NOLArts: a local art school tailored to the autistic

Roxanne Ardekanni, Contributor

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Inspired by the lack of services for children with autism in the city, Sarah Ambrose and Kate Lacour brought NOLArts, a nonprofit arts school which specifically caters to those with autism, to New Orleans in October.


Three years prior to the creation of NOLArts, the idea was further nurtured when Ambrose read about music teacher Adam Goldberg’s iPad band with teenagers with autism at PS177, a special school in New York. She, along with Lacour, was able to speak with him and go to the Arts and Special Education Consortium.


The waiting list is now up to two years to get into NOLArts, which uses applied behavioral analysis therapy in its curriculum. This therapy is a way for those affected by autism to train and learn both complex and simple skills, like hand-washing, by breaking down tasks into smaller steps.


NOLArts takes a holistic approach with their services, including things like one-on-one music and art tutoring and even specialized nutrition.


“A lot of kids and young adults on the spectrum have physically complex systems that are wired differently from ours, and therefore, we have a special nutritionist. It’s difficult to get motivated to get out and moving if your hobbies aren’t letting you [be healthy],” Ambrose said.


Depending on the severity of autism, tutoring sessions differ for each person, but each session has the same purpose: helping every student to create.


“Many people would argue that recreation is an essential for living. Neurotypical people who have grown up knowing how to wash their hands, understanding hygiene, and have the ability to verbalize and select the things they want to do, take for granted that recreation is something that keeps us sane and safe,” said Ambrose. “It helps us express ourselves. We’re helping the kids by giving them that missing piece.”


Construction club, a group activity, allows students to build with legos and other building materials while learning a facilitated language, like sharing.


“All the skills we take for granted are the skills we teach,” said Ambrose.

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NOLArts: a local art school tailored to the autistic