Chrysalis Academy is an Arizona Department of Education approved private day school for individuals, grades preschool through high school, on the autism spectrum. We also offer an integrated preschool program for neuro-typical children ages 2-5 and children with autism.
We formed Chrysalis Academy in 2002 under the name Play ABA at the request of a group of parents whose children participated in our summer school programs. In the fall of 2003, our school began with 8 children with autism and just 7 amazing staff members.
Today Chrysalis Academy is an Arizona Department of Education approved private school for children with ASD and related disorders. We serve over 50 students and employ over 50 staff members. More than 12 different school districts contract with Chrysalis Academy to provide education to students in those districts.
Teaching begins by developing a positive relationship between instructors and students. This is done in a strategic way through pairing. Pairing is the process of pairing a neutral stimulus with a reinforcing stimulus resulting in the neutral stimulus becoming a reinforcing stimulus. The next step is to establish instructional control, which is gradually introducing easy or mastered instructions followed by immediate reinforcement for a correct response. This develops a history of reinforcement for compliance with instruction. Teaching is most effective when done in a developmentally appropriate sequence. Students with ASD often require skills to be broken down into small steps. This process is referred to as task analysis.
There are two key components to our teaching philosophy. First, positive behaviors demonstrated by the child should be reinforced frequently and consistently. It is important that a high ratio of positive reinforcement to corrective feedback is maintained during the teaching session. Chrysalis Academy refers to this as the "4:1 ratio" (four positive comments to one corrective comment). Second, undesired behavior should not be reinforced. Behaviors are often reinforced and maintained by attention. Therefore, our primary rule in this regard is NOT to comment or react to undesired behaviors emitted by the child.
Children with ASD frequently experience frustration and failure, which often results in earned helplessness. To combat this, we plan for the child to be successful within the teaching session. We do this by presenting the child with 80 percent easy or mastered instructions interspersed with 20 percent new or acquisition instructions.
It is also an important part of our teaching philosophy that the interactions during teaching are fun and motivating for the student. Each person entering into a teaching interaction should keep this concept in the forefront of his or her thoughts. The most important overarching lesson for students with ASD may be that interacting with other people is important and rewarding.