Brendan has progressed so much at Haugland, it is amazing. For years, he was told he was the bad kid or distruptive kid. You have proven that he is smart and creative and worth teaching...[and] valued for who he is.

Thank you.

--Lisa Fry

I would like to thank everyone at Haugland Learning Center. My son Eithan is a totally different person since he started going to your school! His behavior is 100 % better than I would have ever thought it would be.

This time last year he was in pre-school with the local school district and I was banging my head up against the wall wondering what was next for him and whether he would ever get any better. Today we can go out in public without him having total meltdowns and he is very well behaved.When I opened my email with his 1st quarter grade report, I sat at the computer and cried for 10 minutes thinking, "This cannot be Eithan's report card." You and your staff in Sandusky are MY angels...I can NEVER thank you enough for giving me the little boy I have been waiting for the past 5 years. I am so looking forward to many more happy and wonderful years here at Haugland Learning Center!

Thank you so very much,

--Lisa Welsh-McLane

Haugland Learning Center

Haugland Learning Center (HLC) is an educational program focused on helping students diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and other developmental disabilities. At HLC, students learn and become more independent with the ultimate goal being for all students to live successful lives. Some of our students return to a public or private school after a few years at HLC, others continue their learning and growth in our program until they turn 22 years of age. HLC is a registered Autism Scholarship and Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship Provider, and also collaborates closely with public school districts. Students who attend HLC are either utilizing a scholarship program to pay for services or they are placed here directly by their school district (with the district paying for services).

The main mission for HLC is to provide a safe and appropriate place where children with ASD and other developmental disabilities can be successful and maximize their potential. Many of the students who come to HLC have "splinter" skills and struggle to reach their full potential. Students may have fallen behind academically or socially, never having received sufficient instruction for success in deficit areas. For many students, the right learning environment with effective teaching methods and staff who understand the complexity of autism is all it takes to become successful learners. Often, behavior difficulties and idiosyncrasies related to their disability prevented students from being successful in the past. HLC uses effective and scientifically-based teaching methods to eliminate studentsí deficiencies in core academic areas as well as in areas of social skills and daily living. The program helps students become aware of their social skills difficulties and teaches them how to compensate and overcome them. This allows students to be successful, often for the first time. Some of our students make a transition back to a traditional school setting; others choose to complete requirements for graduating from high school using our accredited high school program.

Students are affected by their disabilities in many different ways, and HLC seeks to create an environment in which all students can be successful. Students come to HLC to receive assistance with a variety of skill deficiencies including difficult behaviors. Individualized programs targeting these core deficit areas allow students to become more independent, acquire new skills and learn to generalize these skills across all environments. Teaching functional and appropriate communication skills often reduces behavior problems significantly. Carefully designed interventions allow all students to make progress and hopefully reach their educational and life goals. HLC provides significant behavioral support to those students exhibiting severe behavior problems, allowing them access to a purposeful learning environment while working on controlling their behaviors. The behavioral support is faded as the student learns to control his or her behavior. The ultimate goal is for all students to be successful and achieve independence at school, home, and in the community.

HLC has three main programs, ASPIRE, PLAN, and AIMS. The ASPIRE (Asperger Students Participating In Reaching Excellence) program focuses primarily on providing instruction in core academic areas and more closely resembles a traditional school setting, only with a lower student/teacher ratio. The main thrust of this program is targeting academic deficits including comprehension and higher order thinking skills. Students are taught reading decoding, reading and listening comprehension, writing, and math using the most effective teaching methods available. The content areas of science and social studies are taught within the context of a language arts class (K-8 only) emphasizing higher order thinking and logical reasoning skills. This allows students to acquire all the necessary academic skills to be successful in high school and college. Students are also offered physical education, music and art weekly. Students also participate in social skills instruction and training in daily living skills based on their individual needs.

The PLAN (Personalized Life skills and Academic Needs) program is for those students more affected by autism. Students in this program may have language deficits, limitation in self-help skills and may sometimes exhibit difficult and inappropriate behaviors. While academic skills are still taught, a gradually increasing emphasis is placed on teaching daily living skills. Students are instructed in core academic areas of reading decoding, reading and listening comprehension, writing, and math with the focus on making these skills functional without limiting studentsí natural curiosity and interest in learning. As is the case with the ASPIRE program, all students work on social skills as well as learning daily living skills that will improve their independence.

The AIMS (Achieving Independence, Mastering Success) program is a blend of the ASPIRE and PLAN programs. This program draws heavily on the established success of ASPIRE and PLAN to provide the right mix of instruction, which is personalized for each student.


  • Cost: Whether a school district places a student here or parents apply for entry into the Autism Scholarship Program to enroll their child here themselves, all expenses are covered at HLC. Students that are eligible for the Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship (JPSN) may also use these funds to pay for services at HLC (please note however that the JPSN has different funding categories and therefore may not cover the entire cost of services at HLC). We exert great care to provide a quality program that everyone can afford.
  • Social: Students feel welcomed and accepted at HLC. Instead of being singled out because of idiosyncrasies, they become part of a community, learning to accept differences and encourage others to grow. Many students develop friendships for the first time and participate in social activities outside of school.
  • Academic: Oftentimes, students excel in one area but fall behind in another. Sometimes missing foundational pieces of skill mastery, they stumble through school until the 3rd or 4th grade and then falter significantly. At HLC, we design each studentís academic program around their skill level so that they are continually challenged while experiencing success. We build the skills back into every student to help them leap ahead academically!
  • Communication: Not being able to communicate as fluently as their peers, students on the spectrum often experience frustration and uncontrollable anxiety. At HLC, we instruct students in how to self-monitor so that they can identify when they need a break. We teach how to communicate needs so that emotional meltdowns are minimized.
  • Peace of Mind: Parents can relax, knowing that their child is educated in a safe and nurturing environment that builds on each studentís strengths. Parents also know that their workday will NOT be interrupted by calls to pick up their child for incidents that happen at school.
  • Home: We believe that a childís education began at home and we are partnering with parents to further educate their student. Our academic and behavior specialists work with families to develop effective educational and behavioral plans to strengthen both the home environment as well as continue the educational process.

Placement and Tracking of Progress

All new students are assessed upon admission to the program. HLCís clinical psychologist and a team of staff members assess the child to determine the best placement academically as well as socially. Students are grouped based on their educational needs and academic abilities while taking their chronological age into consideration. Each child receives a Personalized Learning Plan (PLP) that is developed based on assessment results, parental input and goals on his or her Individual Educational Plan (IEP) from the school district of residence. There are several levels of assessments completed before this PLP can be developed.

First, students are administered standardized, norm-referenced or criterion-referenced tests, such as the Wechsler Individual Achievement Test (WIAT), the Assessment of Basic Adaptive Skills (ABAS), or the Brigance Comprehensive Inventory of Basic Skills. These tests are used to determine studentsí academic levels as well as their overall adaptive behaviors. Adaptive behaviors include real life skills such as grooming, dressing, safety, safe food handling, school rules, ability to work, money management, cleaning, making friends, social skills and personal responsibility. Younger students may be administered the Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills (ABLLS). These tests are used to determine a childís specific skill levels and will be re-administered annually to show growth over the years and allow us to compare our students to a national sample of neurotypical students.

Second, all students are given curriculum placement tests to determine where they should be placed into specific curricula. Tests in the core academic areas are individually administered to determine which program is appropriate for each student and what level of the program is appropriate.

The next level of assessment is the monitoring of student progress outside of daily classroom data. Students may be pulled out for mastery tests following a certain number of lessons completed to make sure that they are progressing. For some students, these assessments are directly related to IEP goals and used to determine progress towards mastery of the specific goals and objectives. These tests will be conducted once or twice per month. Parents receive reports of these tests quarterly when IEP progress reports and grades are due to school districts.

The most sensitive level of assessment is the assessments that take place in the classroom on a daily basis. Progress is monitored on standard celeration charts and data collected are used to guide instruction and make informed changes to the curriculum. An example of this level of assessment is the tracking of a childís reading fluency (words per minute) or number of correctly answered math facts per minute. The "per-minute" measure allow for easy comparison of performance changes from session to session. Students are very proud when they reach their new fluency goal and are encouraged to track their own progress. Another example of this type of data collection would be the daily data collected on a studentís IEP goals and objectives. These daily or individual session data are the most important data because of the motivation it provides students. The data are also used by teachers to guide their lesson planning and instruction.

Instructional Methods

We employ the following two types of instructional methods at Haugland Learning Center for our numerous programs tailored to each student.

Direct Instruction

Direct Instruction (DI) was developed by Siegfried Engleman in the 1960ís. It is a scientifically-based model of instruction that focuses on carefully designed lessons with a guiding principle that "all students can learn." The teacher follows carefully scripted lessons and students are constantly given learning opportunities through choral responding and by writing answers to problems in their work books. Easy skills are taught before more complex and difficult skills. Close attention has been given to create effective scope and sequence for effectively teaching reading, writing, and math. Everything is taught to mastery; students are never passed on or "pushed" to the next level unless they meet mastery criteria. DI programs used at HLC include Reading Mastery, Language for Learning, Language for Thinking, Language for Writing, Distar Math, and Connecting Math Concepts. Check the Association for Direct Instruction for more information, including research, at

Precision Teaching

Precision Teaching (PT) is a method of precisely and systematically evaluating student learning. Ogden Lindsley pioneered this method of teaching in the 1960ís based on his training in Behavior Analysis and Operant Conditioning under B.F. Skinner. The central part of PT is the use of frequency as the standard measure of learning and charting data on a standard celeration chart. The standard celeration chart was developed based on Lindsleyís experience with the cumulative recorder and has an x-axis which can accommodate a full school semester (140 days) and the y-axis accommodating frequencies from 1 instance per day to 1,000 per minute. By using standard charts, student learning can easily be compared and evaluated. The Y-axis is a multiplying scale, where the distance from 1-10 is the same as the distance from 10-100. (times 10). This makes it necessary to produce "big" changes in performance to show growth.

Using frequency as a measure and focusing on fluency, teachers can adjust any curriculum to maximize learning. The frequency is charted as a per-minute count of the targeted skill. Students are encouraged to practice pre-requisite skills until they reach fluent levels. Reaching fluent levels allows for effortless performances and learning that will maintain over time. Just think of how fluent a musician is with the music pieces they perform or an athlete who is making free throws in basketball. These performances did not happen by luck; they are results of many purposeful practice sessions of prerequisite skills, as well as the more complex skills. For more information on this topic, go to the Standard Celeration Societyís website: