by Sabine Kortals Stein
The Temple Grandin School (TGS) is more than a school for neurodiverse students – it’s a community.
“The students we serve are mostly on the autism spectrum, although that diagnosis isn’t required,” says Jen Wilger, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Boulder-based educational community that will celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2021. “They share challenges around anxiety, executive function, and social communications. They’re typically students who also have a high potential to succeed in the right environment.
“We provide a community of belonging where students can find like-minded peers, pursue their strengths and interests, build strategies in a safe environment, and realize their potential.”
To help create community, Jen draws on partnerships and collaborations with other local organizations and agencies. “After all,” she says, “this is the community we’re sending our kids out into. So we want our community to be as inclusive as possible.”
For 18 families, currently, TGS provides transdisciplinary socio-academic and transition services for 6th– to 12th-graders, along with life skills development, and a spectrum of supports for students and parents; as well as community referrals to psychologists and other relevant providers…and to nonprofits like Imagine! and Ramble on Pearl that provide further pathways to purpose for individuals with developmental disabilities.
“The kids we serve aren’t doomed to fail,” continues Jen, who’s the parent of a son in this demographic. “But they don’t fit into a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all education system.
“At the Temple Grandin School, we tell our students that everyone is working on something…and that it’s perfectly okay to be working on stuff.”
Jen says she benefitted from SVP Boulder County’s Invested Leaders program because, in part, it expanded her awareness of the work and impact of other local nonprofits. As well, Jen says the program spurred her thinking in developing an organizational and management structure that not only supports TGS students and their families, but its employees, as well.