Giant Steps School supports autistic individuals ages 3 to 21
By Mike Lauterborn
(posted to Fairfield.Patch.com)
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.
Fairfield, CT – They laughed and smiled, gobbled down grilled food and had some good old-fashioned family fun. It was a little reward for putting in some long hours and keeping their noses in their books while other children and young adults lapped up lazy summer days.
Thursday, August 11 marked Giant Steps School’s Family Fun Day, a celebration of the academic and social progress and achievements of its students ages 3 to 21, who have autism spectrum disorder and/or other neurological disorders. The special education private institution helps these individuals with therapy sessions pertaining to speech, physiology, occupational pursuits and music. Other programs help with ADL (activities of daily living and self-help), vocational play and adaptive physical education.
Features of the event, which ran from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., included a huge inflatable water slide, water play (pools, pouring stations, toy boats), an indoor area set up with a Wii video game system and DVD projector, and a full grilling station donated by the Fairfield Fire Department. The grill dispensed hamburgers and hot dogs throughout the day, while cold drinks were served up from several ice-filled coolers. School tuition monies covered the cost of the event.
“This is the first year we are doing this,” said Lindajeanne Schwartz, the Head of the School and Program Administrator, who came on board in April at the facility, which is situated on Barberry Road in Southport. “We had one earlier, similar day in June signaling the end of the traditional school year. Based on student response to that Fun Day, we decided to schedule another summer-based one. It’s really an opportunity for students to bond in a social setting, for families to interact with their children, to strengthen the bond between students and teachers and to have some good old-fashioned fun. The kids and staff love this!”
Tom Maloney, the school’s registered nurse, who was on hand helping out with activities, echoed Schwartz’s remarks. “This is a great celebration of a wonderful summer that concluded our seasonal programming,” he said. “The kids had fun learning and absorbed a lot. Family Fun Day is an appropriate name given the family involvement.”
Westporter Christine Cutie, whose daughter Jocelyn is in the program, offered a parent perspective on the school. “These kids work really hard most of the time,” she said. “It’s nice for them to get entertainment and outdoor activities. It’s a good reward for them and fun for us all.”
Another parent, Teresa Trucks, of Guilford, whose son Nuno is a student, said, “This is definitely a fun day, and a good way to meet other parents in similar circumstances. I feel blessed to have our son – and Giant Steps. It’s a special challenge. The school has been a lifesaver for us.”
Offering a teacher’s view on the event, Jenna Beik, a speech therapist, shared, “This day is good for socializing between students themselves and between teachers and students. Our program is all-year long. Granted, we have vacations, but our kids are in school longer than public school children.”
With regard to Giant Steps’ programming, Beik explained, “The most challenging cases we have are students who are non-verbal. As communication facilitators, we rely on augmentation technologies to help our students express themselves. For instance, a lot of our kids have access to a Proloquo-2-Go application, which is augmentation communication software for the iPad that provides students with a visual means of expressing their wants or needs. The system renders a voice output, which serves as the child’s personal voice. Everything is individualized.”
Beik’s passion for the school, its programming and the students was very evident. “This is a program that really deserves to be showcased,” she said. “There are some amazing things happening here.”