The HeartShare School employs a variety of therapeutic modalities and treatment approaches in creating the best possible learning environment for each student. These approaches are customized to meet the needs of each child and include:
Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), 1:1 Discrete Trial Instruction
ABA utilizes methods based on scientific principles of behavior to build socially appropriate skills while reducing challenging behaviors. This instruction includes a behavior analytic approach that focuses on teaching small, measurable units of behavior in a systematic manner. This instruction generally takes place using one-to-one intensive sessions in a separate area of the classroom and is frequently referred to as discrete trial teaching. Once skills are mastered in the 1:1 discrete trial sessions, they are then generalized into the larger classroom and other social settings.
TEACCH (Treatment and Education of Autistic and Communication Handicapped Children) is a highly structured learning environment that includes individual schedules and individual work systems that are developmentally sequenced and functionally based. The use of visual schedules along with color coding for non-readers and an emphasis on individual work stations for one-to-one teaching helps to establish routines and foster independence.
Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)
PECS is a visual instructional tool used to help children communicate through the use of pictures and symbols. PECS can be used in a variety of settings—school, home, and in the community. It is especially beneficial for children with little or no verbal ability.
The HeartShare School uses the Tech4Everyone computer software system with adapted computer equipment (peripherals) as a key component of learning. Tech4Everyone is very specialized and individualized and fosters cognitive skill development. It provides opportunities for ongoing evaluation and assessment and allows for multiple users to encourage collaboration and socialization among students. It is an interactive, picture-driven learning experience that is highly enjoyed by many of our students.
Speech and Language Therapy
Speech and Language Therapy is designed to address a variety of communication challenges using a wide range of tools and interventions to foster communication. Depending on the individual student's needs, the speech therapist may encourage non-verbal communication through the use of gestural or picture communication as well as through communication devices. The speech therapist may also work on speech pragmatics, conversational skills and/or concept skills.
The occupational therapist develops strategies for learning in the areas of self-help (grooming, dressing, and feeding), fine motor skills, visual perceptual, social interactions, and sensory processing skills. Sensory processing intervention is beneficial in helping the student to organize and understand information from the environment.
Physical Therapy helps to build and/or restore strength, mobility and motor skills. Students with autism may have challenges with sitting, running, walking, balance and coordination that interfere with their physical and social development. In addition, they often have low muscle tone. The physical therapist designs activities that target these areas, helping to facilitate more independent, socially appropriate and functional movement.
Counseling and Social Skills Training
Through individual and group sessions, students who have difficulty managing their feelings and understanding social situations learn techniques to express themselves in more appropriate ways and to understand behavioral expectations in social situations. Social Skills Training helps students to understand how their behavior affects others and provides them with alternative ways in which to respond in various situations.
A registered nurse is on-site and available to address the medical needs of the students. The nurse provides immediate first aid and administers medication as prescribed by the student's physician. The nurse is also responsible for reminding parents when children's immunizations are due.
Parent Education and Networking
Throughout the course of the school year, educational workshops for parents are offered on a variety of topics, such as understanding behavior and behavioral interventions, financial/future planning, and transitioning public schools or adult day services. Parents have opportunities to network and benefit from the mutual support of other parents and family members.