Teaching Social Skills

Teaching Social Skills

Children with Aspergers and Autism struggle with social interactions with others. A big part of our educational program at Maple Lake deals with teaching our students the social skills that they need to be successful in relationships. This impairment in communication skills affects their relationships at school, home, and with friends. Our Vital Behaviors program covers several Executive Functioning Skills and many of these skills deal with social behavior.

Students are rated on their Vital Behaviors on a regular basis by teacher and residential staff. Results are shared with the student, parents, and therapists. As students grow in their ability to interact socially, we see their scores improve.

The inability to connect with others has very tough consequences like bullying, teasing, and outright rejection. Our students have a hard time realizing what is the root cause of these behaviors by others. But the way our students are treated is very painful to them and causes them to act out or behave in ways that attract even more negative attention.

Social problems typically occurring in Aspergers children and teens include:
1.   Aspergers children take things very literally. This may mean that it becomes difficult for  them to follow a lot of what their peers are talking about.
2.   Neurotypical peers may get the Aspergers child into trouble because, while often bright in some subjects, he is gullible when it comes to social behavior.
3.   Some children and teens with Aspergers learn that they have to ask a question to start a conversation, but then, instead of listening to the answer, they ask question after question, in effect drilling their peers and making them feel uncomfortable.
4.   Their difficulties reading social cues cause them to irritate peers. Difficulties in reading
social cues range from (a) trouble understanding the zones of personal space, causing them to stand too close to others, to (b) a lack of basic conversation skills.
5.   They have passions, certain things that they focus on, but they may have a hard time
talking about anything else, which is often annoying to peers.
6.   They may not understand social banter, and so they become easy targets for bullying.

little boy Mark Hutton, a noted psychologist and expert on Aspergers and Autism states that teaching social skills and cues are at the very center of treating these problems. The material from this blog has been taken from a website post by Mark. Parents can also by an e book by him that explains these issues in far better detail. The address for this site is listed below:


You can click on the link and be taken directly to the website.


Also, checkout the youtube video below it has some good information.










Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays from our school at Maple Lake Academy. We had a great December with many positive activities for students. The Recreation department at both schools hosted a cultural night for the students which was great.  



The Girl’s School attended the Festival of Trees in Salt Lake City. The money made at this event is donated to Primary Children’s Hospital which is one of the largest pediatric hospitals in the country.

At the festival, different individuals and organizations created, decorated and donated these trees. The trees were later auctioned to private donors.



The Recreation department and the Boy’s School hosted a Holidays Carnival at a local elementary school. There were several stations with various activities. The students would then rotate around the different stations. The boys had a great time interacting with the elementary students and had a very positive experience.

Many of our students are on a home pass right now for the entire winter break or for parts of it.

Below, are some calendar items to help parents and students prepare for the upcoming weeks.

January 4, 2016              School Resumes 

January 15, 2016            Term 2 Ends At Both Schools

January 15 -16, 2016    Parent’s Weekend At The Girl’s School

January 18, 2016           Term 3 Begins (Martin Luther King Day)

January 22-23, 2016    Parent’s Weekend At The Boy’s School

Many parents have asked me about homework during the Winter Break. If the student is caught up with the assignments that the teachers have given in class, then they will not have homework. If they are missing assignments, then this would be a great time to get caught up.

Students can access all their classes on the Edmodo system from a computer at home or a library. They do not need their school computer to do homework. We do ask that parents strictly supervise any computer use during the break.








Dear Teacher

Over the years, I have heard some teachers refer to students who struggle as “unintentional learners.” I have always confronted and fought this attitude. Unfortunately, many teachers do not understand learning disabilities and the problems faced by students in their classroom everyday.

The public school system is geared to serve the student who does not have any significant challenges. Teachers are not trained in how to help students who struggle. Even some special education teachers lack the knowledge and skills when dealing with students who have disabilities. Most districts and schools are waking up and beginning to understand the importance of meeting the needs of these students. I was able to observe many positive changes that help these students over my thirty year tenure in the public schools.

We are fortunate at Maple Lake to have teachers who are sensitive to these learning disabilities and who continually train and learn about them. Class sizes are low at our school but it is a great challenge in meeting the individual needs of every student in the class. With the help of house staff, and the student’s therapist, we are able to develop and carry out a positive educational plan for our students.

It is very rewarding for the teachers to watch the students grow over a period of time at Maple Lake. As the students work on their treatment and school work, the teachers literally watch them change and grow in their executive function skills, social skills, vital behaviors, academic knowledge, and other areas as well.

I would just like to thank the teachers at our school for all the hard work and effort that they put in on each student’s behalf. It is awesome to work with a group of educators  and others who are so committed in helping students grow.

The short video clip below is a touching look at how things might be seen from the student’s point of view.

Important Announcements

Important Announcements

Blog Update

The Blog has been updated and changed extensively. The easiest way to find things that you are looking for is to look on the sidebar menu. Blog posts are now under the “In The News” section. Liking the Blog and comments are very much appreciated.

Course Curriculum Maps

I have posted the curriculum maps for most of the courses that the students are taking. This will help parents follow along with what their student is learning and also help parents understand what the school wants their student to learn. Teachers reserve the right to change the pace or schedule to meet the instructional needs of the students. For specific information on a course contact the teacher.

Parent Weekends

Girls School……………………..October 16, 17

Boys School……………………..October 23, 24

Last Day Term 1

October 23

First Day Term 2

October 26

Thanksgiving Break

November 23-27

Winter Break

December 21-January 3

Girls Campout At Bryce Canyon National Park

Girls Campout At Bryce Canyon National Park

On September 10-12 the girl’s school traveled to Bryce Canyon on a camping trip. Bryce Canyon is located in southern Utah and is a major destination for travelers worldwide.

We left Maple Lake at around 9 a.m. on September 10 and traveled several hours. We stopped at “The Big Rock Candy Mountain” just south of Richfield, Utah for lunch.


Indeed, the area surrounding this resort looks like candy that you could go eat. Lots of minerals and colors. It is a very unique place.


During the campout, the girls packed their own lunch each day. Lunch consisted of sandwiches, chips, fruit snacks, Gatorade, and other trail mix type snacks.


Finally, we arrived at our destination and set up camp.

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It was interesting for me to camp with both the girl’s school and with the boy’s school. It is always fun to see how differently the two groups interact and approach simple things like eating and dressing. The girls group was divided into tent groups and each tent group had a different color of tee-shirt. The girls got their shirts early in the camp and decorated them. Of course the colors were bright neon type of colors. But were ever we went, I could tell where our girls were. All I had to do was look for the bright neon colors!

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We had a great dinner that night which consisted of hot barbecue chicken sandwiches, fresh water melon, and other side dishes. For desert, the girls cooked s’mores (marshmallows, gram crackers, and chocolate) over the camp fire.


After dinner, we had a very special campfire program. Karie had requested that the parents of each girl send them a story about an ancestor who was a pioneer in their family. It was powerful to learn about so many great people, and the sacrifices they made to come to the United States and also the sacrifices that they made for their families. The girls were all touched by the stories about their ancestors and the staff was touched also.


We spent the next day exploring Bryce Canyon.


We went on a hike to the bottom of the canyon and then back up to the top. Going down was easy, but coming back up was very difficult.

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After spending the day in the park, we returned to camp and had walking taco’s for dinner. This consisted of fried hamburger with taco seasoning scooped into Fritos corn chips bags. Condiments included hot sauce, guacamole, onions, and other stuff that you might put on a taco. We also had watermelon and cantaloupe.

Karie, the Recreational Therapist, had organized a special program with a native american theme. The purpose of this program, was for each of us to examine and know who we truly are and go forward with strength. Her and several staff members dressed up as native americans to perform this ceremony. Each girl received great strength from this activity.


After this activity, we finished the night by having a special Dutch Oven cobbler. We  were able to have a chocolate and blueberry cobbler, or a white cake and cherry cobbler.

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The next morning we packed up camp and returned to Maple Lake. This campout will standout as one of our greatest memories of the many things we learn and do at Maple Lake Academy.

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Boys Campout

Boys Campout


The Maple Lake Boys School went on a camping trip during the past week. The camp site was located in Lehman caves which are located near Ely, Nevada. It was over a five-hour trip to reach the destination. Along the way, the boys stopped and visited the Topaz War Relocation Center. This site is located near Delta, Utah.

The Topaz Internment Camp near Delta, Utah, housed mainly Japanese-Americans from the San Francisco area. The government forced these individuals to abandon businesses, houses, and most of their possessions with very little notice. During that time, the government considered people of Japanese decent to be a threat to the security of the country. Some groups have called it a concentration camp, and it has been called a detainment camp. The important fact is over 11,000 men, women, and children were housed there over a period of several years.

The boys had lunch in Delta and continued on the journey. Lehman Caves are located in the Great Basin National Park. The closest town is Ely, Nevada. The park is in a very remote area but has a lot of attractions for outdoor enthusiasts.


The campground that we stayed at was at the top of a mountain at over 10,000 feet elevation. After a full day of travel, we arrived at the campsite around 5 p.m. The teachers and a few boys prepared dinner as the rest boys and staff set up the camp. Dinner was a wonderful stew prepared by the cook at the boy’s home. We enjoyed a nice campfire and then everyone went to bed.

caamp coolers

One of the great experiences of the campout was the access that we had to wildlife in the area. There was a large flock of wild turkeys in the area and they would go through the camp on a regular basis. We also were able to see deer, eagles, owls, and other forms of wildlife.


The next morning we enjoyed a great breakfast of pancakes, scrambled eggs, hash browns, bacon, and juice. Several boys cooked the breakfast with the help of the teachers. The boys also cleaned up after the breakfast and stored all related equipment.

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After breakfast, we traveled to the Lehman Caves Visitor Center which was located a few miles away. At the visitors center, we were able to actually tour the caves. We were guided by a National Parks Ranger. The tour lasted over two hours. We were underground the whole time! The ranger was very well-informed about the history and facts surrounding the caves and we learned a great deal. Pictures below were taken during our tour of the caves.

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We then returned to camp and had sandwiches and chips for lunch. After lunch, we went on a nature hike. We actually roasted a green pine cone that a teacher picked and a few of us were able to sample a pine nut right off the tree.

There were also hours that we just relaxed and enjoyed being in the wilderness. We played several games of “capture the flag,” and other outdoor games. Several of us played an interesting and challenging card game called “the game of Mau.”

For dinner, we had chicken fajitas with all the fixings. Everyone had plenty of food during the campout. Once again, we want to thank our cook for preparing and organizing the food. For breakfast the next morning we again had pancakes, eggs, hash browns and juice.

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On Saturday morning we had breakfast, cleaned up camp, broke down camp, and traveled back to Maple Lake Academy. The campout was a huge success and we can not wait for the next one. Special thanks are given to Tim our Rec Therapist, the staff who attended, and the teachers who attended.


The New School Year Has Started!

School for both the girls and boys locations began on Monday, August 24. All students have received a schedule of what classes they are taking. These classes were determined by what each student needs to graduate from high school. Or if they are younger, which courses national standards require for that particular grade.

We have had new students join our school in the past few days and they will be given their schedule upon arrival at the school. The Educational Director met with students at both schools as a group. The purpose of the meeting was to motivate students about their educational and career prospects and also teach them how to become successful through using Vital Behaviors and Executive Functioning skills.

Students learned that education was the golden ticket to a better life. They learned that the more education they obtained and the more certifications and skills they mastered; the more opportunities for success they would have. In today’s world, it is important to have several skills that students can fall back on.

Students will be evaluated on a regular basis on the Vital Behaviors and Executive Functioning skills. Students will be given feedback by teachers and staff on the Vital Behaviors and Executive Functions and suggestions will be given on how they can improve each skill.

A list of Vital Behaviors and Executive Functioning Skills is provided below:


Personal Development Class At Girls School


Information About The Class

By: Wendy Magrath

Personal Development focused on skills that students need in order to transition successfully from high school into work, college, and life in the community. The students demonstrated knowledge and skills for daily living, social skills and recreation and leisure skills within the community and on field trips.

Highlights included managing personal finances including savings, checking and credit and visiting a bank. The girls explored career options as well as living expenses. We also discussed renting and utilities as well as home maintenance. We went to a drug store and heard from a pharmacist and talked about managing personal prescriptions and obtaining health care. Shelley, our nurse gave some simple First Aid instruction and we discussed when to call 911 and other emergencies. The girls learned how to iron, thread a needle and sew on a button, made emergency kits and bookmarks.

We prepared some simple recipes, measuring ingredients, and learned how to pipe icing on cupcakes. We also learned about food labels, planned meals and visited a grocery store. Chris, one of our staff, instructed us about car maintenance and the girls picked out a dream car, discovered expenses associated with it and how to get a driver’s license. We practiced tipping at a restaurant and rode a city bus. They also planned a dream trip and presented it to the class. We just discussed needs of children, safety and environmental birth defects. We finished with instruction on personal safety by our new educational director, Joe Kelly.

We covered material quickly, but we all had fun and learned some valuable lessons too. It was fun to watch them participate in new things. Many of the girls had prior experience in some of the skills and added valuable insight into the class. We urge them to continue practicing these skills with their families.

Student Presentations


Students at both schools will present projects that they have been working on all summer. Each project is individualized and was picked by the student. Projects range from performances to books that they  have written. These projects have been beneficial in helping students develop several different executive functioning skills. Additionally, students have improved research and writing skills. The various projects that students are presenting are listed below:

“That Asperger’s Kid Book”

Dance Routine To Music

Making Bracelets Demonstration

Mythology Poster

Breeds of Horses Powerpoint

Chemotherapy Prezi

How To Learn German

How Animals Help People

Coal Exporting

Writing and Expanding Horizons

Cooking Skills

Basic Backpacking Lesson

How To Make Cats Happy


New Educational Director

August 3 will be Wendy LeFevre’s last day at Maple Lake Academy.  Wendy has been the Educational Director at Maple Lake for the past several years. During that time, she was responsible for improving the educational program at the school for girls and opening the school for boys. Wendy has been responsible for building the quality educational program that currently exists at Maple Lake. She has been innovative in insightful in creating a program that addresses the unique issues that Maple Lake students face. Under her direction, students have thrived in their educational experience. Many of these students had not experienced a great deal of educational success prior to coming to Maple Lake. Wendy has integrated an approach of using Executive Functioning Skills in the school program. Teaching students these skills and how to apply the skills to a school setting has contributed to overall student success at Maple Lake. Wendy has accepted a position teaching math at Spanish Fork High School located in Spanish Fork, Utah. Her experience and expertise will be missed by the students and staff at Maple Lake. Joe Kelly Maple Lake has hired Joe Kelly to replace Wendy as Educational Director. Joe has always been the Principal at Maple Lake and has consulted part time with the educational staff concerning the program and curriculum. He helped Maple Lake earn its initial accreditation to be a specialized private school in 2005. He is excited be working in an organization that is so committed to changing and improving the lives of young people from across the entire country. He has always specialized in working with hard to reach students who are struggling with their school experience. He has just completed his 30th year of education. During that time, he has been a history teacher, psychology teacher, weight training coach, fitness coach, track coach, soccer coach, football coach, and wresting coach. After his teaching and coaching career, he was a school counselor for four years. He then became an assistant principal at a junior high school. He has also served as the Nebo School District At-Risk Coordinator and principal of Landmark High School. Joe retired from this position on July 1, 2015. Joe is also an author and recently published a book on how schools can reach “at-risk” youth. The title of the book is “Whistling In The Graveyard.” It is centered around the dropout problems facing our students and lists several ways to address the problem. Joe is also a 4th Degree Black Belt in the art of Tae Kwon Do. He loves Dutch oven cooking, and on any Sunday afternoon he can be found cooking a favorite Dutch oven recipe for his family. Joe is proud of his family. He is married to a beautiful wife and has five children. He also has three grandchildren who he loves to spoil.