Embracing a relationship-based approach, Astra aims to help with a societal paradigm shift, moving away from a world in which young people feel the need to change who they are to fit a mold and toward a place where all people feel seen, heard, and valued as they are.
We believe it is the right of every person, and therefore every child, to be known well, respected, and encouraged. In order to do this, it is imperative that we build and nurture relationships so that we can identify an individual’s strengths and know how to best work with those we serve. Regardless of position or age (young person, student, therapist, teacher, administrator, in-home provider, etc.), we know that the humanity and dignity of each person is sacrosanct; we seek to respect and value everyone for their abilities and contributions and support them as they grow.
When we began our work in 2001, our focus was primarily on serving children with autism and other challenges of relating and communicating. We were convinced that caregivers needed a therapeutic option for their children that was strength-based and relationship-driven, one that considered a child’s specific developmental needs and harnessed strengths to support relative weaknesses. Since 2004, in partnership with Lesley University, we have offered courses on the DIR®/Floortime model for adults working with neurodiverse children. More than one thousand students and professionals in the greater Boston area have taken our courses. More than three hundred parents and caregivers have enrolled in our workshops and support groups for families. This work is housed at our Center for Neurodiverse Development.
Over the years, our perspective on the designations “special needs” and “typically developing” has evolved. Modern brain research tells us that individual differences among children, even typically developing children, are the norm not the exception. All children, all humans, thrive on being seen and known. Astra’s Center for Innovative Education, formed in 2017, brings our relationship-driven work into the K-12 education space. In May 2019, in partnership with Center for Inspired Teaching, we issued our report, Radically Reimagined Relationships: The Foundation of Engagement. With our advisors and thought partners, we continue to network with schools and like-minded organizations, connect our work to the larger research base, and develop resources for supporting schools that are interested in deepening relationships in their buildings and communities.