In the late fall of the year 2000, a group of parents were faced with finding appropriate placements for their children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). After looking at the various alternatives, these parents soon discovered the harsh reality: there were very few choices available for these special children. The meager offerings that were available did not really address all of their children’s academic, social/emotional and therapeutic needs; and therefore, could not possibly enable their children to realize their great potential. Further, the few choices that were available did not seem to include the families of these children as an important partner in the education of their child.
Without the appropriate educational programs and services in place, the long-term outcome for children with ASD is a young adult unprepared and only marginally capable of independent living, advanced education or training, or self-sustaining employment. A majority of the adults with ASD remain in their original family home under the care, management and support of their aging parents or other family members.
Recognizing the poor prognosis for all the other options open to their children, parents concluded that there needed to be a new model for helping children with ASD. These parents determined that they needed to start a foundation (not just a school) that would rethink how all services were delivered to individuals with ASD. And thus began the LearningSpring Foundation with the goal of helping individuals with ASD to ultimately live independently, make friends, have a significant other, and become gainfully employed.
In the fall of 2001, the LearningSpring Foundation opened its first program, the LearningSpring Elementary School, now the LearningSpring School (LSS), a model school that was conceived, built, and staffed to educate children with ASD. LSS celebrates the fact that its children are bright, but understands that they have social-communication, sensory-motor, organizational, and processing deficits. Thus, the underlying model for LSS is quite different from other schools. Where most schools focus almost exclusively on academic performance, LSS’s curriculum is equally divided between Social/Emotional, Speech/Language, Sensory/Motor, and Academics. LSS realizes that for its children, academic performance does not necessarily lead to success in life. LSS builds into its curriculum important life skills that are often compromised in children with ASD and taken for granted in a mainstream environment.
The LearningSpring School contends that there is no inherent reason why children with Autism Spectrum Disorders cannot graduate from high school, go on to college, and grow up to have independent, healthy, happy and fulfilling lives.