From the Students
“Imagine that you are walking down a dark hallway. You’re blind, and you can’t see, and you can’t hear, and you can’t talk. There are people pulling and yelling at you, and you know they are there but you can’t do anything about it. That’s what life is like in public school when you can’t read. Now imagine you get to the end of the hall and the door opens, and you can see and hear and talk. People aren’t pulling you, they are holding your hand. They aren’t yelling, they are talking nice. And you can do whatever, like read. That’s what life is like at Barclay.”
“Barclay makes me happy. Like I count. Like I matter. That is, I already know how to count.”
“People think I don’t know I’m different, but I do. And I don’t mind. I do different really good. That’s why I do so good at Barclay. They do different really good.”
“You have to feel Barclay to believe it!”
“I don’t have any friends at school, only brothers and sisters.”
“I like the Barclay School because the teachers are crazy and tell jokes and have dogs.”
“Barclay is a hands-on, loving experience for any kind of kid in the world.”
“They let us move at our own pace and we have lots of visitors too. We go on lots of field trips. We do pottery, sign language, and drama.”
“I want Barclay all my life.”
“I was always told I couldn’t do anything. Now, I go to a school where they expect me to do everything. And I do.”
“The teachers help you to understand. It is fun to read books. You are interested in the books you read.”
“Barclay is the best thing my mom ever did besides letting me get born.”
“The pets are for sitting and petting and feeding. The garden is awesome for the freshly grown veggies and fruit that we can eat.”
“With magic in our hearts and imagination on our path, adventure leads the way– onward to the Barclay School!”
“They say I’m autistic, but I don’t believe it. I prefer artistic. Just sounds better.”
“We are never bullied. Sometimes we have tea. No uniforms, you can wear what you want. We do crazy art projects. We never have homework!”
“Slavery ended with the signing of the Emancipation Constipation.”
“I love the Barclay School because we go on trips every now and then. We eat our snacks outside by the garden. We get to work at our own pace. We go to school year round and we do a whole lot of art. We have lots of visitors that come and talk to us about things. We have hot chocolate and tea for beverages, if you want some. So, come on to the Barclay School and we will treat you right, no matter what!”
“Everyone at Barclay is family. And not like the family you’re born into. It’s like you get to choose the best of the best.”
“I’ll take the Barclay School over being normal any day.”
From the Parents and Friends
“It was 11:55 AM on a snow covered Wednesday, a typical Texas morning for December 21st. But this Wednesday was like no other because on this particular Wednesday I met my son Ethan. Through a haze of pain and anesthesia and joy, I held my firstborn and imagined a beautiful future. I knew in that one moment that I would never do anything as noble or selfless or pure ever again. I had never been as close to my God before or since and was sure the feeling could never be replicated.
One year and six days later on another snow covered Wednesday I was enraptured for a second time when I met my son Nathan. All the incredible giddy feelings I experienced one year earlier came flooding back, along with a great feeling of expectation for my child’s future.
Fast forward seven years, I am through the milestones and all of the ‘firsts’ and ready to dive into the world of academia. But what should have been an easy transition turned into a four-year long ordeal for both of my children. And the future I had envisioned disappeared and was replaced by something far different.
The old cliche holds true: nothing wounds a parent more than seeing their child in pain. No matter the circumstance, witnessing your child’s devastation and being helpless to aid or defend has by far been the worst pain I have experienced in my forty-seven year journey. And devastated my children were by South Carolina public schools.
Nathan’s descent began in second grade when it was noticeable that he could not read at grade level. A wiz at math and science, I thought his reading skill would develop on its own given enough time. I thought wrong. Detained three times by age nine, it was apparent (at least to me) that something was gravely awry. One I.E.P. meeting came and went, with Nathan’s struggles being caused by my marital status (or lack thereof); poor eyesight; having a special needs sibling; and the coup de gras, our living in a mobile home.
His behavior deteriorated at school and home. He suffered socially. My frustration rose as his frustration rose. He was drowning, and I knew it. After much debate to the contrary, I took it upon myself to have Nathan tested for learning disabilities. My suspicions proved to be right: my son is dyslexic. Since RCSDI does not recognize dyslexia and no services were immediately available or offered, I knew what I had to do. I quietly withdrew my child from public school and enrolled him into the Barclay School.
When an opening became available in April of 2016, I sprang at the chance for Nathan to enter this special world. Within eight calendar days, lead teacher Edith Bailey cracked the code of Nathan’s safe! He began to read! His skill had been locked inside, and this amazing teacher had the combination. His confidence soared. His behavior improved. Where there was once a struggle there is now a level of comfort. Nathan reads with a skill and comprehension I never thought possible. All of this due to the methods employed by the Barclay School.
The road to educational success has been much harder for my older son. At the risk of avoiding great detail, Ethan’s diagnosis was two years in the making: autism spectrum. His path would be different, and public school never let us forget it. Instead of helping us navigate this difference, Ethan was shamed and cast aside because of it. Traditional education made no allowances for my son. After a three year struggle and an egregious list of grievances far too lengthy and advanced to mention, the final blow of the hammer came when in a final I.E.P. meeting, the second in command under the RCSDI Superintendent Percy Mack frankly informed me to ‘institutionalize him and forget.’ I not so politely declined their offer!
I remembered Dr. Gillian Barclay from her tenure at Sandhills Academy. If anyone could reach Ethan, she could. In the spring of 2013, I made an appointment to meet with her and Edith Bailey. Meet I did. I begged for a chance – just one. If Ethan could not be reached, I would concede defeat. But these amazing women took a chance and the rest is history.
The journey has been long with more ups than downs, but the staff at the Barclay School saw in my child what I had always believed was there: potential. Potential to become. To be a vital part of this world. Edith Bailey held on when everything told her to let go. She loved my child into the young man he is today, and she’s not the only one! With the help of Donna and Bonnie, Mary and Dave, Compton and Dr. Gillian, Ethan is no longer surviving – he’s thriving. If only RCSDI could see my son now! If they did, they would see not only the mistake they made, but my brave and beautiful boy – and the gamble they could have taken but lost.
And nothing is sadder than opening the door to ‘what might have been.’ Ethan could have been the star in RCSDI’s crown. But he is a star in Barclay’s crown. Or rather, Barclay is the star in Ethan’s crown.
Now, my story is not unique. There are countless parents like myself battling for their child’s future. And battle we do. Those of us who are wise enough to get out of our own way come to realize our children have special educational considerations.
Fact 1: through trial and error we come to know that our children will not adapt to us, but that we will adapt to our children.
Fact 2: our children are no less because they have a diagnosis; on the contrary, they are the better natures of ourselves. A bright spot in an otherwise dim world. Our ‘angels unaware.’
Fact 3: our children must not be discounted, and we will not let them be.
Fact 4: and we will seek out these sweet souls who are brave enough to step out of the box – who tear the sides of the box apart and open a whole new world for our children to become who they were always meant to be.
Fact 5: the Barclay School is just such a place. Barclay enables all those who enter a chance at a life we all so richly deserve but more often than not are not fortunate enough to find.
Without a dream we reach nothing, without love we feel nothing, without faith we are nothing. So here’s to the Barclay School, where the dream of education is within reach, where love assuredly abounds, in the form of an incredible group of people with faith enough to see it all through.”
“An amazing place full of love, laughter, and learning in the most natural, healthy, creative atmosphere possible. Our daughter blossomed while attending The Barclay School. Her confidence, social skills, and independence improved by leaps and bounds. She would not be where she is today without all of the unconditional love, support, and guidance she received from the wonderful teachers and volunteers. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!”
“My daughter tutors at the Barclay School twice each week. It is such an extraordinary place with an atmosphere conducive to learning. Every child is valued for what he or she contributes. Every child learns at his or her own pace and in his or her own way, yet the Barclay School fosters a strong sense of camaraderie. The children all clearly want each other to succeed.
Especially with special needs children, I am struck again and again by the stark contrast of how such children are treated in “normal” public or private schools and how they are treated here. The things they are able to achieve are extraordinary. It has caused me to question whether children sometimes don’t achieve in society simply because we don’t provide the opportunities or try hard enough.
We occasionally accompany the Barclay School on field trips and join in pottery class. The cultural and extracurricular activities are so enriching and provide such profoundly well-rounded lives. The Barclay School is not just teaching children, though it does that well. It is shaping character and building lives. My daughter has been immeasurably enriched by tutoring here and by her involvement with the school. We are glad to donate our time and talents. The Barclay School is a community treasure.”
“You are doing absolutely AMAZING things at Barclay. So impressed.”
~Dawndy Mercer Plank
“‘He will never be socialized. He is incapable of learning. Quite frankly, I’ve never seen a child this severe before. We are not willing to keep him here, but we are willing to incur the cost of institutionalizing. . . ‘
Absolutely perfect. That’s what he was. A nine month culmination of all my best efforts. Nine pounds, eight ounces. Shock of blond hair. Piercing blue eyes, even for a newborn. My son, my firstborn. An unexpected grace. The best part, the blessed part of me. First love of my life. Little did I know. . . Little did I know his world was different. He was different. Very different. Everything about him strange and intriguing. One diagnosis after another. Autism. Retardation. Developmental Delay. On and on, futile attempt after futile attempt to explain my son – different. Set apart and set aside. Blissfully unaware.
And unafraid. Unafraid. Unafraid to
laugh at cartoons,
enjoy a vanilla ice cream cone,
feel the sun on his face,
smell the flowers,
revel in a nap,
capture fireflies in a jar,
play with a puppy,
sing his own song,
see God in everything around,
hug his mom,
kiss his brother.
A culmination of his best efforts. Nearly five feet tall. Head full of blond hair. His grandfather’s piercing blue eyes, my son, my firstborn. An angel’s grace. The best part, blessed part of this life. One of the two loves of my life. Not what I have chosen but exactly what I wanted. Slow? Maybe. Simple? Thankfully. Special needs? Aren’t we all? Loving? Decent? Kind? Absolutely. Absolutely perfect. That’s what he is.”
“The best thing that has ever happened for my son and our family. The staff is so amazing and understanding but yet encouraged our children to see, think and feel OK outside of there boxes. Change is OK not detrimental. Within 2 weeks, I saw so many positive changes in my child who was shut down and disconnected in public school. This school, staff and family unit were an answer to our prayers. I pray my son will never have to leave this place. I’m feeling beyond grateful, and for the first time I can breathe knowing my son is enjoying and loving his day with his new family.”
“Special needs children are diamonds in the rough. It takes a loving heart, a creative spirit, and an unconditional willingness to give such a special children their due. They are true treasure troves of potential. Never ever sell a special needs child short. In Ridgeway, South Carolina, there is a magical school. The name of this remarkable place is the Barclay School. Every day Dr. G. and her outstanding staff of educators guide and bring their students closer to the fullest life they can live. YES. I said LIVE, not EXIST. All of these precious children are treated with the respect and dignity they so richly deserve. At the Barclay School, one can immediately feel the true sense of family that thrives so viscerally.
Rest assured, like they family they are, discipline is applied with great love, as children need and require discipline to be successful in their future pursuits. Make no mistake, these students are expected to do their best and to apply themselves in everything to the maximum of their abilities. Believe me when I tell you those abilities grow every day.
I have had the honor and privilege of knowing Dr. G., the staff, the incredible educational applications used and the very special students at this most uniquely equipped school. They provide a different and exciting educational approach for every child with special needs. As one Barclay student so succinctly told an audience after the performance of their play, ‘If you know any children who need help, send them to us and we will help them at the Barclay School!’ I am Dr. Mary Alice Bauknight Wood. I have been in both the private and public educational venues/systems over a period of many years. Truly, I have never witnessed such excellence or uniqueness in education. Angels are placed in our lives every day. It is our responsibility to recognize them. Visit the Barclay School and you will know you have been in the presence of angels of all ages.”
~Dr. Mary Alice B. Wood
“As a special needs parent, your life’s path veers in an obviously different direction. Though circumstances and diagnoses may be unique, one fact remains the same: what began as the life you did not choose quickly becomes the life you always wanted. Both my sons are special learners. Are they slow? To some. Simple? Thankfully! Special needs? Aren’t we all? These children are the better nature of my baser self. A gift. A grace in an otherwise ordinary existence. And it is The Barclay School that recognizes and fosters them for who they really are.
The staff of The Barclay School have loved my children into the incredible young men they are today. Ethan and Nathan are no longer surviving but THRIVING! Barclay staff are the awesome few who are brave enough to step out of the box of traditional education– who tear the sides of the box apart and open a whole new world to special learners so they can blossom into who they were always meant to be. Without a dream we reach nothing, without love we feel nothing and without faith we are nothing. The Barclay School allows my children the dream of an education that is within their reach. And love abounds there, palpable in the form of healers with faith enough to see this dream come to pass.”