07-15.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 37°34′06″N 122°21′45″W / 37.56846300°N 122.36259100°W / 37.56846300; -122.36259100