Eton Academy Celebrates, Empowers Neurodiverse Students

Amy Barczy

| 3 min read

Amy Barczy is a former brand journalist who authored content at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Prior to her time at Blue Cross from 2019-2024, she was a statewide news reporter for MLive.com. She has a decade of storytelling experience in local news media markets including Lansing, Grand Rapids, Holland, Ann Arbor and Port Huron.

For students with learning differences, a traditional school setting can be filled with obstacles that prevent them from experiencing classroom success.
“Learning differences refer to the diversity in learning that we all have,” said Pete Pullen, Head of School at Eton Academy. “Sometimes that diversity – the difference in the way we think and learn – can get in the way of school and life in general.”
At Eton Academy in Birmingham, those students with learning differences are given the tools they need to thrive in life and learning.
Students at Eton Academy in the classroom.
Eton Academy serves students in grades 1-12. Founded in 1980, the school is committed to educating students who learn differently. Its work to help improve the health of Michigan communities is being recognized this year by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, which has selected the school as its charitable focus for 2024. Through this partnership with Eton, Blue Cross will raise critical funding that helps to provide classroom resources, professional development for teachers and scholarship opportunities for families in need.
Eton also works to extend its reach beyond the walls of the classroom by providing unique training for non-Eton teachers and specialized tutoring for non-Eton students. This school also provides tuition assistance that will ensure that more children who need help can attend. Over 20% of all school-aged children have specific learning differences, which means thousands of families in Michigan could benefit.
“I’m proud and appreciative that Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is partnering with Eton Academy to support students’ individualized learning experiences,” said Daniel J. Loepp, president and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. “My family has experienced the impact of Eton to help students inside and outside of the classroom; and we know that through this partnership we’ll help more children realize their bright futures.”
Students at Eton Academy.
At Eton, staff continuously train on how best to help students with learning differences, including dyslexia, dysgraphia, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyscalculia, nonverbal learning challenges, executive functioning disorders and auditory processing disorders. Class sizes are small – with a maximum of 10 students or less. This allows the teachers to be laser-focused on the individual needs of each student.
The curriculum at Eton is unique: in addition to learning traditional school subjects, students also learn how to learn. For students with learning differences, it’s essential to their success.
“If you’re not able to learn like others, the way your teacher expects, your self-image can be dramatically impacted in a negative way,” Pullen said, speaking to the experiences some students have prior to coming to Eton.
Pete Pullen, Head of School at Eton Academy, poses for a photo with a student.
The Eton curriculum teaches students how to process information and their feelings in a way that works for them. Reading, writing and speaking are approached through a multisensory process; as some students need more than just listening for their language system to function: they need to use their senses of touch and sight as well, Pullen said. When students tap into the learning skills that work for them, Pullen said the staff sees learning accelerate in the students – empowering them to keep learning and applying themselves to schoolwork.
“For every student that is neurodiverse, sometimes we as teachers and parents forget about what they do well,” Pullen said. “We lead them in that way, focusing on what students do well so they can build their confidence. Confident learners take the academic risks that are needed to grow and thrive.”
At Eton Academy, student success is measured by their abilities to engage in school and life outside the walls of Eton.
“Every moment when I walk into a classroom and walk down the hallways, when I see the students caring so much about one another – that’s what makes me proud,” Pullen said. “It’s an incredibly kind, accepting and inclusive environment where students overcome their challenges, and realize success.”
Photo credits: Courtesy of Eton Academy

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