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NOVATO -- Academic Therapy Publications, for more than four decades a national name in producing specialized education and assessment materials for schoolchildren who need help speaking or reading, is scaling up to compete with much larger publishers and be ready for emerging technology for such materials.

The Arena family, who founded the company in 1965, purchased the SPG Solar's former headquarters at 20 Leveroni Ct. in Novato on July 16 for $3.5 million. That's about twice the size of the publishing group's quarters for more than 30 years at 20 Commercial Blvd. in the same city.

"It got to the point if we wanted to expand, hire and go into other areas like technology we needed breathing room," said Jim Arena, 46, president.

Started in 1965 by his parents, John and Ann Arena, the company now has two divisions. One is High Noon Books, which publishes reading practice books for typically grade-school students whose mastery is one to three levels below their grade levels.

The other division is ATP Assessments. It develops nationally standardized, norm-referenced manuals for speech pathologists, school psychologists, occupational therapists and other professionals to use in assessing the skills and needs of K-12 students.

The publishing group employs 16 plus part-time and contract writers and editors often from professional specialties. When the company develops new assessments, it works with professionals on standardizing the psychometrics of the test, collecting and analyzing data and setting up the assessment.

Academic Therapy Publications (800-422-7249, academictherapy.com) is one of the smaller publishers of such special-education materials, according to Mr. Arena. Working with printing plants in California and Florida, the materials are marketed to about 100,000 communication pathologists plus another 30,000 or so special-education teachers, not to mention resource specialists and traditional teachers.

A trend that the publishing company is watching is the move to digital books and online assessments. The company has converted 80 of its readers to electronic books, but physical books remain in demand, Mr. Arena said. While assessments of language ability are possible over the Internet and may be coming in the next five to 10 years, for now the professional preference is for in-person testing, he said.

The new facility, which is expected to be occupied in the next four months, will have room for technical personnel to roll out such innovation as demand warrants, according to Mr. Arena.

A new product coming out soon are Word ID, focusing on "content learning," a hot topic in education in the past couple of years.

"It's making sure that when kids get to high school and college that they have the necessary skills to handle those topics, that they understand the vocabulary they will learn," Mr. Arena said.

Coming late next year is a speech-language assessment tool based on recent changes in diagnoses that include autism.

Starting as a therapist in a "reading clinic" in San Rafael in the 1960s, John Arena created Academic Therapy Quarterly to communicate methods to professionals, teachers and parents. That morphed into a publishing company, which moved to Novato in 1979. He died in 1989. Ann Arena ran the company until 2007.

Nathan Ballard of Keegan & Coppin/ONCOR International represented Arena Enterprises, LLC, in its purchase of the Novato building. Meryl Sebestyen and Mike Lieberman of Cornish & Carey Commercial Newmark Knight Frank represented the seller, Karen Thompson 2010 Trust.