Frequently Asked Questions

What is the targeted population for Clifford Academy?

Clifford Academy serves students who have educational, emotional, and behavioral challenges that cannot be adequately addressed in a traditional public school environment. The length of stay varies depending on the specific needs of each student.

What is the age of Clifford Academy students?

Grades 6-12 (all genders)

What are the educational characteristics of Clifford Academy students?

Clifford Academy serves students who have struggled to engage in a traditional public school and/or to meet the academic and behavior expectations in a traditional public school.  Our students benefit from the small class size in a therapeutic setting with the support from educators trained in special education and the social/emotional needs of our students.  Ultimately, our goal is to work with students to develop the necessary academic, vocational and social emotional skills to thrive in school, at home and in the community.

What are the behavioral characteristics of Clifford Academy students?

The population of youth at Clifford Academy have typically experienced traumatic events in their history and increased challenges in traditional educational settings.  Many of the students have had attachments to primary caretakers disrupted or have not had the opportunity to form initial healthy attachments.  The result of their traumatic histories is demonstrated in their maladaptive behavior patterns which include, but are not limited to, fire setting, sexualized behaviors, suicidal ideation, running, aggressive/assaultive behaviors, learning difficulties, delays in socially acceptable responses and limited healthy coping skills.  In addition, Clifford Academy students have a failing pattern in previous school setting and/or significant gaps in educational placements.

What is Clifford Academy’s philosophy?

The services offered at the Clifford Academy are built on the foundation and philosophy that each student and family are unique, with their own set of strengths, goals, needs, and circumstances. Interventions are developed on an individualized basis to recognize and value the uniqueness of each student and family constellation. We believe that optimal outcomes occur when the student and family, however self-defined, are actively involved in all aspects of education and overall treatment, including the planning, design, and development of educational plans and treatment interventions.

Clifford Academy is focused on supporting students in making effective progress on the goals outlined on the individual education plan as well as supporting students in demonstrating mastery of the standards outlined in the Massachusetts Frameworks.  In addition, Clifford Academy supports students with the goal of school and community reintegration and works to identify barriers to transitioning to less restrictive environments.

We support students in creating realistic treatment goals that are time sensitive, and initiate discussions regarding discharge planning at the time of intake. The goals of treatment include, but are not limited to, identifying and addressing obstacles to living in family settings and attending traditional public schools, ensuring that student and families develop the ability to function effectively in their community, and identifying and promoting life-long connections.

Individualized interventions are designed to address behavior and feeling management, positive student development, symptom management, improving parent-child relationships, educational achievement, and safety.

What educational services are offered at Clifford Academy?

The content requirements of the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks

All students are provided with essential learning opportunities that prepare the students to reach the state graduation standards.  The curriculum is aligned with the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks.

Self-help, daily living skills

Self-help and daily living skills are explicitly taught in the vocational and social emotional learning classes and reinforced in advisory and weekly group sessions.  Acquiring self-help and daily living skills is crucial to young adults preparing for independent living.  These activities are needed to participate independently in home, school, community and work environments.  The skills include meal preparation, transportation, health maintenance, home management, and shopping.

Social/emotional needs

The social/emotional needs of our students will be addressed in a variety of ways including direct instruction SEL classes as well as more naturally through the basic design of Clifford Academy.  At the Clifford Academy, students benefit from in-class settling spaces as well as weekly community building circles and as needed collaborative problem-solving sessions.  Social/emotional skills are addressed in all settings including during trips into the community, job-site placements and vocational as well as academic classrooms. It is key for students to be able to practice skills in real life settings to reinforce and practice the skills that they have been working on and to help build self-confidence.  Clifford Academy utilizes a strength-based, relational model of therapeutic behavioral support that is evidence-based, trauma-informed and individualized. It is designed to foster enhanced students’ self-control and determination and to engage students and families in the design process.

Physical education

Physical education is provided as a required subject at all grade levels for all students for the purpose of promoting the physical well-being of students.

Pre-vocational, vocational, and career education

Clifford Academy’s Career Development Program provides students with the opportunity to explore and learn about various vocational paths.  Students may work either on-grounds or off-grounds with staff supervision.  Students work towards the goal of working in independent, unsupervised positions off-grounds.  In order to qualify for off-campus work and volunteer opportunities, our students must meet specific safety and academic expectations. While instilling the values of commitment and responsibility, the Career Development Program provides each client with the opportunity to create positive relationships, build self-esteem and learn to advocate for themselves. In addition, they learn important job skills to be taken with them once they leave Clifford Academy and become adults. 

English language support

Clifford Academy uses qualified staff, appropriate procedures and state-required assessments to identify students who are ELLs and to assess their level of English proficiency in reading, writing, speaking, and listening. At Clifford Academy, ELL students receive effective content instruction at appropriate academic levels and that ESL instruction is provided at the appropriate proficiency level. ELL students will be accepted into Clifford Academy and afforded the same opportunities to access and participate in our academy’s full services, activities, and other benefits as all other students who are enrolled in our school.   


Clifford Academy students are offered a variety of extra-curricular and elective opportunities.  Students will have the opportunity to explore interests outside of the classroom and build relationships with other students who share similar interests.


Clifford Academy

  399 Lincoln Rd, Walpole, MA 02081

  Phone: (508) 668-7703
  Fax: (508) 660-9639

  PRINCIPAL: Rene Dickhaut

Clifford Academy is a relationship-centered learning community where students, staff, families and community members work collaboratively to develop every student’s academic, social, emotional, physical and ethical potential in a caring and safe environment.