Saturday, March 17, 2007

A Review: The Faison School

Well, I spent today in Richmond, getting a tour of the Faison School. Thought I'd share.

The Faison School has taken over an old hospital building. The younger kids have space downstairs, including the wide, still-clinical halls where they park their ride-ons and hang their bookbags. Wandering about this lower level are a variety of students, not just the younger ones, all with a one-on-one aide or therapist. There are trampolines, bean-bag chairs, train sets, and sit-and-spins. It is an ABA paradise of small rooms divided roughly into cubbies by bookshelves and cubicle-like walls and desks. In other words, if you are looking for a 12-month, full-day, $57,000 DTT program, I have found the perfect thing for your kid. And I am convinced there are people who need this, and kids who do very well with it. I am very happy for them.

However, I was very concerned about it as a program for Joey. For one, the person giving me the tour seemed amazed that Joey could ride a bicycle through a hall at high speed, and manouver through that hall without hitting any object or any person. She also seemed very impressed when he said "hello" to her on cue (I prompted him with "Say hello to Ms. Shirley, Joey!" and he said "hello" without even looking a her- something he only does with strangers). I had hoped this would not be such an impressive accomplishment for a child going into kindergarden. Not one of the children we saw there was even close to being "as functional" as Joey- the behaviors were far more random and severe. The programs we were shown were far below Joey's level. When I asked about socialization and generalization, I was told there was an hour each day when teh children worked in groups (great- with other autistic kids), and that there as plenty of opportunity for "natural interaction" and generalization in the halls. Um... the hals that still look remarkably like a hospital (or other institution). In other words, they had nothing to offer Joey but more drill. Isn;t there supposed to be more to ABA than DTT?

If you have a kid who is having a lot of trouble responding, who needs to learn how to learn and how to play, I would definitely look into Faison. The people there were very nice and polite, they seemed to care a lot about their charges, and they showed an interest in both Joey and Andy. However, if you have a kid who has moved on and needs more attention to social skills, interacting with peers, and sensory issues, well... I'm still looking. I'll keep you posted.

1 comment:

She's into NASCAR?! said...

I used to work at Faison and I left the school for all of the downside points you made. I must thank you for being an open-minded parent, who still has the common sense and best intentions for her child. These days, it's easy to find parents who grasp at the high price tags, because Jenny McCarthy told them to.

I have now been working in Fairfax CO. for 3 years, in an "ABA-Enhanced" autism program. I have built in a bi-weekly social skills group with our speech clinician and have mandated that all of my Kinders be included in the general ed. classroom (so long as they are gaining skills from that environment). I hope you have found that special educational setting that your Joey needs and deserves. Schools are only as good as the prinicpals, classrooms, and teachers dedicated to the students. I wish you and your son well. Thank you for sharing your honest view of your visit to Faison.