Monarch Center for Autism at Bellefaire JBC
Bellefaire JCB’s Monarch Center for Autism provides a comprehensive living and learning environment for children and adolescents with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
State-of-the-art Teaching Technologies and Individualized Instruction Help Youth Succeed at the Monarch Center for Autism
Founded in 1868, Bellefaire JCB has evolved into one of the nation’s leading providers and innovators of wellness, advocacy, and behavioral healthcare for children, youth and their families in the Jewish and general communities. This nonprofit is one of the country’s largest, most experienced child welfare agencies providing a variety of behavioral health, substance abuse, education and prevention services to families throughout the U.S. Bellefaire JCB annually aids approximately 15,000 youth and their families to “achieve resiliency, dignity and self-sufficiency” through some 25+ programs.
Monarch Center for Autism, located on a 32-acre campus in Shaker Heights, OH, is one outstanding arm Bellefaire JCB. It provides a comprehensive living and learning environment for children and adolescents with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The Center houses both the Monarch School and the Monarch Boarding Academy, founded in 2000 and 2004 respectively to meet community needs. Monarch School is a day school serving over 110 students from the greater Cleveland area as well as the residents of the Boarding Academy.
Caring, experienced staff implement a teaching method designed to be “respectful, empowering and kind,” explains Stephanie Senter, Monarch’s Direct of Residential Treatment. The “Monarch Teaching Model” is a spoken- and visual language-based treatment and teaching method developed through partnerships with Harvard Medical School and Children’s Hospital Boston. Senter speaks passionately and informatively about this program model, enthusing that “there is no other program like it in the nation. It builds knowledge, increases life skills, and considers the whole child.”
The Monarch Teaching Model takes advantage of the strong visual processing and residual spoken language abilities of children with autism to support communication, comprehension, language development, social skills, and academic achievement. It is predicated on the careful, systematic, individualized introduction of language concepts accompanied by visual supports to help children with autism develop modes of communication—spoken, visual, or written—that enable them to achieve their maximum potential as individuals and members of the community. The Monarch Model is also philosophically neutral and can be used to complement and enhance the most effective and widely-used techniques for individuals with autism, as well as concept-driven to ensure that learning is generalized to multiple contexts (i.e., school, home, community). It’s an approach, Senter says, that yields its own rewards above and beyond building communication skills.
For individuals ages 8-22 years whose needs cannot be met inside the home and classroom alone, Monarch Boarding Academy (MBA) offers a nurturing and individualized residential environment that also uses the Monarch Model. This 33-bed facility offers a highly structured environment as well as a small staff-to-resident ratio, providing for more personalized attention to residents. Jennifer O’Keefe, LPCC, Director of Monarch Boarding Academy East, is driven in her work at MBA to provide her charges with a comfortable and secure setting that uses state-of-the-art technologies to help those with autism grow. The goal is to help these children and youth eventually return to less-restrictive environments armed with the social, academic, communications, and behavioral tools they need to flourish.
The continuum of services offered by Monarch Center for Autism includes a range of lifelong supports, from pre-school through adulthood, intended to maximize each individual’s unique strengths and abilities and ensure that personal goals are realized. The organization is committed to serving individuals long term, working through behavioral challenges and addressing each person’s evolving needs as they mature and succeed. As personal goals are realized, new challenges are set based on each individual’s abilities and level of functioning. The goal of Bellefaire’s continuum of autism-specific services is to ensure personal fulfillment and for each person to become active and engaged members of their families and communities to the fullest extent possible.
Some ways through which the Monarch Center for Autism achieves these goals include:
- Holistic, long-term approach to the child’s wellbeing that extends not only across life-span, but among the child’s community, encompassing the whole family;
- A treatment model and visual language-based curriculum that is designed to meet the individual needs of the child “because no two children have the exact same needs that can be addressed in the same way;”
- Innovative approaches encompassing new technologies that engage students and residents, such as SMART Boards, digital media, and VizZle™ (visual language technology). Monarch Teaching Technologies developed VizZle™ in conjunction with Harvard Medical School and Children’s Hospital of Boston as a teaching tool allowing users to create customized educational content using Web 2.0 as a platform;
- The Soap Shop—a meaningful vocational training experience for youth with ASD. Under supervision, these youth oversee all the aspects of manufacturing soaps, lotions, and lip balms, from product development to marketing, packaging and sales. All proceeds benefit the Monarch Center for Autism; and
- Club M, a robust extracurricular program that joins youth with ASD with typical peers to enjoy art, cooking, and drama classes, among other fun activities.