Valentine’s Day Dance – February 21

Meet new friends, have fun, and DANCE! Featuring the very special DJ Stephanie Rasul. Light drinks and snacks will be provided.
(Attendees must be 19 and older, Participants that need assistance for physical and behavioral needs must be accompanied by their caregiver)

Register Here! 

When: FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 21 | 6:30-8:00PM
Where: ALLY ADVOCACY CENTER – Located at The Arc of Loudoun
601 Catoctin Circle, NE, Leesburg, VA 20176

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Next Chapter Book Club

The Next Chapter Book Club (NCBC) offers opportunities for people with cognitive or developmental disabilities to read and learn together, talk about books and make friends in a relaxed community setting.

Interested in joining? Please email Nyteisha Stith at 


Mondays; 6:30pm-8pm (check dates on flyer above)

At Rust Library’s Story Time Room

IMG_7250Finding ways to learn and participate in the community can be challenging for adults with intellectual disabilities.  The Next Chapter Book Club offers a great opportunity to do both and have fun.

What is it?  The Next Chapter Book Club (NCBC) offers opportunities for people with cognitive or developmental disabilities to read and learn together, talk about books and make friends in a relaxed, community setting. Each group is comprised of between five and eight people. The small size ensures that each participant feels valued, and facilitates the development of strong friendships between members. Anyone may join the club, regardless of reading level and abilities.  EVEN IF YOU CAN NOT READ, you can join this group! Club members take on active roles: together they decide which books to read and how they would like to structure their get-togethers. All meetings are held in local settings, such as coffee shops and the library and will take place the 1st and 3rd Monday of each month..

In partnership with the Loudoun County Public Library and generously funded by 100 Women Strong.

Interested in joining us?  Please contact Nyteisha at 703.777.1939 extension 200 or

Open Door Learning Center’s OPEN HOUSE on March 3

Open Door Learning Center Preshcool: Open House on March 3 from 1-3pm

Join us at Open Door Learning Center Preschool Open House on Saturday, March 3 from 1-3 pm. You’ll have the chance to You’ll have the chance to meet our awesome staff, tour our school, and learn about our curriculum. Your child can also enjoy fun activities, arts and crafts, and have their face painted! The Disney Princess, Belle, will also be making a special appearance! 

Where: Open Door Learning Center
The Arc of Loudoun at Paxton Campus 
601 Catoctin Circle, NE 
Leesburg, VA 20177


Preschool to Kindergarten Transition Workshop – April 25th

Before the Bus Starts Coming: Still Deciding If You Will Send Your Preschooler to Kindergarten?

TOPIC:  This is the workshop for parents and families in the community who are having a difficult time deciding on whether or not to send their child to Kindergarten

SPEAKERS: Lori Padgett, Special Education Supervisor, ECSE and Karin Spencer, Consulting Teacher in the Office of Special Education 

WHEN:  Wednesday, April 25, 2018; 6:00 pm 

WHERE:  ALLY Advocacy Center on Paxton Campus
  601 Catoctin Circle, NE
  Leesburg, VA  20176

FREE, No registration required. 

Questions:  Eileen Shaffer

EMAIL: TEL: 703.777.1939 ext. 208 


Parent Support Group meets May 1; 5:30pm-6:30pm



Interested in joining our Parent Support Group? Please contact Eileen Shaffer at:

Are you the parent or caretaker of a child with a disability or special needs?  Do you wish you could talk with other parents who are in similar situations? Please consider joining our Parent Support Group!

Parent Support Group will meet the first Tuesday of each month of the School Year and coincide with Social Skills Group. While your child attends Social Skills Group, you are welcome to join a network of other parents. PLEASE NOTE: Your child does not need to be enrolled in Social Skills to attend.

Upcoming meetings: 

Tuesdays from 5:30pm to 6:30pm

October 3

November 7

December 5

January 2

February 6

March 6

April 3

May 1

Parent groups can serve many purposes, but one of their most important can be to introduce families to others like themselves, building a sense of community and of understanding. 

For more information on this group, please contact Eileen Shaffer at:

12 Band Jam and Ride – August 11th; 10:30am-12am

12 Band Jam & Ride

Come out and enjoy 12 different awesome bands that will be jamming all day and night! Proceeds benefit the Aurora School serving students with special needs. 

Saturday, August 11, 2017 | Spanky’s Shananigans – Leesburg, VA

RIDE: 10:30am Kickstands up – Riders Depart

$20 for motorcycle riders/$10 for passengers, includes t-shirt and lunch

Riders, come and enjoy ½-price breakfast starting at 7:30 am!

JAM: 12:00pm to 12am – Enjoy the bands – 12 Band Jam Lineup

$10 admission at door for 12 Band Jam

Win fabulous raffle prizes!

50/50 raffle!  Prizes awarded every hour between 3pm – 10pm!

List of Bands:

  • 12 PM: Andy Hawks Train Wreck Endings
  • 1 PM: Striped Cows
  • 2 PM: Gary Hoffman Band 
  • 3 PM: Chris Timbers 
  • 4 PM: Ricky J and the Blue Rhythm
  • 5 PM: Fresh Cracked Pepper
  • 6 PM: Fast Eddie and the Fast Lane Blues Band
  • 7 PM: Stone Cold
  • 8 PM: The Hipnecks
  • 9 PM: David Lange
  • 10 PM: Bastards of the Twang 
  • 11 PM: Willie White 



Social Skills Groups – Tuesdays Jan. 8-April 30, 5:30-6:30pm

Social Skills Groups for students ages 5 to 18 years old

We currently full for Spring 2019 Social Skills, we will re-open for Fall 2019  Social Skills in May. 

About Social Skills Groups

Our Social Skills Groups are designed for students who need coaching in peer relationships and conversations. If your child is able to converse with others but may need prompting to initiate or respond to peers, he or she is our ideal participant.

During Social Skills Groups, we use the principles of Verbal Behavior and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). 

Each group session consists of fun social games and activities. However each activity includes learning opportunities that are specifically designed to focus on intensive instruction that supports peer-to-peer socialization. Intensive instruction is embedded into activities. And it is derived from evidence-based concepts of verbal behavior and behavior analysis. Moreover, intensive instruction focuses on developing the necessary skills needed to initiate with and respond to peers.

Each session is supervised by a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). And the group conversations and verbal skills are facilitated by applied behavior therapists.

We have created 2 types of specialized social skills groups to best fit different student’s social needs. One group is a best fit for children who are conversational but require extra help and prompting to socialize. And the second group facilitates basic social skills for students who need more intensive instruction to interact with peers.

We are also developing a social skills class which will focus on more subtle issues such as bullying, personal space, perspective taking, etc. All classes will meet on Tuesdays from 5:30pm to 6:30pm. An interview with parents will help determine the best group for your child.


Social Skills Group for older studentsSocial Skills Group for younger students





Giving Tuesday, December 3rd

On December 3rd, The Arc of Loudoun is celebrating Giving Tuesday.

Your donation will help to support and grow The Arc of Loudoun programs and the communities we serve. Thank you for your support in empowering, embracing, and engaging adults and children with disabilities and their families.


Become a Friend-raiser…We invite you, a member of our Arc of Loudoun Family, to become a friend-raiser and help raise much-needed revenue to serve people with disabilities and their families. By rallying your friends, family, neighbors, classmates, and co-workers, you directly help people with disabilities and their families in Loudoun County, and you’ll help your friends feel good about doing good.

Starting a fundraiser on behalf of the Arc of Loudoun is easy to do and it’s fun. We’ll give you all the tools you’ll need to make a difference. With your help we can provide a lifetime of opportunities for people with disabilities not only during this holiday season but for their lifetime.

Our goal is to raise $20,000 by the end of 2019! Start your Friend-riaser today. Learn more. 

DMV comes to The Arc of Loudoun; February 5; 10am-3pm

ALLY Advocacy Center is bringing DMV to you!!! We are thrilled to announce that DMV-Connect will be setting up shop in the ALLY Advocacy Center building at The Arc of Loudoun on Tuesday, February 5th from 10am-3pm (by appointment only)

How to Schedule an Appointment

**Please contact Eileen Shaffer at or 703-777-1939, ext. 208 for an appointment. To be eligible for an appointment, you must have a family member with a disability or be a staff member at The Arc of Loudoun.

About DMV-Connect

DMV-Connect is an outreach program of the Department of Motor Vehicles that connects Virginians to services who may not be able to travel to or wait in line at a traditional DMV office.

If you have a family member with a disability and would like to get them an Identification Card (even if they are under 15 years old), they now offer the opportunity to get an indicator on the card designating the following categories: Autism Spectrum Disorder, Intellectual Disability, Hearing Impairment, Speech Impairment and Insulin-dependent diabetic. This a great, proactive way to insure that First Responders are notified of the disability. Please note that in order to do this, you must bring a doctor’s evaluation or note that lists the diagnosis.

They will also be able to conduct other services including: Virginia State IDs, Veterans IDs, Child IDs, Driver’s licenses, Disabled parking placards and Vehicle titles and registrations. To avoid long waits, we are scheduling appointments for this service.

**Please contact Eileen Shaffer at or 703-777-1939, ext. 208 for an appointment. To be eligible for an appointment, you must have a family member with a disability or be a staff member at The Arc of Loudoun.

Documents to download before your appointment:

Decoding Dyslexia – December 12 , 7pm-9pm

Decoding Dyslexia

This is monthly series of speakers and discussion, aiming to raise dyslexia awareness and  empower families to support their children with dyslexia.

The next workshop is on Wednesday, December 12 from 7pm-9pm

Speakers: Emily Miller
The topic is “Assistive Technology 101 for Students with Dyslexia.” Our guest speaker will beEmily Miller who is an Assistive Technology Coach. Stemming from her own challenges with dyslexia, Emily has learned to use assistive technology as a life-changing tool. In this presentation, Emily will teach you the ins and outs of assistive technology and how you can use it to help your child today. Emily is currently a special education teacher and assistive technology tutor in the summer. She is also finishing a graduate certificate in assistive technology. ​
Place: The ALLY Advocacy Center, Arc of Loudoun
Time: 11am – 1pm  “Lunch & Learn” 

Register here. 


For more information on Decoding Dyslexia, please search “Decoding Dyslexia Virginia” on Facebook or email

Questions?  Please contact Eileen Shaffer at or call 703.777.1939 x 208

For more information on Decoding Dyslexia, please search “Decoding Dyslexia Virginia” on Facebook or email




Professional Crisis Management Workshop for Parents and Professionals; February 23rd and 24th

Professional Crisis Management Training (PCM)  

Prevent aggressive behavior before it begins with PCM (Professional Crisis Management) Training! At this training, learn de-escalation and crisis management strategies.

WHO: Parents and professionals who work and care for individuals with behavioral difficulties

DATE: February 23rd and February 24th from 9am- 6:30pm 

COST$400 – Community Members & Caregivers, $350- Indivdiuals Cert. for Aurora and Aurora Behavior Clients, $500 – Two parents Cert. for Aurora and Aurora Behavior Clients

REGISTER: Amy Metaxa,

LOCATION:     The Aurora School

601 Catoctin Circle, NE, Leesburg, VA 20176

  • Professional Crisis Management courses teach a range of verbal (non-physical) and physical strategies for managing crisis situations safely and effectively.
  • Training will include repetition of physical procedures, an introduction to behavior analysis and the function of behavior, real life discussions of scenarios, coursework, and problem solving of individual concerns.

What is Professional Crisis Management? – reprinted from the link:

PCM is an advanced system of crisis management. Unlike other methods that teach intervention techniques only after individuals have become non-compliant, agitated or aggressive, PCM focuses primarily on prevention before a crisis occurs. PCM includes Crisis Prevention, Crisis De-escalation, Crisis Intervention, and Post-Crisis Intervention components. PCM utilizes “hands on” competency-based training and written tests to certify that individuals who receive instruction in PCM reach the highest level of skill acquisition. PCM is the only complete crisis management system available that can guarantee successful prevention and intervention with maximum safety, increased dignity and total effectiveness.

Crisis Prevention

The best way to handle a crisis situation is to prevent it before it happens!

The crisis prevention component of the PCM system teaches a wide range of nonphysical and verbal strategies for the prevention of crisis situations. Since PCM is based on a teaching and learning model, it integrates smoothly as well as complements and strengthens your existing teaching and treatment strategies. Furthermore, throughout the PCM course, an emphasis is placed on the importance of individual choice and basic human rights.

Crisis De-escalation

The PCM system is based on a cognitive-behavioral model of intervention that utilizes established research based techniques for verbally de-escalating disruptive and aggressive behaviors. The PCM de-escalation component benefits from the groundwork established during the prevention process. During the PCM training course, participants acquire skills that enable them to quickly and safely stabilize an escalating situation before it becomes necessary to physically intervene.

Crisis Intervention

PCM provides individuals with a continuum of painless physical procedures and techniques that can be utilized to intervene in a crisis situation. Specific procedures have been uniquely designed for children, adolescents, and adults. All of the procedures have been designed to maintain human dignity and to completely avoid awkward positioning and physical pain. The PCM training course teaches participants to respect the dignity and value of all human beings and to be sensitive to individual human rights and freedoms.

Post-Crisis Intervention

The PCM course teaches participants various methods of interacting (verbally) following the implementation of crisis intervention. Specific content for post-crisis intervention counseling is presented and practiced at all training courses. Participants gain skills that enable them to quickly reintegrate individuals back to their regular teaching or treatment activities. Participants obtain training in how to conduct post-crisis analysis which includes ways of improving future interactions in crisis situations.




Annual Meeting – February 27

The Arc of Loudoun  requests the honor of your presence for our

Annual Meeting
On Wednesday, February 27th, Two Thousand Nineteen
At Six O’clock in the Evening

The Arc of Loudoun 
The Aurora School
601 Catoctin Circle, NE
Leesburg, Virginia

Come enjoy a light dinner, drinks, and connecting with The Arc of Loudoun family. We will elect our new slate of Board of Directors,  share  “2018: Year in Review,” present the Beth Mills Special Service Award and Rick Berry Professional Award, 

Thank you for what you do to empower, embrace, and engage children with disabilities and their families. 

Please RSVP by February 25th here OR contact Morgan Payne
Telephone: 703.777.1939  ext 106

Pathways to the Community – April 27

Pathways to the Community 

Addressing key barriers to justice for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and discussing practical solutions that work for them. For adults 18+

WHEN: Saturday, April 27th | 9:30am – 3:30pm

WHERE: 906 Trailview Blvd., Suite, Leesburg, VA 20176 in the ASPEN Conference Room

WHO: Individuals served who access the community at large without a support person




10-10:15 Introductions & Overview of Pathways to the Community
Roger Younker and Eileen Shaffer
10:15-11:15 Troy Grooms’ Story – Miranda Rights
Bonnie Hoffman & Genevieve Miller 
11:15-11:30 Break
11:30-12:15 “Keeping Yourself Safe” Cyber Safety
Lisa Kimball, CEO – The Arc of Loudoun
12:15-1:00 Lunch
1:00-2:00 League of Women Voters 
Voting Rights and Time to Register to Vote
2:00-2:15 Break
2:15-3:00 Personal Safety 
Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office 

Sponsored by: Loudoun County Department of MHSADS and Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office

In Partnership with:The Arc of Loudoun- ALLY Advocacy Center
Bonnie Hoffman and Genevieve Miller-Attorneys



Check out images from our first Pathways to Justice Training here.

Give Choose on May 7th

On May 7th, The Arc of Loudoun is participating in Give Choose, a 24-hour day of giving organized by the Community Foundation for Loudoun and Northern Fauquier Counties. Money raised from Give Choose will benefit all five programs at The Arc of Loudoun. Your participation in Give Choose will help people with disabilities and their families that we serve.

Choose to Give to The Arc of Loudoun on May 7th!

We are grateful for your support. Thank you for helping us do more for our community.

Music at the Manor – May 11, 2019

Music at the Manor Festival – Celebrating Moms and Music

 Thank you!

Thank you to everyone who joined us at the 2019 Music at the Manor Festival, a day-long celebration of family, friends, food, and of course, music—from blues to contemporary to rock.

It was a special day as we all joined together to embrace, educate, engage, and empower people with disabilities and their families who love them.

Thank you to our performers – you were maahhvelous!

Ella Levri

King Street Band – their CD is available for sell!

Creative Dance Center “Cast” Dancers

Jack Squared


Frayed Knots

Kage – 2019 Loudoun’s Youth Battle of the Bands winners!

Thank you to our signature partner Blossom and Bloom Thrift Shop!

Food partners:  

Wine and Beer Partners:

Vendor Partners:  Mary Kay by Tetiana, Mixed Media Art by Crystal Mills, Holiday Bakers, Superkicks, Costco of Leesburg, The League of Women Voters Loudoun, “Get Back in the Book! children’s book by Larry Issa, and Legacy Farms

Thank you to our generous partners:



Adult Social Station – Creative Art at ALLY – May 17 – CANCELLED

Adult Social Station – Once a Month Social! – CANCELED

At our monthly Friday socials from 6:30-8:00 PM , adults with disabilities (19 and older) learn how to appropriately interact with others and achieve social success.

Upcoming Adult Social Station: Creative Art at ALLY | May 17 |$20 | 

Schedule of 2019 events:

May 17th: Creative Art at ALLY (Session Fee) – CANCELED

June 21: Summer Dance (Free)

July 12: Ice Cream Social and Games (Session Fee)

Where: ALLY Advocacy Center at The Arc of Loudoun, 601 Catoctin Circle, NE Leesburg, VA 20176

At the monthly socials, adults with disabilities will:

  • Practice every day appropriate conversations
  • Learn “What makes a good friend.”
  • Create peer relationship and conversations using the principles of
    verbal behavior and ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) with an ABA Therapist

*All participants that need assistance for physical or behavioral needs must be accompanied by their caregiver.

An ABA therapist will be present at the socials to include ABA principals during activities/events.

Contact: Nyteisha Stith at or 703.777.1939 ext. 200


Adaptive Art Classes for Adults – Thursdays: 6:00-7:00 pm

To Register: or 703.777.1939 ext. 200

Taught by Darcy Swope and Trent Carbaugh, owners of and instructors at Birds of A Feather Art School

Adults 18+ of ALL abilities are invited to take part in this exciting instructional class that will allow you to discover your inner artistic voice. Darcy and Trent are skilled art instructors and therapists, with a great deal of experience working with people of all abilities. Each week will provide a new and exciting opportunity to try different mediums (or the same one each week if that is what you would like to do!).

WHAT: Expression Through Art: Adaptive Art Classes for ALL Abilities

WHO: Adults 18+ of ALL abilities

**Drop ins are welcome.


THURSDAYS in ALLY: 6:00-7:00PM

WHERE: ALLY Advocacy Center on Paxton Campus

COST: $10/per participant* per week for members of The Arc of Loudoun (CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ABOUT BECOMING A MEMBER)

$12/per participant* per week for non-members of The Arc of Loudoun

*limited scholarships available on case by case basis


For more information, or to register, please contact Nyteisha Stith at 703.777.1939, ext 200 or


50 Faces of The Arc – Ronan

For the past four years, Ronan has been attending The Aurora School, (a year-round school for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities). His ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) Instructor, Ashley, describes Ronan as a an awesome, fun kid who’s also very loving,

“He’s always smiling and will come up and give you the biggest hug!”

exclaims Ashley.  Ashley goes on to say that the learning style at Aurora has left a huge impact on Ronan,

“Before coming here he couldn’t say much, but now he’s speaking words, and we can understand what he wants.”

Ronan is also learning how to use more verbs in his speech to convey what he needs, and will communicate with his instructors about what is bothering him instead of crying. Aurora’s unique program works for children like Ronan because they’re able to get the individual attention they need, Ashley explains,

“We genuinely care about our students and everyday we teach them appropriate skills they’ll use in their everyday life. We’re able to do all of this through ABA therapy, and I wish more people knew how our [Aurora’s] curriculum works.”

She goes on to say that because of the ABA therapy, and the dedication of the staff  Ronan is able to succeed,

“If he keeps learning at this rate, he’ll be unstoppable!”

50 Faces of The Arc – Katelyn

Katelyn was the first student to attend The Aurora School, a year-round school for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Her mom, the previous director of The Arc of Loudoun, started Aurora in 2003 along with all the other programs that are now part of The Arc. Katelyn was only eight years old when she first started attending Aurora and graduated this past August.


At Aurora, Katelyn has learned to become more accepting of changes in her environment. Her Program Director, Maureen, says,

“Before, she wanted to control everything in the environment. If she walked in a room, she wouldn’t like if the lights were turned on, or if other people were talking.”

Katelyn also wouldn’t like if things weren’t in their proper place, but can now tolerate if items have suddenly moved. Maureen states,

“If a notebook was always on the right side of her table and you moved it, she’d have to put it where exactly where it was before. She’s learning to ignore those changes now.”

Furthermore, Katelyn’s academic skills have also improved, she’s able to add and subtract double digits along with balancing a checkbook. Daniel, her ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) Instructor, also says her progress with communicating has gotten better,

“Before she had little to no communication. Now she’s clearer to understand when she speaks and is really good at answering ‘who,’ ‘what,’ and ‘where’ questions.”


Daniel says he enjoyed working with Katelyn because of her happy, outgoing, and friendly personality. He states,

“I like working with her because she challenges me and she’s taught me so much about myself. She’s also super fun and is always saying humorous things!”


After being asked why The Arc is so important for students like Katelyn, Daniel responds,

“We’re really the only school like this in this area. And without it [The Arc] a lot of things would fall apart. What we do for all the kids here is huge!”

50 Faces of The Arc – Sharon & Conner

Sharon and Conner are mother and son who’ve been a part of The Arc of Loudoun community since 2015. The pair are advocates who passed Conner’s Law in Virginia. The law ensures that both parents of children with severe disabilities will pay child support, even after the child has turned eighteen. While attending a rally in Richmond two years ago, Sharon and Conner met Melissa, The Arc of Loudoun’s now Executive Director. Since then, Melissa has provided guidance and support to Sharon and Conner about passing Conner’s Law in other states. Through ALLY (A Life Like Yours) Advocacy Center, Conner has joined Speak Up, which is The Arc’s self-advocacy and public speaking group. Sharon says that Speak Up allowed Conner to learn about advocating for himself and make friends,

“Speak Up gave Conner an opportunity to feel included and he felt like he really fit in.”

Sharon goes on to say that she is very proud to be affiliated with The Arc of Loudoun,

“I’m extremely impressed with The Arc and how much they give back. We’ve met a lot of amazing people here who all contribute so much to the community!”

50 Faces of The Arc – Crystal

Before becoming a teacher at the intentionally inclusive preschool known as ODLC (Open Door Learning Center), Crystal was a regular volunteer for The Arc of Loudoun. Crystal explains,

“Four years ago, my daughter Autumn was getting bullied at school and didn’t have the best self-esteem, and then I heard volunteering was a good outlet.”

After searching online, and completing a survey with her daughter’s interests, Shocktober popped up online as a recommendation. Shocktober is The Arc’s biggest fundraiser of the year. The mansion on campus, Paxton Manor, is used as a haunted house where thousands of people come during weekends in October to walk through the house and get a good scare. All of the proceeds go towards one of The Arc’s programs: ALLY (A Life Like Yours) Advocacy Center. Crystal goes on to say,

“The volunteer program looked like it was also catered for adults, so I asked Autumn if I could do it too, and it became something we both got to do together.”


Both Crystal and Autumn would soon fall in love with acting as terrifying characters inside and outside of the haunted mansion where they dubbed it as “scare therapy.” One year after volunteering, they were both asked to join Shocktober’s creative side of the haunt. Crystal says,

“We jumped on board with it! We were then able to help with the behind the scenes stuff, like coming up with new ideas for the haunt.”

Soon, both Crystal and Autumn would start volunteering at more of The Arc’s community events,

“We then started doing face painting at the Spring Festival and Music at the Manor.”

Crystal, with a background in teaching preschool for the past 20 years, would also be asked to join the ODLC team in 2016.


Crystal explains that The Arc does a lot for people with disabilities, but it also helps out the community as a whole,

“I signed up to volunteer in order to help with Autumn’s self confidence and it did amazing things for her! She was having a hard time making friends and dealing with bullies, and coming here– that all went away. Everybody here accepted you no matter what.”

Without The Arc, Crystal doesn’t believe her relationship with her daughter would be as great as it is now saying,

“I wouldn’t be as happy and content. My daughter’s confidence wouldn’t be as strong as it is. And my family would still be struggling with a lot of issues. Volunteers give a lot, but get a lot back as well. I’ve gained so much from working and volunteering here–and so has my daughter.”


Crystal says her favorite thing about working and volunteering for The Arc is the outpouring positivity on campus.

“I love what they do for everybody, it’s such a positive experience! Whether you work here, volunteer here, or get services from here– everything is so positive.”


Furthermore, Crystal explains that she loves working as an instructor at ODLC, because she’s able to build the students up.

“At The Arc we say, ‘Yes you can do that.’ We help them meet their goals.” As for what she wishes more people knew about The Arc, Crystal exclaims, “I wish people knew how welcoming we are! It’s like coming home. I joke that this is my second home, because I’m here so much, but I’m here so much because I love it. This is one my favorite places in the world!”

50 Faces of The Arc – Katie

Katie has been working at The Aurora School, a year-round school for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities, for the past 10 years. She began as an ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) instructor and is now the testing coordinator. She tests each of the students at Aurora so that they meet all of their required goals. Katie’s favorite part of her job is working with the students saying,

“I love the kids. I do. Since I have to prepare all the student’s individual tests, I get to know each of them really well.”


Working with all the students allows Katie to see the progress they’re making, which keeps her motivated and passionate about her job. She exclaims,

“It’s amazing to see the progress, and makes me want to come to work every day! We’re doing something good here [Aurora]. We’re literally changing lives. And not just the kids’ lives but their families’ as well.”

Through the different activities at Aurora, students are able to go on CBI (Community Based Instruction) trips, where they can practice social skills at the grocery store, restaurants, libraries, etc. Katie says,

“Because of CBI, parents are now able to take their kids to the mall or grocery store without a meltdown. They’re able to take them to out to eat for the first time. It’s made all the difference in the world in their lives.”


In addition to working as the testing coordinator at Aurora, Katie also volunteers every year at The Arc of Loudoun’s biggest fundraiser of the year: Shocktober. Katie has a starring role as Mawmaw Carver, one of the spooky line entertainment characters for the popular haunted attraction. She’s been a volunteer and an actor since the fundraiser began eight years ago. Katie says,

“To use my goofy skills [acting as Mawmaw Carver] to help raise that kind of money has been such an unbelievable opportunity.”

Even when she’s in character, Katie still manages to educate all the Shocktober attendees about the importance of the fundraiser stating,

“I tell people what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and where the money goes– and how it will go to good use.”


Katie is also pleased with all of the different ways that The Arc of Loudoun helps the disability community saying,

“We have holiday parties and a Spring Festival, where children with disabilities who may not have the chance to see Santa or the Easter bunny, now get that opportunity. And it’s free and open to the entire community! We also have the Music at the Manor concerts, which is a great event for the community to come and hang out.”


In the future, Katie hopes to continue working at The Arc and help kids to the best of her ability saying,

“I feel good working here. I feel like my life means something. This place makes me feel like, ‘I make a difference.’ If I can get through to a student having a tough time, then I’ve done a good thing. It’s so worth it.”

50 Faces of The Arc – Jonny

Jonny has been working at The Arc of Loudoun for the past three years, where started as a member of STEP Up (Supported Training & Employment Program); a day support program that teaches vocational skills to adults with disabilities. He is now the Facilities Assistant for the entire campus! His supervisor, Greg, describes Jonny as goofy, honest and empathetic.

 “He’s my right hand man– I don’t know what I’d do without his help,” he says. “He’ll also do his best to pick you up when you’re feeling down and makes everybody feel good about themselves.”


At The Arc, Jonny works three times a week where his specializes in landscaping.

“He loves lawn mowing,” says Greg, “but he’ll also do gardening, weeding, painting–he’s versatile in many different skills. And if he doesn’t know how to do it, he can learn very quickly by just watching.”


When Jonny’s not working, he loves to act, sing, and dance– any form of self expression he enjoys. Greg says he and Jonny have volunteered as actors for the past three years in The Arc’s biggest fundraiser of the year, Shocktober, where thousands of people come to walk through the haunted Paxton Manor for a good scare. Greg says,

“Oh, he loves Shocktober! All year he’s asking about it, and he just loves to scare people.”


Greg explains that places like The Arc are so important for people like Jonny because it gives him job experience and legitimate references,

“We give Jonny the freedom to make mistakes, but also to learn from them. Some people will give him a job, but be on his back all day. Not here, we give him that independence.”

Greg goes on to say that Jonny’s future goal is to have a full time job,

“He wants to work every day, all the time, just like you and me. I don’t know anybody who wouldn’t enjoy working with him. He’s really a stand up young man!”

50 Faces of The Arc- Jaquan and Owen

Since Jaquan has just graduated from The Aurora School, we thought we’d share his and Owen’s story as the next #50FacesofTheArc
Both boys have been attending the school for over six years, and were immediate best friends. Together, the boys love being active and enjoy participating in P.E. class where they play sports such as baseball and flag football. But their all-time favorite game to play is the card game, “War”, which they often play together.
Both boys are very creative. One of their ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) instructors, Britney, says Owen will write lyrics to his own songs, where he’ll sign them off with: “Written and Performed by Owen”. He’ll also constantly recite lines to DVDs and Youtube videos that he watches. Jaquan is just as self-expressive, Britney says,


“He’s super imaginative and a great storyteller. He’s always making up different stories about his favorite action figures.”
Owen and Jaquan’s friendship involves more than just playing games and sports with each other. Since attending Aurora, Owen has been working on his communication skills. His instructors are teaching him about different emotions, and how to appropriately react to situations when he’s frustrated. Instead of crying when he is upset or sad, Owen will often go to Jaquan. Jaquan is then able to comfort Owen with a hug and cheer him up!
Britney says she loves working with both boys, exclaiming,


“Their friendship is so awesome, and I love that I get to be a part of it!” She goes on to state that she enjoys working with Jaquan and Owen because they have such different perspectives on life, “Jaquan, in particular, will ask hypothetical questions all the time. It’s really cool to look at things in a different way, through their eyes. They really blow my mind sometimes.”
Britney’s only wish is that more people were able to experience what it’s like working with the boys and all the Aurora students, saying


“Watching their progress and growth is amazing.”
We are so proud of both Jaquan and Owen, and we can’t wait to see each of them thrive!

50 Faces of The Arc- Winfield

Winfield is a shy, but kind, student at The Aurora School, a year-round school for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities . His ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) Instructor, Tara, says she’s seen dramatic progress with Winfield’s communication since attending the school,

“We got him an iPad to communicate and he picked up on it really quickly!”

she exclaimed. Before, Winfield would grab Tara’s arm to express his wants, expecting her to understand what he needed. But now he’s using the iPad to ask for specific things, whether it’s water or a toy.

His ABA Instructors like working with Winfield because he’s a very laid back kid, who “seems genuinely happy to be at school.” They also say he’s a very sweet student,

“He’ll express his emotions by grabbing your hand or hugging you.”

Tara explains that the teaching style at Aurora is such a huge factor in Winfield’s success because the instructors are able to provide so much support for him,

“Individual attention is unheard of at typical schools, but it’s something he completely needs. Here, he’s able to get consistent therapy, whether it’s occupational therapy or music therapy.”

Tara goes on to say that The Arc provides a lot of support for the community in general,

“We’re such a big platform for others. We’ll help parents with their kids through advocacy, and we give so many options for them that other places don’t. Anybody here will jump right in to help you if you need it!”

50 Faces of The Arc- Ariel

Ariel is a giddy and joyful six-year-old student at The Aurora School, a year-round school for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Whitney, Ariel’s ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) Instructor describes Ariel as the sweetest kid in the world,

“Her personality is just phenomenal.”


For the past year that she’s attended the school, Ariel has been excelling at her various goals.

“Her communication has gotten a lot better. She has ways of letting you know what she wants and doesn’t want,”

says Whitney. Ariel is also able to name items correctly when her instructor asks her to. Whitney states,

“If I ask her to give me a fork, she’s able to find it and give it me, which she wasn’t able to do before.”

One of Ariel’s goals also includes matching items into the correct category, Whitney explains,  

“If I have a water bottle, a thermos, or just a cup she’s able to match and indicate that they’re all within the cup category.”

Currently, Ariel is working on brushing her own hair, and simple tasks like picking up her backpack and hanging it in the correct place when she’s asked.


Whitney says Aurora is able to give all kids an opportunity to be themselves since every lesson plan is made to cater the individual student’s needs. Whitney exclaims,

“Here [at The Arc], kids like Ariel are given the chance to be like any other person in the community.”

50 Faces of The Arc- Ben

Ben is a happy, softspoken employee at The Arc of Loudoun. He has been in the STEP Up (Supported Training & Employment) Program for two years, which is a day support program that teaches vocational skills to adults with disabilities. Ben comes to Paxton three times a week where he does various tasks on campus, such as helping out in the garden or assisting with the mobile snack cart. Ben’s aid, Ginny, says since being in STEP Up, he has become much more independent,

“Before he would expect for me or his parents to do a lot of tasks for him–but now if you show him the steps, and he gets enough practice, he’ll do it himself.”


In the afternoons, Ben also participates in STEP Up’s afternoon enrichment activities. He’ll enjoy coloring or completing jigsaw puzzles, but he absolutely loves going to Old Ox Brewery where he and the other STEP Up members volunteer their time to help package the brewery’s drinks. This opportunity allows Ben to get real life work experience. Ginny says,

“After seeing him [Ben] at Old Ox, I believe he can definitely try to get a part time job. He’s a hard worker, and once he gets into the swing of things he doesn’t want to stop until the job is done.”


Besides being in the STEP Up program, Ben also volunteers at The Arc’s events outside of work. He and his family have volunteered at The Arc’s biggest fundraiser of the year: Shocktober, where he took money and tickets at the attractions.


Ginny believes The Arc is so important for employees like Ben, because they provide so many advocacy opportunities saying,

“A lot of people don’t know or understand people who are like Ben, and The Arc does a great job of reaching out to the community and educating others.”

She goes on to say that STEP Up has had an extremely positive effect on Ben and herself exclaiming,

“I enjoy being around everybody [at STEP Up] and I love that Ben loves it. He’s made his best friends here!”

Ginny goes on to say that she’s learned so much from being around Ben,

“Because of him I’ve become more patient and kind. And I’m not the only one affected by Ben–anybody who’s around him is instantly happier!”  

50 Faces of The Arc – Tine

Tine has been working for The Arc of Loudoun since 2010, where she was initially hired as the Administrative Assistant for the intentionally inclusive preschool on campus, Open Door Learning Center (ODLC), however, she’s been the Director of ODLC for the past five years. As the mother of a child with a disability, Tine loved what The Arc was doing in 2010 and said,

“I met the past Directors of The Arc and loved their passion and knew I needed to be a part of that.”


Soon after telling the Directors she wanted to join the the Paxton team, Tine left her position at another preschool and helped with the creation of ODLC from the ground up. For Tine, working at an intentionally inclusive preschool, for both children with and without disabilities, was incredibly important. She says,

“My son Kyle got kicked out of three different preschools. At ODLC I have never called a parent to pick up their child because of a behavior issue. Ever.”

Tine goes on to explain that she wants to make it as smooth of a road as possible for parents of children with behavior challenges and disabilities stating,

“It was a very, very bumpy road for Kyle growing up, and I don’t want parents, nor the children, to go through what we went through.” She goes on to say, “What I get out of this job is seeing successes. Seeing children talking who couldn’t talk before they came here. It’s seeing children playing with their peers when they didn’t before. It’s having parents know we’re here for them, too.  We’re getting kids (and their parents!) kindergarten ready, whether that’s socially, emotionally or academically.”  


ODLC started with six kids in 2010, and since then, the school has enrolled students from West Virginia to Maryland, is being referred to by the county school system, and is packed with children. The school was also given accreditation in 2012, which Tine says is her proudest professional accomplishment,

“It wasn’t my effort alone, it was a TEAM effort.”

Now, Tine and her team focus on outreach to the community which includes training other preschools about the principles of ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapy. Tine credits The Arc of Loudoun for teaching her about ABA and the importance of outreach. She says,

“I got sick and tired of kids getting kicked out of schools. We’re doing something different here that works, so now I want to share what we do here with the community.”

Tine has given ABA training to preschools in the surrounding areas who will implement the teachings of ABA in their classrooms.


Seeing the successes of students is what Tine enjoys most about working for The Arc. She also loves how everybody who works for the organization wants to fulfill the same vision. She exclaims,

“We work as a team, and together make sure that the mission is accomplished! We see a need, we fill a need. And everyday at ODLC, we come in with a smile on our face, knowing we’re making a difference in the life of a child.”  


After seven years of growing the ODLC program at The Arc of Loudoun, Tine has made the difficult decision, based on personal reasons, to move to Pennsylvania. But she knows that the new leader of the ODLC team (Ms. Megan), will forward Tine’s vision and continue the campus mission.  She wishes the best for the preschool program, the children and parents at ODLC past and present, and all of the programs at The Arc, saying,

“The Arc and ODLC will always have a special place in my heart.  I’ll miss everyone dearly, but I also can’t wait to see what the future brings to the campus and ODLC!”

Social Skills Group, Ages 6-10, Summer Fun with Friends

Wednesdays from 3:30-4:30pm, June 21st-August 9th, 2017

“Summer Fun with Friends” is a once a week after school social skills program that offers a balance of brief instruction with a variety of fun indoor and outdoor games and activities to practice skills they are learning in an engaging and natural way.

  • Each group is supervised by a Board Certified Behavior Analyst
  • Skills are taught  by ABA Therapists
  • Our focus is on Peer Interaction, Conversation and Verbal Skills
  • Ideal candidates for this group are conversational but need facilitation for improved social skills

Please click here the Summer Fun with Friends Inquiry Form link to request registration.

Enrollment is determined on a first come first served basis.
Each session is $20/day or $130 for all 7 days (a $10 savings!) and is paid in advance. The Arc of Loudoun members get 1 FREE day if enrolled in all 7 days!



VSA Art Group for Adults; Mondays: 10am-12pm

Art Group – Targeted for ages 16 and up. These fun and creative art projects are not only a great way to express yourself, but are also an interesting way to connect with peers. Artwork will be shared and discussed with the group, offering a chance to not only discover art, but also something about yourself and each other!

Location: ALLY Advocacy Center on Paxton Campus
When: Weekly Monday 10:00 – 11:00AM
Cost: $10/session ($15 for both Studio and Group)

Open Studio – Targeted for ages 16 and up. This ongoing studio session provides an artistic outlet for people just beginning to explore their interest in the visual arts as well as those who have long enjoyed painting, drawing and other art media. Participants will enjoy meeting at area art centers to do their own work at their own pace, with an instructor on hand for tips and techniques.

Location: ALLY Advocacy Center on Paxton Campus
When: Weekly Monday 10:00 – 11:00AM
Cost: $10/session ($15 for both Studio and Group)

Creative Benefits

The growing VSA arts DaVinci Art Studio provides various exciting opportunities for people of all abilities to enjoy the multiple benefits of making art. The creative process can help focus, relax, express oneself, discover the world, and practice decision-making skills — the artist gets to chose, and they are always right!

While classes listed below are drop-in, please contact us at (540)338-7973 or contact Lisa Zimmer-Chu, VSA Artistic Director via regarding your interest in order to help with planning.

Fees are nominal (please inquire if assistance is needed) and all programs include materials.

Our Instructures and Volunteers:

Lisa Zimmer-Chu, VSA Artistic Director for the Visual Arts is also the instructor for both the DaVinci Open Art Studio and DaVinci Group. She holds a BFA in Painting from Michigan State University as well as an MPS in Creative Arts Therapy from Pratt Institute in New York. She has also served on the Board of Directors and taught at the Round Hill Arts Center.

Stolen Golf Cart Fund

“It makes me pretty sad that such a memorable cart got damaged and vandalized by someone. I do hope that it can be bought back to slow and safe use for Paxton.”
-Drew Gutenson
STEP Up Team



in the Drop-down menu. DONATE NOW!

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Designate Golf Cart Fund on the check.

Make your check payable to Paxton Campus, and mail to:

Paxton Campus
Attn: Meredith Lefforge
601 Catoctin Circle, NE
Leesburg, VA 20176

Paxton Campus’ beloved golf cart was stolen off our property sometime between Wednesday 8/5 and Thursday 8/6

This golf cart was used by our STEP Up team to practice driving, to deliver campus mail and to move things around the campus.

Please consider donating today!

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Read the article in the Leesburg Today 

Applied Behavior Analysis

What does Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) mean?

Applied Behavior Analysis: Behavior analysis uses basic behavior principles to reinforce wanted behavior (including learning, verbal behavior, etc.) and decrease unwanted behavior (including challenging behavior, tantrums,etc.). 

One important tool used to assist in increasing a learner’s positive behaviors is the principle of positive reinforcement. In utilizing positive reinforcement, positive behaviors are followed by some sort of reward, which increases the likelihood that these behaviors will continue to occur in the future. It is important that these rewards are motivating for the child.

While ABA therapy is a structured approach, each child’s goals, behavior plans, and teaching methods are highly individualized to meet their unique needs and to help them reach their fullest potential. This means that ABA sessions, treatment plans, and behavioral interventions will look different for every child.

Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP): Some children might need an intervention plan to decrease unwanted behavior. Consistency is key to reducing challenging behavior.

Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA): A behavior analyst specializes in finding and treating the function of behavior. BCBAs are certified by a national board for which certification includes education, experience hours, testing, and continuing education. 

Challenging Behavior: Challenging behavior comes in all forms from tantrums to biting, from a delay in communication to talking too much, potty issues, elopement, etc. We’ll work together with parents using sound behavior principles to change challenging behavior.

Direct Instruction: Using structured teaching procedures; usually teaching incremental units of a lesson in a small group format.

Function of Behavior: When looking at challenging behavior, we want to know the function of the behavior, or why someone is behaving the way they do. If we know why the behavior is occurring, we then know how to try and change it.

Measurement/ Data Collection: Using objective standards to measure progress.

Positive Reinforcement: Reinforcement comes in many forms from praise, to tokens, to rewards. We look for the best in our students and clients and reinforce it! Plus, it’s more fun to reinforce students and clients.

Verbal Behavior: The analysis of communication according to basic behavioral principles, namely positive reinforcement.



The Sherwood R. Simons Achievement Award

The Sherwood R. Simons Achievement Award

In 1967 a group of parents who had children with special needs joined together and formed The Arc of Loudoun, a non-profit organization, in the hopes of starting a preschool that would accept their children when no one else would. Mr. Sherwood Simons and his wife, Ann Simons, were one of those families who were looking for their son to have “A Life Like Yours”. They wanted him to have a school where he would be welcomed like every other child….where he could feel included, have friends, feel safe, and be given the opportunity to learn and reach his maximum potential.

Thanks to the Simons Family and the dedication of many parents who came afterwards,  The Arc of Loudoun has grown into a full service organization, with multiple programs and services that together, serve over 3,000 children and adults with disabilities, and their families each year.

At The Arc, we do our best to meet the needs of the disability community, but we cannot do it alone. With estimates of approximately 16,000 children with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Loudoun County alone, collaboration with other non- profits, government agencies, corporate partners, and many caring and dedicated individuals is absolutely necessary to achieve “A Life Like Yours”.

With the creation of the Sherwood R. Simons Award, we are celebrating a community member who has made a significant impact in helping the disability community achieve the goal of “A Life Like Yours”. They have worked diligently in their personal or professional life to make sure that individuals with disabilities are valued for what they CAN do, rather than for their limitations. They have worked to make sure that this community is treated with fairness, kindness and justice. They are the one fulfilling the dream that parents will no longer have to search for a place for their child to fit in…..they will be welcomed with open arms.



VOLUNTEERS: Help us start a Garden!

CALLING ALL VOLUNTEERS! Are you free Saturday, July 11th? Looking for a fun and helpful way to spend your afternoon?

Help us start our garden! 

Where: Paxton Campus
When: July 11th 10am-2pm

Bring your own gloves and gardening tools!
RSVP to 

We have a new partnership at Paxton with Legacy Farms (Legacy Farms is a nonprofit dedicated to providing support services and agrarian based vocational training to adults with autism, as well as those with developmental and social challenges).

Legacy is working to one day have a farm for their staff to work and reside at, and in the meantime build relationships with other businesses in Loudoun.  They have reached out to Paxton to build a vegetable garden on our grounds for our Step Up program!

This is something that would be meaningful and a great business opportunity – the Step Up team can work the garden and eventually sell the veggies at the farmers market!

If so, come ready to work, get dirty and have fun! Refreshments will be provided.  Even if you can only work part of the time, we will take it

Hope to see you there!


Paxton Gets A Bus Stop!

Need to catch a ride from Paxton? Don’t feel like driving, but you want to attend one of our awesome, upcoming events? Now you can!

Paxton Campus is the proud owner of a bus stop! Our bus stop is located on Catoctin Circle right outside the entrance to Paxton.


The beautiful bench is thanks to our friend, Miss. Emily Burch. Emily picked the Paxton Campus as part of her Silver Award for Girl Scouts and got us this awesome bus stop bench!

Now, when you visit you can rest and enjoy some shade under the tree.
Thank you Emily Burch and Girl Scout Troop 4472! We love our bench. .

This bus stop opens up transportation opportunities for our staff here on campus, as well as the community around us. Jennifer Alves, receptionist at Paxton Campus, was so relieved and happy when Paxton received a bus stop.

“This area (Leesburg) can be really restraining for those who don’t drive.”

Jennifer uses the bus on some days to commute from work and this gives her more freedom and independence in her schedule.

This bus stop is helping Paxton Campus be more accessible to EVERYONE and we are so happy!


Check out our bus stop next time you stop by The Paxton Attraction and use it while riding Route 55!

Do More 24 – June 4th – Day of Giving

thank you

Thank you to all those who donated to Paxton Campus and participated in our Selfies for Good contest. We had so much fun!  THANK YOU!




On  Thursday, June 4th we can all Do More to help our community.


Paxton Campus has partnered with United Way of the National Capital Area and 600 other local nonprofits in the greater DC area in this annual day of giving.

We need your help to make this year’s campaign successful. Here’s what you can do:

1)         Mark your calendar for Thursday, June 4th.

2)         Bookmark this giving link.

3)         Spread the word! Post our giving link and your support on your social media       channels.

4)         Donate on June 4th. You can help us to win additional cash prizes!


Your donation on June 4th will help us continue to support and grow these programs and the communities they serve.

We are grateful for your support. Thank you for helping us Do More for our community.

Aurora Turns 10!



Times-Mirror Staff Photo/Beverly Denny Ethan, a student at the Aurora School in Leesburg for children with autism, climbs up the inflatable cake that was part of the school's 10th anniversary celebration July 12. Former Washington Redskins player Marcus Washington was a special guest and signed autographs.

Times-Mirror Staff Photo/Beverly Denny
Ethan, a student at the Aurora School in Leesburg for children with autism, climbs up the inflatable cake that was part of the school’s 10th anniversary celebration July 12. Former Washington Redskins player Marcus Washington was a special guest and signed autographs.

Times-Mirror Staff Photo/Beverly Denny Former Washington Redskins player Marcus Washington, left, signs his autograph for a 12-year-old student at the Aurora School in Leesburg for children with autism along with her teacher, applied behavior analysis therapist Hillary Mazur, during the school's 10th anniversary celebration July 12.

Times-Mirror Staff Photo/Beverly Denny
Former Washington Redskins player Marcus Washington, left, signs his autograph for a 12-year-old student at the Aurora School in Leesburg for children with autism along with her teacher, applied behavior analysis therapist Hillary Mazur, during the school’s 10th anniversary celebration July 12.


On Friday, July 12th, at 1:00pm, Paxton Campus’ The Aurora School celebrated its 10th year anniversary.

Ten years ago, The Aurora School was founded by parents in cooperation with The Arc of Loudoun. Aurora started as a very small school with only 3 students in Purcellville and now has grown to 30 students and 42 highly qualified staff, and this year we are hoping to grow even bigger!

In 2009, The Aurora School moved to the Paxton Campus in Leesburg and has been growing and thriving more each year. There to help celebrate the school’s birthday was Special Guest, Marcus Washington of the Washington Redskins.

The Aurora School is a caring, educational community that offers a quality education for individuals with special needs, primarily students with autism. We provide a progressive learning environment that serves individuals with intellectual disabilities, ages 5 to 22. Using the latest techniques, curricula, and technology, students and their families become active partners in their individualized education program. We challenge our students to achieve personal excellence and independence and offer a wide variety of special education programs. Our curricula and activities are made to meet the individual student’s needs. Among the skills we teach our students are: Verbal behavior; Academic literacy; Reading; Social skills; Self-management; and Problem solving skills.

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Paxton Campus creates a butterfly garden!


time series

Here is a time series of photos taken on the morning that we created a butterfly-shaped Monarch Waystation, at Paxton Campus in Leesburg Virginia.

On Saturday, June 22nd, Paxton staff and volunteers from our community created a butterfly-shaped Monarch Waystation. *The time series of photos above show the steps taken to create our garden.

With generous donations of native plants (milkweed and nectar plants for monarchs and other pollinators) from Earth Sangha and Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy (LWC); advice from Ann Garvey of the LWC’s program on habitat restoration; and the hard work and determination of 15 creative and enthusiastic volunteers. We want to thank you all for the support!

This garden will not only help host the monarchs through this leg of their journey, it will also serve to bring a natural sensory experience to our students, both at Open Door Learning Center, our preschool and kindergarten program; as well as students from The Aurora School, our school for children and young adults with autism and other related disabilities.

Though this project is not 100% completed, we were able to do the most important step, get the plants in the ground to flourish and bring the butterflies to our campus!

Town of Leesburg’s Proclamation: Autism Awareness Month!

Here is Jennifer Lassiter, our Executive Director at Paxton Campus, speaking about Autism and the challenges faced by people who have Autism and their families.  She spoke in front of Leesburg’s Town Council on April 9th and received a Proclamation from Mayor Kristen Umstattd and the other members of Leesburg’s Town Council.

The proclamation states: Autism Awareness Month is a special opportunity for everyone to educate the public about autism and issues within the autism community.

Thank you Town of Leesburg and our supportive Town Council Members!

The ABC’s of Applied Behavior Analysis

In honor of Autism Awareness Month, we are doing a special set of blog posts here at Paxton Campus!  It’s an exciting time of the year for us, seeing places all over the world “light it up blue” to show support and spread awareness for some of the students we are fortunate enough to serve every day.  Check back later this month for more great posts in honor of Autism Awareness!

Here at The Aurora School, we use the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis to serve our clients needs. Applied Behavior Analysis (or ABA) is a science devoted to the understanding and improvement of human behavior.

Or, as I like to put it, we make data-driven decisions to drastically improve our students’ lives. So, as I’m sure you can imagine, we think ABA is just too good to keep to ourselves! ABA can be used to help people with special needs, but it can also be used to change the behavior of your spouse (wouldn’t it be great if your husband would finally take out the trash without being asked?), your friends, your co-workers, your in-laws (!!!) and even your own behavior! We believe that behavior is observable and measurable, and that behavior can be altered by changing what’s happening in the environment. We want to share this knowledge with everyone in the community, starting with the basics: The ABC’s of ABA!

A stands for antecedents. In other words, what’s happening right before the behavior of interest? Let’s use the example of a child who talks out in class. Was work presented? Did you turn away? What were other peers doing? The antecedents can be a huge part of the puzzle when you’re trying to figure out why someone is behaving in a certain way.

B stands for behavior. Here, you’ll note what behavior is occurring. From the previous example, talking out would be the behavior.

C stands for Consequences. The consequence is whatever happens immediately after a behavior. Did you ignore the child? Did you scold the child? Did you take away the work? Did other peers talk to the child? Any of these elements can help you figure out WHY the child is talking out… and, therefore, how you can fix it.

So, now that we know the ABC’s, let’s look at a few examples of how changing the environment can change behavior:

Example 1: During class, a teacher is presenting. Jack continues to talk to his classmate, Joe, even though the teacher is trying to teach. Everyone else in the class is paying attention. ?!

Antecedent: Teacher presenting.

Behavior: Jack talking.

Consequence: Joe listens and responds. The teacher turns around and scolds Jack.

*In this example, Jack received no attention from the teacher until he began talking. Let’s look at what can happen with a few small changes:

The teacher decided to move Joe to the other side of the room.

A: The teacher presents to the class.

B: Jack begins to talk.

C: No peers respond (since his friend, Joe, is too far away), and the teacher ignores Jack and continues to teach.

In this example, Jack receives absolutely no attention. Therefore, it is safe to assume that his motivation for talking out is gone!

Example 2: Whenever I see a bag of chips, I stop and eat the whole thing! (Seriously, it’s like an addiction!)

A: I see the bag of chips in my pantry.

B: I eat the whole bag.

C: The chips taste delicious! But I know this wasn’t a healthy choice.

This problem could easily be remedied through an antecedent strategy. You guessed it… don’t buy chips. BUT, chips are my roommate’s favorite food, so that’s not an option for me. Let’s look at a different way I could remedy this problem by changing my environment.

A: I put a visual representation of my fitness goals next to the chips in the pantry. Some people choose pictures of themselves, others may write a specific weight goal, or still others may choose a calorie goal.

B: I go to get chips and I see the visual. I decide not to eat the chips.

C: I put a dollar in my “good decision” jar, which can be cashed in for new clothes every week!

By changing the environment and adding a reinforcing consequence for a good decision, I have changed a bad habit!

Example 3: A young child with autism tantrums whenever he’s transitioning, even if he enjoys the place he is going.

A: Mom says, “Time to go to the store. Let’s get in the car!” and begins to have her son put on his shoes.

B: The child falls to the floor, crying and screaming.

C: After spending several minutes trying to convince the child to come, the mom finally has to leave her son with a caregiver so she can get the chores done in time for dinner.

Children with autism often have difficulties with transitions. Using ABA methods, we help our students ease into transitions with a few simple manipulations of the environment.

A: At the beginning of the day, the mom shows her son a visual schedule of the day’s activities. This schedule has both a visual image and a written image. This time, before going to the store, the mother shows her son the visual schedule showing that the store is the next place on his schedule.

B: The child puts on his shoes and walks out the door

C: The mother gives her son his favorite toy to play with once he has successfully transitioned to the car.

By showing her son what to expect throughout the day, the mother decreased his anxiety about transitions. Further, she reinforced his successful transition! Now, transitions are fun and exciting!

So there it is, the basics of ABA, in ABC format! Throughout the week, try to be aware of the ABC’s happening in your environment. These strategies can make a huge impact on your work, family, and relationship with friends.

I leave you now with one of my favorite quotes, “That there could be a science of behavior, of what we do, of who we are? How could you resist that?!”—Donald Bear.

Check back every week to learn more about ABA, The Aurora School, and Paxton Campus because… how could you resist that?!


Blog Post Written by Katie Wilcox, M.A.