Exceptional Learners Division » BEARS | BOCES Educating Autistic and Related Disorders Students

BEARS | BOCES Educating Autistic and Related Disorders Students

Our BEARS programs are designed primarily for students who have a diagnosis of autism, and are in grades K - 12 and up to age 21. We serve students with disabilities resulting in multi-sensory or motor deficiencies and developmental lags in language, cognitive, affective and psychomotor areas.

  • Classrooms utilize the TEACCH methodologies for individualized instruction
  • The program provides an environment rich in the support and understanding of autism. Our classroom approach is to focus on understanding the learning characteristics of individuals with autism, using visual supports and a well structured environment to promote meaning and independence.
  • Students are provided with a community experience and opportunities to interact within community settings whenever possible to develop positive social skills
  • Implementation of technology is a priority for communication
  • Visual supports for social skills and social communication are an integral component of the program


  • Each classroom is designed to meet the unique needs of each student
  • Several of our classes are located in component schools; classes are also located at the Southern Adirondack Education Center (Hudson Falls) and the F. Donald Myers Education Center (Saratoga Springs)
  • Our approach is to meet the individual needs of students in order to have the greatest positive impact
  • The program is structured around a collaborative, student-centered, team approach


  • Learn how to communicate, socialize and work in a school community and in a work setting
  • Receive high-quality, comprehensive interventions to promote positive outcomes


To inspire BEARS students to reach their highest potential, we utilize the following tools:

  • Each classroom implements the visual supports and schedules as prescribed in the TEACCH Model to promote independence
  • Assistive technology is embedded throughout the program – supports include visual cues, SMARTboards, and augmentative communication devices
  • Therapy dogs join the classroom team at some sites


This program is located in component schools and community settings whenever possible. It serves those students with two or more disabilities resulting in multi-sensory or motor deficiencies and developmental lags in cognitive, affective and psychomotor areas.

BEARS 12:1:4 classrooms operate in public school settings in Washington and Saratoga counties, making integration with age-appropriate peers possible as well as at the F. Donald Myers Center and Southern Adirondack Education Center.

“…autism is an open-ended disability.
There are no inherent upper limits on achievement.”
Ellen Notbohm, 2005
“Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew” 


The BEARS curriculum teaches positive behaviors, social skills, communication, and vocational skills. It is academically aligned with NYS Learning Standards and NYS Alternative Performance Indicators. Each classroom is structured using the TEACCH methodology, incorporating visual supports and consistent daily routines to promote student independence. One to one ABA instruction is provided by trained teachers and teaching assistants.

Teacher talking about BEARS prograrmThe BEARS program emphasizes generalization of skills, and provides students with opportunities to practice social, language, and behavioral skills in a variety of settings both within the school and in the community. BEARS classes are language rich environments, and our speech-language pathologists work with students both individually and in groups to enhance language development.

The community-based education component of the BEARS program provides students with an opportunity to practice the skills they have learned in their classrooms in community settings. The community based education component shifts focus in the middle and high school BEARS classes to expose students to careers in the community, and teach the skills needed for students to be successful employees as adults. In every BEARS class, individual services are provided as reflected in students' Individual Education Plans (IEPs), and progress is documented on a regular basis. 

BEARS staff possess NYS autism certification and receive ongoing professional development in current research and best practices. In addition to your child's teacher, our 12:1:4 structure provides an autism-certified teaching assistant for every three students in the classroom. We invite parents to partner with us in their child’s education, and regular communication with families is an essential component of BEARS programs to promote the success and independence of our students across environments.


Kelly Sheppard, Director for Exceptional Learners Division

F. Donald Myers Education Center, Administrative Building

15 Henning Road
Saratoga Springs, NY 12866

Phone: (518) 581-3830
FAX: (518) 581-3434
Email Kelly by clicking here.

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