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Opening Doors and Broadening Horizons at Elevation Autism & Learning Center

By Gregory Flail

Earlier this year, Elevation Autism and Learning Center opened its doors to meet the growing need for high-quality, family-focused services for children with autism. The learning center is a carefully designed environment located in one of downtown Alpharettas many historic homes. The warm, welcoming interior at Elevation feels like anything but a doctors office. Large windows shed natural light in classrooms and on spacious group play areas where children can develop social skills and accustom themselves to the school environment. This seamless blend of comforting atmospheres of home, school, and community
is an integral part of Elevations approach to teaching.

Children thrive in a supportive environment, says Dona Alvino, the director of clinical services at Elevation. We believe children must have an environment rich with learning opportunities and filled with constant interaction. Whether a child has been recently diagnosed or has been unable to make adequate progress in a traditional school setting, we believe every child is capable of learning once he or she has had personalized attention and guidance.

Alvino has worked with special needs children for 30 years, and before leading the team at Elevation, she led the development of an autism program at a large special needs school. Alvino believes that early intervention is the key to helping children with autism reach their fullest potential. Elevation offers specialized support to children ages 1-6 to help them develop the pivotal skills they need to engage with family and peers in their natural environment.

Our early intensive programs are designed to help children learn skills across many different developmental domains, whether that be in the home, community, or the classroom, Alvino says. And our intensive one-on-one therapy serves as a springboard to accelerate that development.

Elevations approach to learning is an evidence-based therapy known as Applied Behavior Analysis, the standard of care for
autism as recommended by the American Psychological Association and the U.S. Surgeon General. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) measures every skill, task, and behavior. The data generated by a childs response to activity can readily tell behavior analysts how that individual child learns most effectively, which allows the treatment team to modify their teaching strategies to best support the specific needs of that child.

Elevations behavior analysts conduct a careful assessment of the data to determine why a childs behavior occurs or fails to occur. Then, they create a treatment plan that modifies the environment and interactions to help increase or decrease specific skills or behaviors. Throughout the process, new behavior data informs ongoing treatment decisions.
Children attend Elevation 3-5 days a week, and while their schedule may look somewhat like a day at a traditional preschool or kindergarten, their activities are specifically tailored to their individual needs and program goals. Daily activities vary frequently to target and improve several areas of development from language and reading, to games, eating lunch, learning self-help skills, playing outdoors, taking turns, as well as using eye contact and nonverbal communication skills.

Throughout the day, Elevation students receive one-on-one guidance from a registered behavior technician (RBT), under the direct guidance of a board-certified behavior analyst (BCBA). Alvino and her staff also support their learners abilities to manage challenging behaviors such as tantrums, aggression, and refusal to comply with instructions. From day one, students enter Elevation with an individualized plan to maximize their success. In addition, parents are encouraged to take an active role in their childs progress in school and at home.

Our approach is family-centered because parents are their childs greatest advocates, Alvino says. Thats why we work with families. We involve parents in the sessions. We support them in their daily lives with advice, understanding, and coaching. At Elevation, each childs parent has access to a family concierge, who can personally address questions regarding a childs treatment plan or recommend additional resources available in the community.

Alvino believes there is a growing need for independent family-focused centers like Elevation. Parents are often understandably overwhelmed when receiving a new diagnosis, and their concerns can go unaddressed when a facility is too large, Alvino says. We are dedicated to working with parents continually to clarify goals, teach skills to apply at home, and make regular adjustments to their childs therapy plan.

Elevation Autism and Learning Center is convenient to schools, restaurants, and grocery stores, so that parents can manage their family lives alongside their childrens time in therapy. ABA therapy is covered by health insurance, and Elevation accepts all major health plans. For more information, please call 404-474-0040 or visit