In 2009, in close collaboration with Billings’ School District 2, AWARE developed Montana’s first and only school for youth with autism.
In 2013, after lots of hard work, four students graduated the Enterprise Learning Center and began — like others their age —the transition to adulthood.
For many of the young people in the Learning Center, their Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) go beyond what the resources of a school district’s special education staff are able to provide in a traditional classroom setting. AWARE has created a classroom that provides the one-on-one attention and functional academics that, with further support from the Kennedy Krieger Institute at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md., produces positive outcomes with time, hard work and patience.
While each student’s educational plan is unique, the ELC mixes academic, pre-vocational and daily living skills management.
The environment in the school allows students to form relationships at their own pace as opposed to faster-paced traditional venues.
Further, significant time is spent allowing for trust to build between the students and the staff.
Each of the families with children attending the ELC have been intricately involved in both programmatic and social elements, working with staff and their children on bridging the gap between graduation and adult life.
The prevocational aspects of the education are steeped in involvement at home and throughout the community, and regardless of each specific plan of action after high school, each is entering a significantly less restrictive environment than they knew before their time at the ELC.