The Astra Foundation is a private foundation that supports programs and initiatives that help children thrive in their home and educational environments. We focus our attention primarily on children with special needs and those who live in low-income areas.
Since 2001, the Astra Special Needs Center has created training opportunities for adults working with children with special needs, including programs for parents, early intervention professionals, teachers, mental health practitioners, occupational therapists, speech therapists, and others. Since 2004, in partnership with Lesley University, we have offered courses on the DIR®/Floortime model for adults working with children with special needs, particularly those on the autism spectrum. Nearly four hundred students and professionals in the greater Boston area have taken our classes and have brought this relationship-based developmental model into their work with children. We have also enrolled nearly three hundred parents in our workshops for families.
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. Every child has a unique profile with strengths that can be harnessed to support relative weaknesses. Brain research also reveals that emotion and cognition are intertwined and that positive emotional states promote high level cognitive functions such as critical thinking, problem-solving, flexibility, adaptability, and innovativeness. Astra believes that in order to work effectively with children, we must know them well and we must develop learning environments that promote warm, nurturing relationships, positive emotion states, and a deep respect for each child’s individual differences.