For the founders of a new charter school opening in Harlem next September, the recruitment process is unlike almost any other.
The Neighborhood Charter School of Harlem, which is modeling itself on the Department of Education’s popular program for high-functioning autistic students, called ASD Nest, has given itself the ambitious task of seeking out families who may not know their children have the disorder.
The parents might suspect their not-yet-kindergarten-age children behave differently, and doctors and daycare directors might also have their theories, but a firm diagnosis could be years away.
Through a combination of visits to daycare centers, conversations with health clinics, and relationships with community groups, Patricia Soussloff and Ruth Meyer, the school’s founders, are recruiting families and providing free evaluations by the Young Adult Institute, a service and resources organization for people with developmental and learning disabilities.
The founders are targeting low-income, minority families, who are often the least likely to seek out a diagnosis for their children. According to Ms. Meyer, the average age at which a black or Latino child is diagnosed with autism is eight; it is closer to four or five for white children.