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The Sierra School at Main Street is an in-district model working in partnership with St. Vrain Valley School District. The program services students in grades k–12 with autism spectrum exceptionalities and specific learning disabilities.
At Sierra, we take an individualized approach to educating students with specific eligibilities, which starts with building strong foundational skills in the areas of language, visual performance, and fine and gross motor skills. Our approach is informed by the belief that it is common to find defined splinter skills in children and adolescents with autism and SLD, as well as a large “gap” between receptive and expressive language skills—a gap that hinders social abilities and can lead to maladaptive behaviors. Consequently, the Sierra School consistently works to bridge this gap by expediting acquisition of skills and increasing our students’ awareness of their surroundings. To accomplish this, we employ a rotational model of instruction whereby students move about their educational space, alternating among specific learning modalities and diversifying their settings, all of which supports faster generalization of skills.
Our rotational system consists of DTT (Discrete Trial Training) sessions, life skills training, social skills lab and motor lab work, NET (Natural Environment Teaching), instruction in designated academic blocks, activity schedules, and independent play and leisure time. Each rotation is designed to progressively build on the last level of skills and inform the next level. For example, what is taught in DTT serves as a building block for the social skills lab, which in turn is generalized into the NET room, which itself is generalized into routine components of the day (e.g., recess, lunch, transitional times) and eventually to real-world encounters. Ultimately, this progression of skills leads to two long-term goals: (1) the ability to participate, function, and demonstrate independence in the general public; and (2) the ability to transition students to a more general academic setting.