Over twenty years ago, a small group of determined parents, educators, and healthcare providers in New Orleans banded together to found the Chartwell Center. Dedicated to empowering individuals with autism and their families, the little school grew from a single classroom to its current state of the art campus on Magazine Street in the Lower Garden District. To fulfill its mission, Chartwell employs a number of research-based “best” practices, including Applied Behavior Analysis, Community-Based Instruction, and Arts Integration. It also focuses heavily on its students’ overall health and wellbeing, doing everything from yoga and exercise to gardening and play. For its students and their parents, Chartwell is an absolute treasure.
The ABA Clinic implements Applied Behavioral Analysis for children ages 3 to 7 who are on the Autism Spectrum. Chartwell works with children on important skill building with the goal of returning them to a mainstream classroom. One highly trained staff member works with one child, and opportunities for inclusion like trips to the library, horseback riding, and other community-based activities outside of Chartwell are also offered.
For children and adolescents between 8 and 21 Center teachers and staff utilize the UNIQUE Curriculum in combination with ABA principles to provide a structured and safe learning environment. Goals can range from solidifying communication systems, increasing socialization in a collaborative environment, to making strides academically.
The PATH Program is Chartwell’s gem – unique in its service to the New Orleans community, and on the cutting edge of best practices for adults on the spectrum. The focus is to guide individuals to reach their fullest potential in their independent living, social, and vocational endeavors. Individuals in the PATH Program have been integrated into, and are a part of, the New Orleans community. Participants have jobs at local businesses that include Marriott Hotels, Audubon Zoo, and Theo’s Pizza. Addtionally partipcants produce The PATH Program Dog Treats.
Applied Behavorial Analysis (ABA)
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) uses evidence-based assessments and interventions to reduce problem behaviors and increase communication, social/play, and adaptive skills. Research has proven ABA to be an effective therapy for those on the Autism Spectrum. Chartwell utilizes a combination of Discrete Trial Training (DTT) and Natural Environment Teaching (NET) to teach, generalize, and maintain skills. Parent involvement in ABA is crucial to our success and work to involve parents in goal selection and to train parents on effective strategies for their child.
Community Based Instruction (CBI)
Community Based Instruction (CBI) is a method of teaching that takes students out of the classroom to teach them functional skills in the natural environment. CBI targets skills that are meaningful to individuals and to families. The goal is to teach valuable skills like vocational skills as well as things like how to ride public transport, how to go grocery shopping, and how to order in a restaurant. CBI allows students to generalize their skills in new environments and promotes independence and self-esteem. Not only that, but going out into the community means spreading autism awareness to our neighbors.
Exposure to the arts and the creative process can benefit a student’s cognitive and emotional development. When appropriate, visual and performing arts are included in curriculum via project-based learning. For some students, arts integration means using art to teach fine motor skills, imitation, and so much more. Art is also taught as a play skill and as an appropriate outlet for sensory stimulation that so many of our students require. A resident music therapist leads group and individual music therapy sessions for all our students.
Heatlh and Wellness
It is common for parents of children and adults with autism to have dietary and health concerns. This is why the Chartwell Team keeps students physically engaged and seizes teaching opportunities to encourage healthy eating behaviors. Students participate in activities like meditation, yoga, basketball, physical play, walks in the park, and more. When possible, students learn to prepare healthy meals and snacks for themselves embedding nutrition into this life skill. The PATH students tend to the urban garden planting and harvesting seasonal crops. The goal is for all of our students to lead a healthy and happy life.