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The Phyllis L. Susser School for Exceptional Children

School Age Program

We are a New York State approved non-public school that provides a 12-month special education day program for students age 11-21 funded by their local school districts. We serve students with the following educational classifications: Autism, Speech and Language Impairment, Intellectual Disability, Emotional Disability, Multiple Disabilities, Other Health Impairment and Traumatic Brain Injury.

We provide a supportive, stimulating and nurturing environment where students feel valued and are safe to learn. Integrated services allow therapists and teachers to collaborate on student goals and work together throughout the day towards maximizing students' potential. In addition to academic goals we focus on the development of students' social emotional and communication skills toward preparing our students for as independent, successful and fulfilling lives as possible. Families are critical partners of our team. We support and encourage collaborative interventions to meet each child's needs.

SEC is a place where children with emotional, cognitive, language or pervasive developmental disorders, learn the skills they need to achieve independence. We build literacy, numeracy and communication into every aspect of learning, and offer experiences with music, the arts and technology, so that our students can develop new skills, take risks, and achieve a strong sense of self-worth.


Some school-age individuals have disabilities so severe and behaviors so challenging that they require their educational and health and safety needs to be met in facilities such as a Birch’s Children’s Residential Project (CRP). Birch’s CRP offers coordinated treatment approaches 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in highly structured residential and educational environments that insure student safety and support student learning.

Educational Programming

In the classrooms, our approach is based on Structuring the Education of Students With Autism Spectrum Disorder, incorporating structured teaching, individualized instruction, and a focus on communication and socialization. It emphasizes a highly structured and predictable classroom environment and the use of visual learning (a relative strength of many persons with developmental disabilities); it’s typical classroom has separate, defined areas for tasks such as individual work, group activities and recreation. Teachers use pictures, or “visual supports,” to help students communicate, follow schedules, and transition between activities. The use of visual supports can help relieve frustration for those with varying degrees of language impairment.

Our small class sizes allow for small group and individual instruction throughout the school day that affords us the ability to meet the goals on each student’s IEP. Functional academic skills aligned to NYS Common Core Standards are taught in order to develop and improve upon the daily living skills of our students. Daily living skills are taught directly through typical classroom methods as well as with the use of technology such as desktop computers, iPads, smartboards and the web-based Unique Learning System.

All our students are NYS Alternately Assessed and may stay with us through the age of 21.

Related Services

At SEC, we offer all related services that appear on a student’s IEP, including counseling, speech/language therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy. Services can be offered on a push-in or pull-out basis, depending on the student’s individual needs.

Transitional Planning

We believe that the vocational, social and communication skills students need to transition from the educational world to the adult world should be developed from a very young age, and we offer age-appropriate experiences for our students to prepare for this transition. At SEC, the transition program provides vocational assessments and independent living skills assessments, with a focus on preparing students for adult living. Students are given opportunities to participate in pre-vocational work programs in the school, as well as community service/work experience programs outside of the school.

For our younger students, we offer a variety of activities to help develop interests and hobbies. By discovering a student’s interests, the transition team can begin to develop a career pathway. Using the Holland theory, this program also provides vocational and interest-building assessments.

The vocational program offers school-based simulated work experiences in areas such as graphic arts, technology, community service, clerical, stock/inventory, and recycling. They can also participate in an “adopt-a-tree” program through the NYC Parks Department. A special new addition to the vocational program is The Birch Cafe. In this simulated work experience, students can explore every aspect of hospitality services, including food preparation, customer service, inventory and stock, and cashier. Other special programs have included a birch bookstore, a clothing boutique, and various class shops.

For older students, community-based work experiences are offered in order to strengthen their 21st century work skills and develop critical pre-employment work habits and social skills that generalize to all jobs, such as taking direction, self-monitoring, teamwork, getting along with co-workers and employers, accepting constructive criticism, and working independently. Current work sites include The Salvation Army, TJ Maxx, St. John’s University, Ozanam Nursing Home, Queens County Farm, NYC Parks Dept., and Boswyck Hydroponic Farm. Our older students also participate in a mentorship program in order to enhance their leadership skills.

In addition to working with students, the transition department assists parents in navigating the complexities of obtaining post-secondary services for their children. Through guest speakers and individual meetings, parents are guided through the process of obtaining guardianship, and adult services through OPWDD and ACCESS VR.

Community Integration

At SEC we feel that one of the best ways to practice functional life skills and social skills is through community integration activities. As part of the curriculum, many classes travel to local stores and restaurants in order to work on goals that fit the developmental needs of the students. For example, one class might walk to Dunkin Donuts in order to practice basic skills such as crossing a street safely or waiting on a line appropriately, while another class might go to a local supermarket as part of a life skills lesson about shopping independently and correctly using money to make purchases. These activities support the transition goal of making every student as independent as possible in the community.


SEC has been able to grow its technology program dramatically over the last few years. We have recently added 35 iPads with more on the way. We have added five interactive smartboards to the classrooms, in addition to the three already on location. Our technology program continues to expand as classroom teachers and technology support staff collaborate on new ways to incorporate technology into everyday lessons (to ensure our compliance with The Common Core Standards), while also using various forms of modern technology in pre-vocational settings.

The Arts

Art & Music are everywhere at SEC. Our music and art teachers provide a rich program full of creative activities and projects, geared toward the students’ interests and abilities. In some cases, teachers work with individual students to develop their skills. In addition, parents are invited to attend musical performances such as holiday shows and variety shows, where student artwork is also exhibited.

Physical Education

The students at SEC receive a robust physical education program. Students use the gymnasium approximately 2-3 times per week, in which they are instructed in a wide variety of sports and fitness activities. In addition, each class uses our heated indoor pool 1-2 times per week. Our lifeguards and certified instructors ensure safety and provide swimming instruction tailored to each student’s abilities and special needs.

Social Events and Field Trips

Students and staff at SEC participate in many social events throughout the year. Thematic school dances are scheduled on a regular basis, with the goal of giving students the opportunity to participate in school wide events, and interact with students and staff members from other classes. Students and staff also participate in an annual Field Day event at a local community park where they play sports and enjoy a day of fun in the sun.

Educational and recreational field trips are also a large part of our program at SEC. The classes go on field trips throughout the school year to various places in the New York City area. Our students visit places such as The Museum of Natural History and Planetarium, The Bronx Zoo, The Queens County Farm, The Paley Center for Media, and the Museum of the Moving Image. Additionally, students visit AMC movie theatres for their “sensory friendly movies,” a special program that provides an opportunity for students with sensory needs to enjoy their favorite films in a safe and accepting environment. The theaters keep their lights up and the sound turned down, and audience members are invited to get up and dance, walk, shout or sing! In addition to these trips being a great learning experience, they are also ways for our students to practice life skills and social skills out in the community.

Afterschool Social Recreational Program . Click here to download a PDF flyer with more details.

Behavioral/Emotional Support

Safety for all students is of utmost importance at SEC. For students with significant emotional needs and/or challenging behavior, our program offers a high level of support. In addition to having multiple psychologists and a social worker available to assist students, every staff member is trained in CPI (nonviolent crisis prevention). SEC also has a team of behavior intervention counselors who are available to help classroom staff implement individual behavior plans, and provide students with emotional support in or out of the classroom.

Parent support/workshops

At SEC, we routinely offer parent workshops. Workshop topics have included post-secondary options, managing challenging behavior, peer support, sexuality, anger management, and critical thinking.

For more information about our program, or to schedule a visit, please contact our office at (718) 591-8100.

Michael Claus, Principal
71-64 168th Street
Flushing, NY 11365
Tel (718) 591-8100

School Age Student Code of Conduct.