Open Source Autism School

by rickcolosimo on August 7, 2008

We live in the tri-state area surrounding New York City, which turns out to be a sort of national hotspot for high-quality (meaning effective at recovering a significant portion of children) programs for children on the autistic spectrum. Of course, each of the well-known private nonprofit schools only has space for about 30 kids total, and the low “graduation” rate from these programs means that only a few spots open each year. What this means is that although there are hundreds of children on waiting lists, no more than 14 might get in any given year.

In a visit to one of these schools, the director said to the assembled parents, and not jokingly, that rather than hope for a spot off the waiting list, they might consider starting a school, and that the director had lists of interested parents.

Recognizing that recently formed schools took a solid year of planning to get off the ground, I wondered whether the institutional knowledge required for such a project might be more readily leveraged, and the project duplicated around the country, in the manner of an open-source project. Certainly there are economies of scale to be gained from experience even in specific jurisdictions, and other issues, such as curriculum, should readily be shared and improved upon across a number of schools.

We will contact two recently formed schools and ask their boards to share as much as they are willing to about the formation process.

We have experience forming several nonprofits and related organizations, so if the project gets traction, we’ll donate the time and expertise necessary to create a sustainable structure to protect the resources and keep them available to parents.

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