About The Comprehensive Learning Center
The Comprehensive Learning Center, Inc. (CLC), a non-profit corporation, was established in September of 2000 to provide an educational environment committed to ensuring quality, effective instructional and treatment services for individuals with autism spectrum disorders. To help meet the needs of each student, CLC’s program provides a highly individualized educational program that is based on the scientifically validated procedures of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). CLC is devoted to improving the lives of individuals with autism ranging from 3 years of age through adulthood. Services provided to CLC students include education in all academic areas, as well as skill development in all aspects of daily life such as increased participation in family and community activities. Prevocational and vocational training is also provided for students between the ages of 14 and 21 to prepare them for gainful employment in settings where they show most interest and natural aptitude. Our community-based adult program currently provides supported employment, habilitation and behavioral services for adults post-graduation.
Current CLC families reside in Berks, Bucks, Chester, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties. Several of these students commute over 35 miles each way to our facilities in Southampton, PA on a daily basis. Their families believe that traveling this great distance is outweighed by the benefits of the quality services provided by CLC.
CLC and The AJ Foundation
The success of CLC’s program is directly related to the ongoing support of its sister organization, The AJ Foundation. This non-profit organization conducts fundraising activities to offset the deficit between funding provided and the actual costs of providing services. The staff and families extend their heartfelt thanks to CLC’s founder and The AJ Foundation’s President, Joanne Corless, and the entire AJ Foundation organization for their ongoing efforts and support.
The history of CLC really begins in 1992. This was the year that Joanne Corless learned that her 2 year old son, AJ, had autism. Upon relaying his diagnosis, the doctor suggested that an institutional placement would be best for AJ. The Corless family refused to give up on him that easily. Joanne quickly learned that no public school programs existed at that time specifically for teaching children with autism. Therefore, AJ was placed in a multiple disability classroom where he made little to no progress. Determined to ensure that her son could learn, progress and lead a fulfilling life, Joanne – a registered nurse – began intensive research on the subject and discovered that utilizing the scientifically validated principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) for teaching individuals with autism was most effective.
As such, Joanne started a home-based ABA program in 1993 when AJ was 3 years old. He slowly began to make progress. Soon after, Joanne met a young teacher and ABA specialist, Cindy Murphy, who she hired to work with AJ several nights a week. AJ flourished under Cindy’s involvement, making unprecedented strides and achieving developmental goals that were simply not thought possible.
The Corless family was so impressed with Cindy’s level of skill and dedication to the field of ABA that they endeavored to create a program under her direction for AJ and other children with autism. The first step towards this goal was the birth of The AJ Foundation; established in January 1997 with the mission of raising autism awareness and the effectiveness of ABA in the community and within the local school districts. By Fall of that same year, Joanne and Cindy were successful in bringing the vision of a public school program based on the principles of ABA to fruition. Soon after, Cindy and Joanne decided to branch off and start a private ABA program to serve children with autism in the local area. With the help and support of countless donors and volunteers (including Joanne’s extended family), The Comprehensive Learning Center was officially established. Click on the “+” buttons to the left of the dates below to see more historical highlights:
The AJ Foundation
initiates the opening of The Bucks County Intermediate Unit #22’s first public school program exclusively using instruction based on Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) for elementary aged students with autism.
The AJ Foundation assists the Council Rock School District in pioneering its first public school program using instructional techniques derived from ABA for elementary-aged students with autism. Prior to AJF’s involvement with both the Bucks County Intermediate Unit and the Council Rock School District, no specialized public school elementary level services, based on the principles of ABA, were available for children with autism.
The AJ Foundation completes the licensure application process to start a private academic school for children with autism using the principles of ABA, called The Comprehensive Learning Center (CLC). Soon after, the Department of Education issues CLC its license to serve children with autism between the ages of 6 and 14 years old.
CLC officially opens its doors to its first 3 students in a newly renovated modular classroom located on the property of St. Bede the Venerable Catholic Church and School in Holland, PA.
CLC collaborates with AJF in hosting its very first educational conference entitled “Language and Behavioral Strategies for Teaching Children with Autism”, at Bucks County Community College in Newtown, PA. This two-day conference was well attended by parents and professionals in the field of autism.
CLC moves into its first brick and mortar building located on Louis Drive in Warminster, PA.
CLC has 8 students enrolled. CLC moves to its current site in Southampton, PA to accommodate its growing number of students.
CLC opens its pre-school program to provide educational services to children with autism between the ages of 3 through 5 years old.
CLC opens its secondary program to provide educational services to individuals with autism between the ages of 15 through 21 years old.
CLC has 19 students enrolled. CLC not only provides center-based and home-based educational and treatment programs for its students, but over the last 8 years, services have grown to include instructional activities in the community. These activities include but are not limited to inclusion in regular education programs, teaching life skills in the community and job sampling.
To accommodate its program’s growth, CLC embarks on expanding its facilities as the foundation is laid for an additional building at its current site.
Once again, CLC collaborates with The AJ Foundation in hosting its 4th conference at Bucks County Community College, entitled “Evidenced-Based Interventions for Individuals with Autism”. CLC offers conferences periodically to disseminate the most recent research and advances using the principles of ABA for teaching individuals with autism.
CLC holds its ribbon cutting ceremony for the new 6,000-square-foot building (Building B) constructed adjacent to the existing building (Building A) at CLC’s current location. Building B houses the Upper Elementary and Secondary modules. It provides significantly improved life and vocational skills training areas, a gym, a conference room and space for the future adult program.
CLC has 24 students enrolled. The three oldest students continue to work part-time in the community to participate in direct vocational training.
CLC holds its first graduation ceremony. The oldest student is proudly presented with a high school diploma and works full-time in the community as a direct result of the vocational training he received at CLC. The event was covered by NBC-10 who broadcasted a segment of the ceremony as well as a Q/A session with CLC’s Education Director.
The 5th Educational Conference is held, entitled “Challenging Topics in Autism: Evidence-Based Procedures and Interventions”, at the Pen Ryn Mansion in Bensalem, PA. The conference hosts experts in the field of autism treatment to share current research and best practices with the general public.
CLC is approved by the Office of Developmental Programs (ODP) as an Adult Service Provider for individuals with autism and/or intellectual disabilities, age 18 or older.
CLC serves 27 students and their families in its education program. Many of the students are actively participating in the community (i.e. attending programs at local gyms) and 8 of the older students are volunteering in work settings. Subsequent to receiving approval from ODP, CLC officially established its Adult Program which currently provides services to 3 adult individuals in the community. Two of our clients have paid full-time and part-time positions with local organizations.
Vision for the Future:
- CLC’s Adult Program will grow to serve the expanded needs of individuals over the age of 21. As part of the adult program, CLC will provide for transitions to assisted or independent living environments.
- CLC will continue to invite interns from colleges and universities to train at our facilities in the effective use of ABA techniques for children with autism.
- CLC will continue to hold frequent visitor days for parents and professionals interested in observing the program in operation and learning more about using evidenced-based teaching techniques (ABA).
Video Created in October 2007