Since opening its doors in 2003, the ASPIE Program, founded and directed by Valerie Paradiz, PhD (in collaboration with Onteora Public School District and the non-profit organization Judy Upjohn Culture and Media Studies) has swiftly become a respected national model for the education and social development of high-functioning students on the autism spectrum.

In September 2006, ASPIE will become an independent school, opening its doors to students, grades 7-12, living in the Hudson Valley and Catskill Mountain regions of New York State.



The School for Autistic Strength, Purpose and Independence inEducation (ASPIE) is a full day educational and therapeutic school for middle and high school students on the autistic spectrum who have diagnoses or clinical descriptions of Asperger’s syndrome (AS), high functioning autism (HFA), Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD), or another significant social/communication disorder.

ASPIE’s mission is to provide its students with a safe learning environment that is academically stimulating, socially productive, respectful of different communication styles and approaches to knowledge, and unswerving in its commitment to well designed, successful transition into adult life after high school.


ASPIE’s core programatic features for the 2006-2007 school year will include:

  • New York State Regents curriculum with New York State certified teachers
  • 1:8:1 classroom size
  • Comprehensive social and communication skills programming
  • Program driven speech therapy integrated with Language Arts class as a means of promoting development of pragmatic ability
  • Group and individual therapy, including sex ed, geared specifically toward adolescents on the autism spectrum
  • Family therapy and training focused on raising teens on the autism spectrum and supporting them through key developmental phases into successful adult living
  • A vital mainstreaming component that provides opportunities for ASPIE students to attend select academic classes in its partner high school and to participate in sports, after school clubs, and social events
  • Self-advocacy class, where students learn about the autism spectrum and the strengths and challenges it presents in their lives. This special class teaches students their basic rights as individuals with disabilities, including topics such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, services and opportunities provided by local, county and state providers, advocacy organizations and more.
  • Computer and software curricula specifically designed to teach students real-world, prevocational skills in technology
  • Life skills and vocational programming for students in the classroom kitchen, which serves as a daily learning center for food preparation, budgeting, meal planning and working in collaboration with others
  • Intensive transitional planning through the “Developing Talents” curriculum, a program inspired by the life work of autism advocate, Dr. Temple Grandin, matching autistic students’ deep interests with vocational mentors and internships in businesses in the community
  • Mentor programming to teach important independent living skills such as seeking and finding employment, learning to drive, and planning leisure time
  • Transitional programming for education and work beyond high school, including bridge programs with local and national colleges and businesses
  • A vibrant training and development program for ASPIE teaching and therapeutic staff that offers on-going, cutting edge training led by professionals in the national autism community
  • A visiting speakers’ series, including successful adults on the autism spectrum who share their life stories with students and serve as role models for success