Local academy educates autistic children

March 13, 2011 (BURR RIDGE, Ill.)

The Developmental Individual Difference Relationship-based model, or DIR, is the focus at Soaring Eagle Academy. It promotes social, emotional and intellectual abilities of children with autism.

Located in Burr Ridge, Soaring Eagle Academy only has 10 students.

"Our student's have autism spectrum disorder and other related disorders and can be anywhere from moderate to profoundly impaired," said Deanna Tyrpak, one of the school's founders.

"The heart of the DIR model is what's called floor-time and while many look at it as just simple play, it's more than that," said Tyrpak.

"It's amazing process to watch as a parent or a teacher truly engages as a child and gets at their level and meets them where they are, following their lead and their interest while also challenging them and their emotional, their social and their intellectual capacities," said Tyrpak.

"We have a multi-disciplinary team. It's a comprehensive intensive approach. So, there's a special education teacher in the classroom. Every child has a one-on-one assistant that is their floor-time player that engages them in interaction all through the day. Then, we have a host of speech therapists, occupational therapists, music therapists, art therapists, recreational therapists and consultants that support the team," said Tyrpak.

Jennifer Horvath's 7-year-old daughter, Rachel, is a student at Soaring Eagle Academy. The mother says within the few months, she see significant changes.

"Everything, I think most of all I guess, that she can she has a connection with everybody in her life now, and they have a connection with her," said Horvath. "I mean, her brothers now, she plays with them all the time. But she never did before. No, she didn't know how."

Amanda Shadduck' son, Adam, is 5 years old.

"I had a friend of mine who said you should try floor-time because the two components of Adam's challenges are sensory processing and communications. So, Adam has a lot of issues with sensory things around him. He doesn't have a filter like we can filter out things, where Adam's can't really do that. Things just sort of bombard him and he kind of doesn't know how to handle his own body," Shadduck said. "He's doing really well."

"He is engaging more with people around him. He's definitely talking more. He's developing his personality like things are coming out<" said Shadduck.

Currently, the school is only available for children from ages 5 to 13.

"We have a large building we want to expand," Tyrpak said. "And we want to be able to expand to serve high school students."

"You may find a child who is excited about lions, tigers. So, their math project is adding lions or reading books about lions. It's all about following the child's lead in their interest and trying to weave in Illinois learning standards in the process," said Tyrpak.

The cost of education for children who attend Soaring Eagle Academy is paid by their children's local school districts.

For more information, visit www.soaringeagleacademy.org.

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