Organizations: Matthew Reardon Center for Autism
Since 2000, the Matthew Reardon Center for Autism (MRCA) has operated the Advance Academy, southeast Georgia’s only year-round day school for students diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
“We began as a summer camp to keep students with special needs from regressing over the summer break from school,” says Patti Victor, president and CEO of the program that serves three counties in the Savannah area. “We quickly grew into a day school for students with a variety of disabilities, but by 2008, most of our requests were coming from families with children with autism, so we began to focus on it.”
The program is designed to help students master the skills needed for success in a less-restricted environment and then “send them out into the world to live as productively as possible,” Victor says. The Center integrates academics, social and life skills, and speech, occupational and physical therapies, which are administered using the Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) methodology recommended for students on the autism spectrum.
Currently 11 teachers and three therapists work with 19 students, but the demand is growing. The MRCA is planning to move into larger facilities in 2018 and to establish the Walden School, an early-intervention preschool.
“Our enrollment held steady at 13 students before increasing by 45 percent, with seven on a waiting list,” Victor says. “Soon we can fill 35 to 40 positions.”
In addition to full-day classroom education, MRCA also provides advocacy and outreach services to children and families throughout the region. More than 750 families have been directly served, and more than 3,800 family members, educators, therapists and other professionals have participated in instructional workshops and trainings since 2008.