The Founders Center of Commonwealth Autism believes:

  • Every student is capable of learning and should have the experience of learning and the feeling of success.
  • The teacher and student relationship should be positive and uplifting.
  • Parental insight and involvement are encouraged and are essential components of the educational program.
  • The progress of each individual is evaluated by measuring their educational and social growth. Achievement is measured by using daily data, educational assessments, and staff and parental observations.


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All staff are certified and trained in Safety Care.

Early Childhood Programs

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In our early childhood programs, each child is a member of an inclusion classroom at their respective site. The child participates in activities such as meals, centers, circle time, outdoor and indoor play, and large group events such as Stretch and Grow, The Fun Bus, or Mad Science. The level of participation is determined by each child’s abilities as well as their need for individualized instruction. Support is provided by the lead teacher and instructional assistants. Participants may also be pulled into the Founders Center classroom for sensory breaks or individual instruction as determined by his or her IEP or IIP.

Participants admitted to the program must have a diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder. This may include Asperger’s Syndrome and PDD (NOS). Students may also carry additional diagnoses such as speech-language impairment, developmental delay, or intellectual disability; however, autism should be the primary disability.

Competent Learner Model (CLM) is the driving force behind our assessments and curriculum. Supplemental materials such as adapted reading and math curricula and typical preschool learning materials are used to provide instruction.

The program is staffed with a lead teacher to oversee each site and instructional assistants (IAs) who work with the children to provide individualized instruction and support throughout the day. The instructor to participant ratio is no less than 6:8. Related services as required by each individual’s plan are provided by contractors. These providers are contracted directly by the placing agent or the parents. Services provided may include speech, occupational, physical, or vision therapies.

As part of our program, all employees participate in a rigorous schedule of professional development and training. Additionally, Behavior Analysts provide direct feedback to teachers and instructional assistants on a weekly basis.

School Age Programs

In our school age program, each student follows an individualized curriculum built around the Competent Learner Model (CLM). Most participants follow an adapted curriculum, based on the strengths and needs of the individual. The IEP/IIP guides each child’s curriculum and the method(s) of instruction provided. In addition to CLM, supplemental materials such as adapted reading and math curricula, vocational assessments, and materials to address the ASOLs for VAAP assessments are used with each child.

Inclusion opportunities, to the extent that it is possible and/or appropriate for each individual, are offered. This includes regular outings in the community, participation with typical peers at employment sites, and opportunities to return to public education as determined by the program team.

Participants admitted to the program must have a diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder. This may include Asperger’s Syndrome and PDD (NOS). Children may also carry additional diagnoses such as speech-language impairment, developmental delay, or intellectual disability; however, autism should be the primary disability.

Our school age program is staffed with a lead teacher to oversee each classroom and instructional assistants (IAs) who work with the participants to provide individualized instruction and support throughout the day. The instructor to student ratio is no less than 6:8. Related services as required by each individual’s plan are provided by contractors. These are contracted directly by the placing agent or the parents. Services provided may include speech, occupational, physical, or vision therapies.

As part of our program, all employees participate in a rigorous schedule of professional development and training. Additionally, Behavior Analysts provide direct feedback to teachers and instructional assistants on a weekly basis.

As teenagers approach adulthood, an emphasis is placed on the importance of transition planning. Regular community based instruction opportunities are offered based on individual need. These needs are determined through the annual IEP/IIP but may include job experience, vocational training, development of leisure skills, and development of self-help and independent living skills. This transition training may occur on site at The Founders Center or in the community.

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Transitional Programs

For participants ages fourteen to twenty-one, focus on transition to adult life is of utmost importance. Students identified for our transitional program receive a combination of 1:1 and group instruction. For those who need a higher degree of support, programming focuses primarily on a functional/vocational skills curriculum. Greatest concentration is placed on developing and increasing communication, daily living, socialization and vocational competence with instruction in core curriculum subjects.

Vocational and social skills training and practice are provided on and off campus. Participants engage in a variety of work and volunteer activities within the community. Current and frequent partners include Ronald McDonald House of Richmond, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, ComedySportz of Richmond, and Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Mechanicsville. These activities are designed to not only provide teens and young adults with exposure to a variety of work experiences, but also to engender concepts of generosity and service. Moreover, vocational opportunities afford students with the opportunity to work with peers and adults in setting in which expectations vary from those at school or with family.

During the transitional period, related services may continue in either a direct service or consultative capacity. These services are contracted directly by the placing agent or the parents. Services provided may include speech, occupational, physical, or vision therapies.  As students prepare for transition to the adult world, the team also works with Department of Aging and Rehabilitative Services and other community resources to help families plan for the future.

Individuals who complete the program will receive a certificate of completion.

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