Growing Minds Center

About Us

Growing Minds Center is a nonprofit center that provides education for children affected by autism and developmental or behavioral challenges in Gulf and Franklin counties and surrounding areas.

Growing Minds was founded in April, 2008 by Christine Hermsdorfer and a handful of parents of children with autism living in Port St. Joe, Florida. The center functions as a full day, school program of intervention based on the science of Applied Behavior Analysis, provided with a two-to-one student/teacher ratio in a classroom setting. Growing Minds Center (GMC) is a certified private school by the Florida Department of Education and accepts McKay Scholarships for parents wishing to offset the tuition.

Students at the school focus on academic goals, social skills, and behavioral needs through Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), an evidence-based practice commonly used with individuals on the autism spectrum. Children between the ages of 3 and 22 are provided individualized instruction. Students at the school work on a variety of skills including educational, social skills, and independent living skills. The Growing Minds Center opened its doors with 5 students, and today the organization is still growing with its long range goals to include transitional programs, as well as family & community outreach services.

Applied Behavior Analysis Therapy

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a proven scientific approach to understanding behavior. The ABA approach teaches social, motor, and verbal behaviors as well as reasoning skills. ABA treatment is especially useful in teaching behaviors to children with autism who may otherwise not "pick up" these behaviors on their own as other children would.

ABA's program for learners with autism is a highly individualized package based on careful behavioral observation and positive reinforcement or prompting to teach each step of a behavior. Treatment goals are guided by data from an initial assessment and a curriculum scope and sequence that covers all domains (learning to learn, communication, social, academic, self-care, motor, play and leisure, etc.) is developed.

The overall goal is to help each learner develop skills that will enable him or her to be as independent and successful as possible.