Michael Koffler (founder of Rebecca School) noticed that children diagnosed on the autistic spectrum were underserved in New York. He set out to build a school age program for children on the spectrum. In the spring of 2004, he approached Tina McCourt (who at the time was the Program Director at the Early Intervention Center of Brooklyn) and asked if she wanted to be involved. Tina had extensive experience with DIR® and had been attending trainings since 1994. She had a strong belief that a relationship-based approach was the best way to serve and help children diagnosed on the spectrum relate and communicate. Michael agreed and they set out to design a building and a program that would fully integrate the DIR® model.
In December 2004, Michael conducted a focus group with parents to find out what they would like to see in a school geared toward children diagnosed on the autistic spectrum. The groups responses were mainly about the need for individualized instruction and having a staff that was specifically trained in autism and not just special needs.
In April 2005, Dr. Stanley Greenspan, the founder of Floortime™, signed on as a consultant to the school. The building was found at the end of 2005 and construction started in February 2006. Tina hired Dr. Gil Tippy and the two became very involved in all aspects of construction and many of the design decisions. This resulted in a state of the art facility that includes large sensory gyms, multiple art and music rooms, large sunny classrooms with smart boards and amplification systems and a rooftop playground.
In the spring of 2006, Gil and Tina began to interview and hire staff, perform assessments and place children in classrooms. The school opened in September 2006 with 48 students and 53 staff members. Since then the student population has more than doubled and continues to grow each year.