In addition, he picked four
high-functioning autistic children, including Derry, for a
state-sponsored Reading Recovery program he offers through
the center for 15 weeks.
"Stan works with kids other people had given up
on," says Francisco Hidalgo, a former colleague at Cal
State, San Bernardino, who is now dean of the College of
Education at Texas A & M University.
"It's amazing the way he designed the autism center and
got almost immediate results," Hidalgo says. "It
really took off." What distinguishes Swartz's approach
"The notion of discipline and punishment don't
fit," he says. "We don't use the word 'no,' no
dirty looks, no stern voices or threats. We're very gentle,
very soft, but very relentless. No child sets the
No child gets candy,
stickers or tangible rewards for good behavior either.
Instead, each receives lots of praise and love taps to
demonstrate approval. "Rather than focus on what the child
is doing wrong, we redirect them to what we want them to
do," Swartz explains. "Then we positively reinforce them, a
common strategy used in special educations."
As his patience begins to peter out and his attention
drifts, Derry drops the book he's reading and crawls under
After he refuses to sit down, Brandt, his instructor, slinks
under the table with the book. She pretends they're camping
in a tent and persuades Derry to resume reading.