City Elementary is a school where academically strong,

neurodiverse children succeed.

Here at City Elementary, we recognize that children inhabit a wide spectrum. We teach social and emotional skill-building alongside academic subjects like math, reading, and science. Our students thrive in small classrooms with expert teachers, who provide support for attention, regulation, and social connection. Collaborating with parents, we design educational plans that enhance the continuity of learning between home and school, and foster students’ exponential growth. Near the University of Chicago, we cultivate countless partnerships that infuse our community with vitality, vigor, and innovative ideas. City Elementary inspires diverse learners to take risks and achieve their fullest academic and social potential. 

Changing lives, one neurodiverse student at a time.

City Elementary in the News!

UChicago News explores the impactful collaboration between City Elementary and University of Chicago! City Elementary students are benefiting from innovative programming and UChicago students are engaging in meaningful ways to support diverse learners.

Our Philosophy

                                                    We value nurturing partnerships between students and teachers,                                                     fulfilling peer friendships, and transformative student growth.

Our school is neurodiverse affirming.  We recognize, and research supports, that autism, ADHD, sensory processing disorder, and similar are rooted in differences in brain wiring and chemistry. Our school is founded upon the idea that children deserve to be taught as they are, with the
bodies and brains they have. We are not seeking to therapize or change a child’s way of being, and we do not seek to normalize behavior. We understand that differences are organic, and are worthy of respect.

Our environment is designed to support many kinds of learners. Some of our students have diagnoses, some do not; some have more sensory sensitivity than others; and so on. Our environment caters to
students who are academically at, near, or above grade level, but who benefit from a more supportive school environment. If your student is “sensory” or “neurodivergent” or has a “spiky profile”—meaning they have wide-ranging and varying strengths and areas for growth—they may thrive at our school. Kiddos who are “2e” or “twice exceptional”
also do well at our school. This means that the child is exceptional in two ways at once, such as having an autism diagnosis and a special talent, or both a learning disability and “gifted and talented” profile.

We recognize that most places in the world—from schools, to stores, to social situations—are designed around neurotypical standards.
We recognize that typical environments are often stressful for learners who diverge from these standards. We focus on creating environments that are friendly and comfortable for a diverse group of learners whose brains are beyond typical. Our aim is to understand who our students are as individual learners, and to meet their unique needs.

 The teachers and staff at City Elementary recognize and affirm that
neurodiverse people experience the world differently than neurotypical people. We affirm and value neurodiversity in our school. Instead of trying to change the child, we changed the school. We focus first on making environments that are less stressful and overwhelming. We focus second on skill-building with attitudes of gentleness and positivity. This is called “strengths-based education.” The school is designed to work
with, and enhance the growth of, your unique child.

In practice, affirming behaviors that you will see in our school include:
 • Students allowed to stim, freely move around, or use a quiet fidget
 • Flexible seating such as bouncy balls and sensory cushions
 • Free, continuous access to the sensory gym throughout the child’s school        day
 • Students allowed to snack, drink water, and use the bathroom freely
 • Self-regulation tools and techniques developed collaboratively with                  students

At City Elementary we meet children where they are. Our students say it best:

“I feel like City Elementary was made just for me. For the first time in school I feel like I am understood and can learn and grow, even when it’s hard.” –Leo, autistic 5th grader

“I love my school. I can’t believe I just said that! I have never liked school before, but City makes me feel comfortable and my friends are the best.”–Zeke, neurodiverse 4th grader

City Elementary Parents Share Their Stories

About City Elementary

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