COLORADO SPRINGS — The new school year is here for many districts but a local school is helping students with autism year-round. It's called Firefly Autism South in Colorado Springs located in Old Colorado City.
The school recently expanded their efforts with a new therapy room that opened about two months ago. It's the school's latest effort in helping kids who are on the spectrum.
"It's nice because we can work on a lot of social skills and things that we can't really work on in the home. So that's been really great," said Mandy Rades, the director of the school.
Since the Denver-based school expanded to Colorado Springs about two years ago, they were doing mostly home-based therapy with kids and working on things like brushing teeth, washing hands and feeding.
Rades said instructors work with people as young as 1 1/2 to 21 years old on communication skills and positive behavior both inside and outside of the classroom now. It's all to help those with autism reach their highest potential through applied behavior analysis, also known as ABA.
"We work with our clients and try to decrease their behaviors such as physical aggression, property descruction, yelling," said Rades. "So we work on decreasing those behaviors and giving them functionally equivalent behaviors. If a client is yelling because they want access to a cookie, we would teach them the appropriate way to ask for that item."
Meanwhile, the new therapy room room is equipped with sensory activities, a limited number of toys to avoid over-simulation, and everything is labeled to help kids with matching. The room has all the items educators need to help the kids.
"It's just amazing the parents get to see the differences at home, they see the communication, they see less struggles getting ready for school in the morning, they see eating habits are better and grooming habits are better," said Jessica Boguski, a program facilitator for the school.
Boguski said it's all about the small victories and daily growth when working with kids and families living with autism, and she believes her work is making a difference.
"Just seeing the changes that I got to see with one of my kids that I worked with very closely for a year and a half, it's amazing to see my work actually work," said Boguski. "I can't even describe it."
During the pandemic, a lot of the work with the kids was done through telehealth. As COVID-19 restrictions began to ease, educators went back into the home, before eventually opening the therapy room.
The school is open 8:30 to 2:30 Monday through Friday and is year-round. The school is accepting enrollment of new kids. For more information about Firefly Autism South, click here.