Sunday, September 16, 2007

Autism Schools Map Project

There is a growing number of schools across the United States that provide educational services to children with autism spectrum disorders. Some are based at research universities or long-standing nonprofit organizations that have served people with autism for years before the recent sharp rise in diagnoses. Others reflect new efforts by state governments to meet the rising demand for autism services.

With these trends in mind, I've started the Autism Schools Map Project, for which I'm asking for your help. I have created the map below, with a small number of points representing schools around the U.S. that are designed to educate students with autism. Check it out below (if you are an e-mail subscriber click here to see it). If you know of other autism schools or programs, let me know by e-mailing me at michaelsgoldberg AT yahoo DOT com. Please include the school's name, address and website. I will periodically update the map and let readers know it has new information.

Why do this? Finding an effective educational program for a child with autism is among the most important actions parents can take to help their kids progress. For many kids with autism spectrum disorders, a quality educational program is the best prescription for helping them grow as people and can make a positive difference in their quality of life. While there are still not enough options for students with autism, the menu is growing. My goal in making this map is to provide a starting point for parents and other caregivers seeking information about autism education services. In the future, I hope to create an opportunity for families to provide each other with assessments about the quality of the programs listed.

19 comments:

Elissa said...

What a fabulous idea - well done for taking on such a task. I'm in Australia, so can't offer much assistance, but I applaud your efforts. We need more resources like this!
Cheers, Elissa.

Michael Goldberg said...

There's no reason we can't make this a global map. So please share information, including websites and street addresses, for any other schools in other countries, not just the United States.
Thank you.
Michael

Sam I Am said...

I was going to let you know about Fraser, but I see you already have it!!! What a fabulous idea!!! I will add this as a link. THANK YOU!!!

Regina F. said...

Mike,
I also applaud you taking on this task because I know that this is an FAQ for many families.

If you don't mind, I am going to pass the word on to some of the lists that I am on and hope that folks have some good schools to recommend (and discover your very informative blog).

Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I moved across country to enroll my son in the FACE school located in Tampa Florida. I do not recommend this to anyone. Many have made the move and left. They do not provide any of the services they say are so crucial. My son regressed and I watched $70K worth of therapies go down the drain! They have untrained and unqualified staff in charge of these precious children. What a dissappointment. It looks like another school opened just to draw the Federal and State funds to which was not used for the care and services for our children. We are enacting a class action lawsuit against the school for fraud and misrepresentation. I would not endorse this school on your website, or recommend any of the schools that ESA opened up here in Florida claiming they are specifically designed to treat/provide for those who are on the Austism Spectrum.
Sincerely,
Heartbroken in Tampa
ordinaryamericanmother@yahoo.com

Michael Goldberg said...

I am sorry to hear about your experience. We are learning from parents who are commenting here that it's a great challenge to start up a new school like FACE.

Your comments and the comments of others make me wonder what the school might be doing to prepare for its second year, if there are any changes in store.

Susan said...

My grandson is 9 years old and has Aspbergers. He was diagnosed around the age of 6 after many stressful trials, problems and trips to physicians, psycologists, mental health facilities, etc. He was also diagnosed with ADHD and ODD (oppositional defiant disorder) so he can be abusive, unpredictable and violent at times. Since he has become older he is becoming uncontrollable at times, threatening to run away or to kill himself, has actually run away from school, had the police called to find and subdue him, etc and is constantly being expelled from school for aggressie behavior to the other students and teachers. We are concerned as he gets older that he will end up hurting himself, someone else or be put in jail. He is on 5 different kinds of medications which they keep changing in hopes that some combination will work. He has been admitted to the Medical College of Ga twice for evaluation. This is maddening because when he is not in this "crazy mode" he is a beautiful, bright, sweet, very smart, engaging child. My daughter is divorced and gets no help financially or otherwise from her x husband. She has never been able to hold down a job because of his constant need for care and supervision and constantly working with the school to try to keep him in public school. She also has a younger child who is being influenced negatively because of all this. My daughter has been working for years to try to find a solution. We need a special school for him desparately, a full time school that would be able to handle him and teach him. He is not retarded but has the emotional mind of about a 5 year old. He is not severly autistic or disabled. To look at him you would never know anything is wrong. My daughter has been relying finacially on me, her grandmother and just a small amount of help from the government to support her family. We are in SC and need help. Can anyone recommend a facility that could help us? We cannot afford an expensive private school. Thank you for any help

Ladijules said...

Schools in New York you should NOT put an autistic child in: UCP Tradewinds and Anderson. Tradewinds told us that if we refused to put our son on meds (one's he's allergic to) they would kick him out. We refused and they did.
Anderson told us that unless we gave them consent to put him on meds AFTER our son's doctor told them no that they would put him in a Psychiatric hosptial and have him taken out of our custody. (The meds in both cases were meds for OCD which he didn't need to begin with.) Not to mention Anderson at least has had criminal charges filed against them for abuse!!! Do NOT let your school districts send your kids there!!!

Anonymous said...

Your son may benefit from medications. It sounds like you are opposed to trying them, snd msybe you should be more open minded! The people who work there are experienced professionals. Tradewinds in Utica/Rome has done great things for mine and many other children. They are caring people who want the best for our children. Keep up the good work tradewinds!

Linh said...

check this out: in Long Island, NY there will be Variety (syosset), Children's Education Center (AHRC) - there are 2 sites: 189 Wheatley Road, Brookville, NY 11545, and 12 Main Avenue, Seacliff, NY 11579), BOCES (several places such as: Early Childhood Center, Gallow & Karpoczycs, Levittown, NY 11756; Jamaica Ave School 85 Jamaica Avenue, Plainview, NY 11803; other in dix hills, North Bellmore...); DDI ( 25 Little Plains Road, Huntington, NY); School for Language & Communication Development, 100 Glen Cove Avenue, Glen Cove, NY 11542; Marcus Avenue Early Childhood Developmental Program, 1983 Marcus Ave. Suite E100, New Hyde Park, NY 11042; Mill Neck manor (in Mill neck); and some more schools, I don't really have all information. Thanks

Jill Kowalski said...

here is another school you may want to add to your map. my son went here for 3 years and i would recomend it to anyone in the western ny area. infact, i'd move back in a second if i could!!

Summit Educational Services/Academy
150 Stahl Rd. Getzville, N.Y. 14068
http://www.summited.org

Anonymous said...

IN response to SUSAN from SC who has the grandson with Autism...
In Columbia County (Evans, Martinez, Grovetown etc..) GA, they have a full ABA program. Our son has been in there for the past year and has done really well. From what I understand, they are the only county in the state that has this program where all the workers in the classroom are ABA trained. Our son's particular program has 8 boys and 5 teachers/aides. They integrate as much as possible as well with mainstream. Best of all, it's public!
Good luck!
Jessica

Anonymous said...

IN response to SUSAN from SC who has the grandson with Autism...
In Columbia County (Evans, Martinez, Grovetown etc..) GA, they have a full ABA program. Our son has been in there for the past year and has done really well. From what I understand, they are the only county in the state that has this program where all the workers in the classroom are ABA trained. Our son's particular program has 8 boys and 5 teachers/aides. They integrate as much as possible as well with mainstream. Best of all, it's public!
Good luck!
Jessica

Anonymous said...

In response to SUSAN from SC. I thought you were my mom! We are from SC - moved to Columbia County like the other posted suggested. WORST idea ever. They are so unable to support Autism they don't. They have denied kids even have Autism (including my son, I even got a lawyer last year). Another mother moved from Ohio and complained they have no services here compared to Ohio and now they're even trying to say her son doesn't need autistic service (HE no doubt does). They are moving far away. I now home school until I can move from GA/SC. My son was the EXACT same until I took him off all medications. And made sure he was active. Columbia County will say your son has emotional behavioral problems (not autism) and stick him in a psycho-educational class they have in the schools here. Which is not what you want. Your son will end up in the GNETs program in GA. My son is now 2 years behind academically (the time he's been in that program) and has gotten ZERO help. If anyone has any good schools to suggest, we will move anywhere!

Mari-Anne said...

An amazing school that is only 2 years old in Torrance CA is Switzer Learning Center. They have an autism program called REAL which is RDI based and customized for each student. The curriculum is functional. The staff is highly trained, everyone is very compassionate and the students blossom. They currently have a middle school program expanding to high school and elementary. They specialize in developing students who have been unsuccessful in other programs, and their track record is wonderful.

wright_alice70 said...

Mariposa School for Autism
Cary, North Carolina

ABA
We use Floortime and ABA throughout my granddaughter's journey with Autism. She is now almost 5. We love the school and the people. It is expensive, my husband and I pay for it because we can afford it so I don't know what their financial arrangements are for families. Mariposa is Spanish for butterfly and is on YouTube. My granddaughter is in the swing. It was started by a mother with a non-verbal son. We love it. One on one with a team to oversee her development. Monthly meetings as well. A photographer for Santa pics and school pic. They try to give parents a sense of a typical school.
Bless you,
Alice

Anonymous said...

Stay away from the New England Center for Children in MA. if you want any participation whatsoever in your child's education. They forbid any biomedical treaments, actually make parents sign documents forbidding them to see certain doctors or purse any sensory or biomedical treaments and offer nothing but rote, stagnant ABA. Additionally, so much of the place is about marketing it to look good. It is basically rote ABA and the kids are nothing but a research project and the people there are very difficult to work with.

Michael Goldberg said...

I appreciate that in the autism community, there is not unanimous support for any one approach -- even when there is a lot of research backing up ABA. However, speaking as a former NECC parent, I wholeheartedly endorse the New England Center for Children. They are an ABA program and the staff members are clear about that; it can be a challenging approach to follow at home, too. But if you choose to follow this model, they are great to work with. The educators here are also a national leader in teaching, training educators and parents, and performing research using the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis. No one institution can have unanimous support. But in this case, clarity about the school's approach is a virtue, not a flaw.

Michael

Anonymous said...

Actually the Lovaas Inst. and CARD are the leaders in the industry if parents want truly well thought out ABA. I think the reaction to this aritcle sums up NECC. I have met many parents who agree that the ABA they get there is not what they are "sold."

Thursday, August 30, 2007
August 2007 Opinion and Commentary
Isolation: It's not punishment; it's "removal for reinforcement"

Commentary by Jennifer Searcy
August 2007

From the Boston Globe:

School expands on mission to aid autistic children

When a particular student acts up, Amy Giles sometimes places the girl in a tiny, windowless room and closes the door. Then Giles stands outside the closet-like chamber, waiting patiently until the child settles down.

If it were another child, it might seem cruel. But Giles, a Westborough resident, is probably that student's best chance for a quality education. Giles teaches at the New England Center for Children on Route 9 in Southborough, a school that is at the forefront of educating children with autism, a neurological disorder that dramatically inhibits the way a child learns.

"We don't want to be the biggest program for autism," said Judy Cunniff Serio, director of administration. "We want to be the best."

So when Giles sends her student into that tiny room, it isn't punishment. It's a treatment called "removal for reinforcement" for a girl with autism who exploded because it was time to move from one lesson to the next. Without the serenity of the room, Giles's student might never regain the focus she needs to continue a day of learning.

"She has a little difficulty with transitions," Giles said, not without compassion.

Click link for full article: http://www.boston.com/news/education/k_12/articles/2007/08/09/school_expands_on_mission_to_aid_autistic_children/

There are a few upsetting things about this article. First is that this school seems to think it's ok to place children with autism in isolation rooms, because after all, they're autistic. They can't be expected to be treated with the same dignity and understanding as "neurotypical" or even other nondisabled children, because they're "autistic" (sarcasm fully intended).

For the record, "autistics" aren't the problem; it's individuals who don't know how to communicate with them that's a problem - either unintentionally or deliberately - and that's understanding that a child with autism may react with aggression when met with aggression. It's because the people who worked with this little girl refuse to learn how to speak "her language" [credit to Amanda Baggs, a "nonverbal" adult with autism] that this little girl is punished for behaviors directly related to her disorder, which, by the way, is illegal.

Next, how is "isolation" therapeutic in this incidence? The little girl in question has been identified as having difficulty with transitions, as do many idividuals with autism. As a person with autism, she also has difficulty communicating in a way that "neurotypicals" understand, and so uses "behaviors" to communicate. If they know she has "a little trouble with transitions" and communicates the feeling of discomfort, unreadiness, or unpreparedness by "acting out," why aren't they using that knowledge to develop a "functional behavior assessment" to determine what "positive behavioral interventions" and techniques could be used to ease her into transitions, such as the use of a timer or countdowns, frequent verbal reminders, a pictorial schedule which she personally can use (PECS, etc.) or other techniques that are proven to be effective in addressing transition issues, and provide her with alternatives to communicating her needs, such as how to say she isn't ready to "transition," or maybe she just needs more time to process what was asked of her, rather than adult, teacher-enforced isolation, which research does not prove to be as effective as positive behavioral interventions, interventions which are to be used in accordance with IDEA law?

Using isolation is not going to address two of her core deficits: a problem with changes in routine and communication. How is she ever going to be a productive member of society if she's not given the "tools" or "skills" to become better adapted to change? No, let's just treat her like a common criminal and lock her up in this tiny room until SHE calms down.

Putting her in this room may only be reinforcing the very behaviors they wish to "extinguish." Maybe she's come to associate transitions with isolation, and so communicates her fears the only way she knows how, by exhibiting "behaviors" relating to the natural "fight or flight" instinct, or maybe she's communicating by exhibiting "behaviors" to "explain" that she's not appropriately prepared for a change in routine at that time, but maybe would be with appropriate preparation; instead, they "treat" her "behaviors," her attempts at "communication," with isolation. They've said it themselves, "removal for reinforcement." They are using isolation to "reinforce" negative behaviors instead of "reinforcing" and "rewarding" positive behaviors. This child is destined for failure under this plan.

I'm tired of children and adults with autism being blamed for their "behaviors." Those "behaviors" are their way of communicating with us. Are they always appropriate? NO. Can we always figure out what they're trying to communicate? NO. Can we give them tools and skills and other methods to communicate more effectively? YES!!! But we "neurotypicals" who work with children with autism also need to take ownership of OUR OWN ACTIONS and yes, even OUR INABILITY to understand what they're trying to say, THEN we will see change for the better. It's time to stop "passing the buck" for OUR inadequacies and blaming individuals with autism.

Sorry, but if this school wants to be the "best," they need to try harder and stop punishing kids with autism by putting them into seclusion. Sounds like they're doing a lot of things right, but they also have a ways to go.
Posted by FamiliesAgainstRestraintandSeclusion at 10:57 PM
Labels: Commentaries and Opinions

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