OLD LYME — On Nov. 29, the Old Lyme Economic Development Commission celebrated a new milestone for A Behavioral Approach (ABA) with a ribbon-cutting.
The Old Lyme business, which provides a range of services to students with autism, is being recommended by the Connecticut Board of Education as an Approved Private Special Education Program (APSEP). The CT Commissioner of Education is expected to approve the recommendation in the coming days.
A Behavioral Approach develops and designs innovative and tailor-made Applied Behavior Analysis programs for implementation in a school setting or home, as well as in the community through vocational programs. Its clinical services are provided to children as young as three-years-old.
“Applied Behavior Analysis” is a set of principles that focus on positively changing behavior of children with autism through techniques including natural environment teaching, discrete trial instruction, and reinforcement.
Monica Santos, a certified special education teacher and administrator, founded ABA in 2017. Since that time, the business has continued to outgrow several locations across the region, including its prior location on Halls Rd. Santos purchased the commercial property at 4 Davis Rd. West in 2022 ,where it serves approximately 10 students, who each reside in about a 30-mile radius.
A Behavioral Approach employs 15 staff in Old Lyme.
The approval as an APSEP will allow ABA to operate as a special education provider adhering to standards set by the state and contracted by boards of education or other local education agencies to provide schooling. Santos expects to continue to serve about 10 students for the foreseeable future, managing growth of the school setting and eventually hiring an additional special education teacher.
The State of Connecticut lists 84 APSEPs in its directory.
Santos sought approval as an APSEP primarily because she sees a shortage in the state of these private placement programs for students with autism. “There are many families on waiting lists throughout the State,” she noted.
Exacerbating the existing need for private programming, the 2020 pandemic affected the academic progress of many students, particularly special education students, whose programming was harder to adapt to an online forum; and who have since found it more challenging to progress.
Family and friends of the ABA staff attended the ribbon-cutting, several of whom have helped with painting and landscaping the building over the past year.
Before Santos and her staff cut the ribbon, Old Lyme First Selectwoman Martha Shoemaker commented, “As a former educator, I can tell you how important your services are, and I know the residents and students of Old Lyme plus the other various districts nearby will benefit greatly from your services. We are so thrilled to have you here.”
Connecticut State Representative Devin Carney (R-23rd) added in his welcome statement, “At the State level I’m sure you know there is a shortage of quality educators for special education, and there are a lot of kids that need this service. I thank you for all you do and for the children you help, because you are making their lives better and more manageable. I’m so glad you are in Old Lyme and helping local families.”
Following the ceremony, Santos and Old Lyme ABA Service Coordinator Amanda King provided a tour of the ABA building including classrooms, play areas, and office space.
Santos shared both her pride in her staff and also how the staff works to collaborate with the greater community. She explained, “We want to always collaborate with others in meeting the needs of our students. We like to share with others what we do, and you never know, the person you just met could have a connection to a new resource.”
In addition to working with a diverse set of businesses that provide vocational opportunities for older students, ABA collaborates with other small businesses including two that currently rent space at 4 Davis Rd., namely Building Skills for Life pediatric occupational therapy, and Elea, a digital care management platform for special needs families and providers.