The doors to our new Sarah Dooley Center for Autism will open in the fall of 2021. Here students will have access to an environment specifically designed to promote best practices in Autism therapy and research. Our beautiful space includes a sensory library, health clinic, life-skills suite, safety corridors to ease transitions, and observation areas for families.
The new Sarah Dooley Center for Autism will be the hub for our pioneering model of autism education and therapy. We designed it to achieve the behavioral and communication outcomes of an elite clinic while reaching top-tier academic goals. The upgraded building will now accommodate close to 100 students at a time as we fulfill our mission of maximizing independence for the students and families we serve.
The building’s front entrance will include new grading to enable equal accessibility for all students. The space will also include transition areas with benches to serve as calming space for our students and families coming to visit.
As you walk into our new Center, you’ll be awe-struck by the beauty of the Welcome Lobby. With a two-story ceiling and abundant natural light, the space will serve as a gathering area for students and reception space for guests.
A Health Suite will be located to the right of the entrance. It will conveniently serve students who require medication and routine medical attention.
The historic school auditorium will be transformed into a flexible space that can accommodate 250 people for regional conferences and events.
We will also host in-service and embedded teacher trainings to meet the growing need for teachers skilled in autism-specific teaching and communication techniques. We’ll provide this training to teachers, aides, bus drivers, parents, pediatricians, and others invested in serving the Autism community.
By training these teachers and community supporters, our Center will impact the lives of thousands of children across the Commonwealth and beyond.
The Sensory Library will feature state-of-the-art equipment and resources specifically designed to meet students’ unique sensory needs. This special space will overlook the Welcome Lobby and feature opportunities to build technology and communication skills along with cozy seating nooks.
The classrooms will serve as a model for autism-specific classrooms. They’re designed to be replicable in public school systems within existing resources and infrastructure. Each classroom will have raised ceilings to allow for more natural light and visible storage.
Accessible bathrooms and teacher workstations will be adjacent to every classroom, along with dedicated observation areas for parents and research partners. The space will also host sites for music and art therapy.
Classrooms will have enhanced digital data collection and portal use for families, school divisions, and research partners to see what students are learning in real-time.
With this beautiful space, we’ll be able to build stronger community partnerships with educators and school systems in Virginia. We are currently creating an autism-specific curriculum and resources to share during our in-service and embedded teacher training.
Our hope is to collaborate with the wider community to reach and serve even more students throughout the state. We know that by partnering and collaborating on best practices in Autism therapy and research, we can impact thousands of young people and their families across the Commonwealth.
While our Center has been upgraded and expanded to serve more students, we’ve retained the beloved identity that families have known and loved for nearly 100. The Center is still located on the historic 82-acre campus of St. Joseph’s Villa.
Being at home on the campus allows our students to enjoy tree-lined pedestrian avenues, outdoor classrooms, learning gardens, a newly renovated gym, and dining facilities. These spaces are both therapeutic and enjoyable.
We are thrilled about our new home and look forward to welcoming you in for a tour.
Learn more about our Center and services by clicking below.
Isabel's son Xavier was thrilled to return to his friends and teachers at the Sarah Dooley Center for Autism earlier this year. “When he saw them, the smile he had
When Governor Northam ordered the physical closing of every school in the Commonwealth due to COVID-19 on March 13th, 2020, the Villa's Sarah Dooley Center for Autism (SDCA) rebooted as
Children with autism experience and interact with the world in unique ways. Sometimes, they display maladaptive behaviors because of communication challenges, social skills deficits, and other related issues. The Sarah