The Atlas Foundation honors the voice of those who experience challenges in relating and communicating with others. AFA sounds the call to a community yearning for something more, something better in the currently offered educational programs, schools and modes of communication. AFA breaks barriers between individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and those who strive to gain a greater understanding of who they are, what they hope for and what they are constantly trying to say. It establishes a strong foundation of respect, compassion, acceptance and bravery in the face of any obstacle.
The educational enrichment programs are fundamentally based in helping students achieve a greater sense of self, confidence, independence and happiness. Parents and the Atlas team feel strongly that these components be incorporated into a comprehensive and holistic educational structure. This program targets all areas of functioning that contribute to our student's happiness and success, including; effective and meaningful communication building, cognition, social skills development, executive functioning, physical and emotional heath, and all academic subjects.
These sessions include both 1:1, small group and larger group settings. 1:1 sessions include: Event sessions (communication), HANDLE and Brain Gym exercises (brain-body connection and physical health), experiential learning lessons, social studies (community-focused) etc. Group Sessions provide a natural and fun social setting for helping to deepen relationships and interactions with peers and generalizing skills overall. These packages include after-school and weekend hours and can be custom tailored to the needs of students and families with flexibility throughout the year.
To ready students for more independence in the world and work-related endeavors, Atlas will, over the course of the initial sessions, complete a comprehensive developmental assessment (i.e. SCDS, Brigance, etc) in order to accurately show students current levels of skill and mastery across all areas as well as identifying learning preferences and accounting for unique sensory profiles. Functional mathematics, literacy, problem-solving and critical thinking as well as science and social studies will be targeted through individualized lesson plans that revolve around passions and motivating areas
Atlas’ mission is firmly rooted in the belief that each student is a vital and contributing member of every social community into which they enter. It is important to educate students on specific social skills, but to also empower them to have fun and find fulfillment in friendships and relationships with other people. This will also help in the pursuit personal interests, to find ways to occupy leisure time and to fill students curiosity about the world in the most robust way possible.
Our community integration components will be informed and developed by students full participation in expressing main areas of interest and abilities they would like to explore and develop. Experiences within their actual community and neighborhoods will be important in helping achieve these goals as well. Each experience will be designed with purpose and aimed at independence in the home, school, and community.
An ability to identify, process and understand emotions and empathy for others are vital to social success. This will be both addressed with 1:1 lessons as well as incorporated across all areas of Atlas programs.
These goals will be consistently targeted and updated in order to support students social and community interactions. For instance, a mock-store could be set up to help teach math skills as well as visits to local stores to get students involved in paying for goods or products. They can generalize skills and concepts taught in school into these times as well. A “hands-on” approach to academic learning will help keep students motivated and actively engaged in academic and life learning.
'Sensory' is not simply a component part of a day at Atlas. Nor is it part of "diet" meted out over time. Nor is it a piece of equipment, a single swing nor a bunch of chewy tubes. Here at Atlas 'sensory' is a culture. All of us are feeling, sensing beings that literally make sense of our world through our senses. Unarguably, our senses, and our bodily perceptions of the world and ourselves in that world, are profoundly and inextricably linked to our emotions. Our emotions are informed by all incoming sensory input, and also dictate our physical behavior. Every single thing we see, think and feel is flagged with an emotion: good, bad, not-so-great, happy, sad, etc. Those emotions drive us to seek out more pleasurable emotions and experiences that bring 'happiness' for example, and to avoid the not fun emotions like devastation or frustration. Atlas helps students explore the vastness and variety of emotions, yet is intensely focused on supporting the unique sensory profiles of our students. It made perfect sense to us that we should work with the best informed and most experienced experts in order to precisely and carefully craft this kind of culture. The experts we enlisted are comprised of our staff, students, parents, professionals and, of course, Southpaw®, a leading manufacturer of sensory equipment and creator of unique sensory experiences. Our collaboration with Southpaw enhances the physical surroundings at our center so that every kind of sensory profile and learning style is accounted for. From swings to tunnels, scooters to balance beams, crash mats to Jump-and-Play Islands, and from bubble tubes to elite interactive sensory stations, Southpaw has helped outfit our space and outdo the sensory standards of the past. When our students are properly supported and encouraged to gain comfort and confidence in their own bodies and to explore the wealth of movement and stimulation with joy, their future burns brighter than the bubble tube lights. Perhaps you're familiar with someone whose sensory systems may interpret input in such a way as to produce overwhelming emotions from seemingly 'ordinary' events, sounds, things or people. Those strong emotions might then drive behaviors that are not desirable. Perhaps you have lived through a similar experience yourself. You see, we all have our own sensory needs, proclivities and preferences. It simply made sense to us then, and in the midst of our sensory culture, that it is Atlas' mission to respect our students while helping them to feel the world in full force as only they see fit! Sensory is not a word. It's what we do!
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A beautiful song about children with autism written by Amanda Friedman and performed by Crucial Bridge.
This song is for the angels of the world...
Autism Speaks Staffer interviewed Amanda Leeder to discuss her work as a doctoral candidate in Fordham University's Applied Developmental Psychology program. She has employed behavioral, developmental and literacy-based...