Temple Grandin School (TGS) was founded in 2011 by Jen Wilger, special educator and parent of a student with Asperger’s syndrome, and David Hazen, a veteran teacher and principal. Prior to TGS, Jen had identified class size and flexibility as key components of an effective educational program for her son. Upon meeting fellow parent and occupational therapist, Nisa Libbey, discussions ensued about creating a school that would provide not just flexibility, but an intentional program that would meet the specific needs of students with Asperger’s syndrome (AS) and similar learning profiles. The group decided to name the school in honor of Temple Grandin, the animal scientist and autism advocate who was named among Time Magazine’s People of the Year in 2010.
TGS embarked on its first year with ten students and a staff of eight, which included content area teachers, a behavior specialist, and an instructional aide. From the start, TGS established strong collaborations with local AS professionals, the University of Colorado’s Speech, Language & Hearing Sciences department (SLHS) and others. TGS’ initial programming offering–a summer pilot of its social communication program, Perspectives—was attended by six students. The development of Perspectives initiated what has become an on-going relationship between TGS and CU’s SLHS, and a core component of TGS’ core socio-academic educational program. As of December, 2014, over 40 graduate student speech-language clinicians have received clinical training through the Perspectives program.
In addition to its Core Socio-Academic Program (which includes Perspectives), behavior, counseling and academic support services were added in 2013. New community collaborations continue to develop as TGS seeks to provide real-world experiences that will help students recognize and realize their potential. Program development at TGS is ongoing, keeping pace with the latest research in the field of autism and Asperger’s syndrome. Staff members regularly attend and present at professional conferences as they explore and contribute to best practices for preparing this bright, capable group of students for successful futures.
Now in its fourth year, TGS currently enrolls 23 students with a staff of 15. Since its inception, TGS has supported eight students in transitioning to post-secondary and workplace environments. Their paths are as varied as the students themselves, ranging from immediate employment in industries related to their interests to supported community-college attendance to independent living in university dormitories. The TGS community looks forward to hearing of their scholastic and workplace successes, and to helping many more students prepare for socially-engaged, meaningful adult occupations.