It is our mission at Gersh Academy that all our students graduate with the knowledge, skills and habits needed to be lifelong learners, critical thinkers, effective communicators and wise decision makers. Students will develop and use the skills they need for full participation in a world shaped by science and technology. They will learn how to problem solve as this is the key to success in any field, and most importantly, in life.
Gersh Academy’s curriculum integrates developmentally appropriate concepts at each grade level. Instruction is completely individualized to each child’s learning style, specific needs and level. Following New York State Common Core Standards, we use project-based and authentic learning in each thematic unit.
Gersh Academy offers three distinctive programs:
Each program focuses on academics, social skills/social thinking, life skills and vocational experiences. In addition, clinical related services in the areas of motor skills, language skills and behavioral development are a vital part of each program.
I Am I Can Program Overview
The I Am I Can (IAIC) Program uniquely combines academics with an emphasis on social thinking and vocational or post-secondary opportunities. The IAIC program follows NY State Common Core standards to ensure that students will be prepared for state assessments, Regents exams, SATs, the college experience and/or life outside the classroom. Although the approach is individualized, students learn the same curriculum in the same scope and sequence as they would if they were in their home school district.
Collaborative & Proactive Solutions (CPS) is the guiding philosophy of the IAIC program. The CPS model is based on the premise that challenging behaviors occur when the demands and expectations being placed on a child exceed their capacity to respond adaptively and that some children lack the skills required to handle certain demands and expectations. The emphasis of the model is that a child’s challenging behavior is an indicator that there are expectations they are having difficulty meeting. The goal is to help the child identify and resolve the underlying issue that triggers the behavior, rather than trying to modify their behavior through application of rewards and punishments.
In the CPS model, the problem solving is of the collaborative and proactive variety. The goal is to foster a collaborative partnership between adults and kids and to engage kids in solving the problems that affect their lives.
BASE Program Overview
The BASE (Behavioral, Academic & Social Enrichment) Program focuses on functional academics and life skills to build independence in each child. Our program utilizes the following methodologies:
Applied Behavior Analysis or ABA is a science that involves the application of basic behavioral practices (positive reinforcement, repetition and prompting) and the use of systematic data tracking methods to evaluate the efficacy of the behavioral applications used to reach a desired outcome. For example, ABA methodologies are used to facilitate the development of language, positive skills development (such as self-help), appropriate play and social behavior. ABA reduces problems like self-injurious behavior, tantrums related to transition, communication problems and self-stimulatory behavior that impede the learning process.
Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) is a visually based communication system that teaches the non-verbal child to initiate communication starting with small concrete steps that gain in complexity. PECS, the work of Andrew Bondy and Lori Frost, offers a well thought out sequential communication system that can be used easily and effectively in the classroom and at home. This method gives the child with little or no spoken language a system that connects him to peers, family and others in his school, home and community.
Discrete Trial Teaching (DTT) involves breaking down skills into small sub-skills and teaching each sub-skill, intensely, sequentially. It involves repeated practices with prompting and fading of prompts to ensure the child’s success. DTT also uses reinforcement to help shape and maintain positive behaviors and skills.
Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS) is an approach to understanding and helping children with behavioral challenges that was first articulated by Dr. Ross Greene in his book, The Explosive Child. The CPS model views behavioral challenges as a form of learning disability or developmental delay. Behaviorally challenging kids are lacking crucial cognitive skills, especially in the domains of flexibility, frustration tolerance and problem-solving. CPS seeks to create fundamental changes in interactions between kids with behavioral challenges and their adult caregivers by having caregivers engage kids in solving problems collaboratively rather than by using motivational procedures.
Sensory Integration is a therapeutic approach developed by Dr. Jean Ayres which incorporates the vestibular, proprioceptive and tactile systems. This input facilitates development of the nervous system. It is through the familiar sensory systems of touch, sight, smell, taste and hearing that we receive input and information about our world. This information is taken in by the vestibular, proprioceptive and tactile systems which sorts and connects the information to the environment. Additionally, information is processed combining the perception of position in space, awareness of body posture and the ability to discriminate and plan motor movements. Children diagnosed with disorders on the autism spectrum commonly experience problems with sensory integration. These problems can vary from low stimulation levels and a decreased sensitivity to visual or auditory input, to poor organizational and motor planning skills, to hypersensitivity. Sensory integration is most commonly used by Occupational Therapists however many Speech and Language Pathologists and Physical Therapists are using sensory integration to enhance their treatments.
Blended Program Overview
The Blended Program is a combination of IAIC and BASE instructional practices. Each student’s academic and vocational goals are identified and customized programs and instruction are developed on an individual basis to ensure success. His or her individualized program is developed with the child’s potential of acquiring a Regents, local or Career Development and Occupational Studies Certificate (also known as the CDOS commencement credential) in mind.