What Makes Watson a Recognized Autism School?

The Watson Institute provides high quality special education to children with various special needs; however, we have gained significant recognition as an autism school for the services we provide children with autism spectrum disorder.

The Watson Institute Social Center for Academic Achievement (WISCA) program was developed to meet the needs of students with high-functioning autism, adapting their curriculum and school environment to help students achieve their educational goals. Through a supportive, therapeutic environment, students in the WISCA school program are able to focus on their education, learning in a flexible setting.

Marcia Laus, the Program Director of WISCA, and her team of special education teachers and instructional aides continually develop methods and strategies to help keep their students with special needs focused and on-task during school hours. Over the summer, during Extended School Year (ESY), they noticed that on Friday afternoons students started to get restless, anticipating the upcoming weekend.

In order to keep their students with autism spectrum disorder focused on their school work, they implemented YOYO – You’re On Your Own. Throughout the week, students have the opportunity to earn Friday afternoon YOYO time by practicing good behaviors and staying focused on their school work.

Students get to choose the activity they’d like to have as their reward, including art projects, remote control cars, card games, cooking activities and more. The YOYO school program has helped students with autism spectrum disorder not only focus on their school work, but also to improve their behaviors by keeping them motivated.

YOYO time was so successful during ESY that program staff decided to continue it throughout the school year.

“Often by Friday afternoon at around 2 p.m., the students are getting antsy about the upcoming weekend and struggling to focus on academic activities. YOYO is very motivating to students and we’ve seen some student behaviors improve because they are working to earn their special activity.” said Marcia Laus, WISCA Program Director.

Special education teachers and staff at the Watson Institute continue to develop and adapt curriculum and activities to ensure the needs of our students with autism spectrum disorder are being met in a fun and educational way. This adaptive approach supports Watson’s reputation as a quality autism school in Western Pennsylvania.