As it celebrates its 40th anniversary, Stratford Friends School in Newtown Square, the first Quaker school in the country for students with learning differences, announced that it will adopt a curriculum that integrates occupational therapy into classroom instruction in the fall.

"We are growing our program to include what students need to celebrate their strengths, build self-esteem, and develop self-advocacy as they become strong, independent learners," said Jill Dougherty, head of school. "This was the missing piece."

With this change, Stratford Friends said, it will be the only private school in the region that  incorporates occupational therapy in its daily curriculum, along with academic, speech, language, social, and emotional instruction.

Researchers have found that students with language-based learning difficulties, such as those at Stratford Friends, benefit from occupational therapy. For example, an occupational therapist can work with students who have problems with fine motor skills like holding a pencil.

But rather than receiving help only in pull-out sessions or a therapy room, students will be able to obtain it in class. For example, a therapist will be in the classroom three days a week to assist students who have difficulty completing paper-and-pencil assignments or writing essays.

Dougherty said classroom teachers also will receive additional training in occupational therapy.

Stratford Friends has 72 students from kindergarten through eighth grade. Tuition for the lower school is $38,015, and $38,835 for the middle school.