"Nest is probably the most effective inclusion program
I have ever seen."
- Catherine Lord, Ph.D.
Director, Center for Autism and the Developing Brain, New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill-Cornell Medical College/Columbia University Medical Center
"Replicating the Nest approach nationwide would greatly improve the employment outlook for people with autism."
- Brenda Smith Myles, Ph.D.
Scientific Council Board Member at Organization for Autism Research
(SFARI, May 2011)
About the ASD Nest Support Project at NYU Steinhardt
The ASD Nest Support Project is one of several community-focused programs serving special populations hosted by NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. The goal of the ASD Nest Support Project is to advance the development and implementation of educational solutions for children living with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
NYU's partnership with New York City’s Department of Education (DoE) and Hunter College’s School of Education began in 2001 to fill a gap in the programs the DoE offered for higher functioning children on the autism spectrum. The fruit of that collaboration was the new ASD Nest program, piloted at PS 32 in Brooklyn in September 2003. Its goal was and is to help these children learn how to function well academically, behaviorally and socially in school and in their community.
Now, in the 2012-13 school year, the New York City school system serves around 650 children with ASD in over 150 fully inclusive Nest classrooms in 20 elementary schools, seven middle schools and one high schools. The DoE and individual Nest schools provide contracts to support and facilitate the development and expansion of the ASD Nest program, as well as to provide professional development for staff members of ASD Nest schools.
The ASD Nest Support Project also provides workshops and training for teachers and other professionals, and workshops and a newsletter for ASD Nest parents. Other activities include research, presentations at national professional organizations, and articles and other publications on relevant topics.
We acknowledge with gratitude the early support of the FAR Fund, Independence Community Foundation (now Brooklyn Community Foundation), Overbrook Foundation and Tides Foundation, and the ongoing support of the FAR Fund for parent support activities.
The collaborative team of DoE educators who initially developed and nurtured the ASD Nest Program with the guidance of Prof. Shirley Cohen of Hunter College and Dorothy Siegel of NYU were: Ruth Blankiet, David Cohen, Carmen Farina, Sherry Koslov, Ann Marie Lettieri-Baker and Steve Rosen. Terry Feuer and Linda Wernikoff provided invaluable support as the program got off the ground.
About the New York City DOE ASD Nest Program
The New York City Department of Education brochure about the ASD Nest program states the following:
The ASD Nest Program is the New York City Department of Education’s Integrated Co-Teaching (ICT) program for higher functioning children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs).
Nestled within supportive neighborhood schools, the ASD Nest program helps children with ASD learn how to function well academically, behaviorally, and socially in school and in their community.
Each ASD Nest Program is integrated into the fabric of its school. The goal is to provide a therapeutic environment and supports within a grade- appropriate academic environment. The entire school embraces positive behavioral support.
- ICT kindergartens serve four children with ASDs and eight typically developing children.
- ICT classes for grades one through three serve four children with ASDs and twelve typically developing children. ICT classes for higher elementary grades may be slightly larger.
- ICT classes for grades 6-12 serve five children with ASDs and twenty typically developing children.
Each classroom has two teachers with training in the specialized curricula and instructional strategies used in the program.
In addition to the standard academic curriculum, specialized curricula and instructional strategies to foster relationship development, adaptive skills, language and communication development and sensory/motor development are infused throughout the day, thus minimizing the supports needed for children outside the classroom. Staff receive pre- and in-service training in these curricula and strategies.
Language development and sensory/motor skill development are integrated into the academic day, using a trans-disciplinary collaborative approach.
Collaborative problem solving is used to assess children’s needs and progress. Times for staff to co-plan and conduct case conferences take place on a regular basis.
A strong home/ school component includes an initial phase-in process, frequent ongoing two-way communication, collaborative planning meetings, monthly parent support groups, support for families in home based skills and referrals to outside services.
“If children do not learn the way we teach them, then we must teach them the way they learn.”
- Dr. Kenneth Dunn
To inquire about the ASD Nest program for your child, please contact Paul Byas at Pbyas@schools.nyc.govor (718) 758-7665.
Consider the Rubber Band Ball
An essay about the vision of the ASD Nest program by project director Dorothy Siegel
A program with bounce
Consider a rubber band ball. Made of rubber, it bounces. Its bounce is fairly smooth and high.
Upon examining this ball, we see that it is a rather complex object, consisting of many intertwined rubber bands of different colors.
Even though the bands are made of rubber, they can not bounce by themselves. Individually, rubber bands have their uses – they can hold your hair in a ponytail, keep your pens organized and gather your mail in an organized bunch. But, when interconnected as a tight ball, they acquire the ability to bounce.
The ASD Nest Program is analogous to that rubber band ball. Each rubber band represents a different element of the program: structure, training, documentation, collaboration, and classroom and whole-school supports. While each element is necessary, no element alone is sufficient to create a good Nest program. All elements must be present and working together holistically to help Nest children succeed.
Often, programs for children with ASDs do not take the whole child into account. They see each child as a collection of discrete problems to be remediated by specific therapies – individual rubber bands piled up and not interacting usefully. The rubber bands need to be coherently organized to acquire “bounce.”
Similarly, to be most effective, a program for children with ASDs must be more than merely a collection of therapies and supports, all piled up and acting in isolation. To be successful, a program for children with ASDs must carefully organize the necessary therapeutic elements to support the Nest vision.
Both the elementary and middle/high school models share the same Nest vision, but individual Nest elements vary, because children have different needs at different ages and grade levels.
Now, consider the rubber band ball again. Examine its blue, pink, green, turquoise, grey and purple rubber bands – with colors corresponding to different Nest elements -- that are intertwined to form a Nest program with bounce.