New academy for children with autism and other challenges

Open houses in Maple Ridge this month

A new school for children with special needs will be opening in Maple Ridge.

A new private school for children with autism and other learning disabilities is opening in Maple Ridge.

The new Chrysta ABA Academy already has a learning centre open, which is attended by both mainstream students wanting additional help and those with special needs.

Next is an ABA school, which uses the principles of Applied Behaviour Analysis to teach students. They are in the process of enrolling students, and could accommodate 20.

Vanessa Nazareth and her daughter Gillian Nazareth join Nathan Searle as the founders of the new academy. All three have an education and background in behaviour analysis, and Gillian said they bring a wealth of passion, knowledge and experience to their work.

ABA creates a motivational environment for students to develop academic skills, social skills and independent living skills. Individualized learning plans are created by the behaviour analyst, to meet the specific learning needs of each student.

Gillian said the school does not operate on a kindergarten to Grade 12 classroom model, and it learning does not proceed according to a prescribed curriculum or timetable. Instead, children move on to more advanced ideas as they demonstrate they have learned those they are being taught.

“It’s all based on the child’s ability to pick up a concept and master it,” she said. “The school system goes too fast for some kids, and they don’t get a chance to learn.”

Through 1:1 teaching by trained education interventionists, students with learning challenges, can learn and develop skills that would foster independence. The ultimate goal would be integration into mainstream environments with little or no support.

Initially, teaching begins with identifying challenging behaviours that interfere with learning. Once identified, these behaviours are replaced with appropriate functional behaviours that are conducive to learning.

Various strategies used include the introduction of exercise to reduce anxiety, acquiring new skills through imitation, generalization of skills across various environments, use of technology to augment learning, and the use of technology to foster communication.

It is a private school, but does get government funding, as do public schools that enrol coded (special needs) children. Typically a child with autism draws $18,000 to a school, explained Gillian, and another $6,000 in funding for the “home team,” which includes specialists such as speak pathologists, who will be provided at Chrysta ABA.

The academy is located at 11756 – 232nd Ave. An open house is scheduled for Jan. 23 and 25 from 6-8 p.m.. For further information, contact 604-380-4455 or or visit the website at

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