Giant Steps is a nonprofit organization that offers a therapeutic school and a specialized summer camp for children and teens with autism spectrum disorders. The programs serve students from the surrounding St. Louis and Illinois region.
Despite the “Giant” name, this school is a small 501c3 organization that relies greatly on grants and donations to provide the special care required for the development of their students.
Autism is a disability that affects a child’s developing brain, leading to symptoms in three broad categories: Language, social interaction, and behavior. Autism is termed a “spectrum disorder” because the severity of these challenges varies from one child to the next.
Autism Spectrum Disorder, ASD is a term used for a complex disorder with no known cause or cure. ASD is diagnosed when a child has a severe delay in social communication and acquiring language. Also present must be some type of repetitive behaviors that the child displays. In the May 2013, publication of the DSM-5 diagnostic manual, ASD disorder has merged into one umbrella diagnosis.
The school program serves as an alternative placement for children who have struggled in larger educational settings. The Giant Steps learning environment is sensory-friendly, with spaces for exercise and quiet time.
Because each child’s specific challenges are different, Giant Steps’ therapists and special education teachers create an individualized program to achieve the goals and objectives in each student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP). The staff works as a team, meeting frequently to compare notes, share strategies and adapt the student’s program as needed.
A specialized summer camp is offered for six weeks each summer. The program combines small-group, language-based activities that include daily community outings. Each camper is paired one-to-one with a counselor.
Each summer, camp is in session 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Monday – Friday, from late June to the end of July.
Founded in 1994, Giant Steps became one of the only non-profit organizations to offer a therapeutic school and specialized summer camp program for children and teens with autism. The program was originally created to have both therapeutic and educational services available under one roof.
Giant Steps’ school program is certified by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Illinois State Board of Education to serve students with autism spectrum disorders ages 3-21.