The Gersh Brand
The history of Gersh Autism tells the story of an organization that has grown out of one man’s dream to provide children with special needs the support and opportunities necessary for success. When Mr. Gersh opened Gersh Academy, it was just that – a place where the underserved children with special needs would be allowed to succeed in an educational setting and beyond. Mr. Gersh quickly began innovating and improving the school’s programming, in-line with the underlying core philosophy that programs and services custom-built around the individual needs of the people they serve are critical to individuals’ success.
As time moved on, we continued to build programs wherever we saw a need. When students graduated from our school, we created a program to support them through college. When individuals on the autism spectrum had trouble finding work, we built a vocational program that now partners with top national brands. When children needed critical therapy services, we expanded the use of technology and innovative techniques such as equine therapy. When children needed a place to socialize, laugh, and play with children both different and alike, we built a program to give them a traditional summer experience like no other. When COVID-19 hit, and students could not enter the school building, we developed a program to bring our services to them. When individuals on the autism spectrum needed a program, we built one!
We are not stopping here either, Mr. Gersh is committed to continuing to grow his current programs and expand on new ones. As there as there are individuals with Autism that need us, we will be here, helping them thrive!
Gersh Autism is the synergy of all the Gersh programs dedicated to the singular goal of providing individuals on the autism spectrum the best possible support and opportunities throughout their life.
Gersh has grown tremendously over the years. Powered by our founder’s vision of a world where individuals on the autism spectrum are empowered to thrive, we have expanded our family across the US and abroad. We’ve grown to add new services and programs to fill the needs left underserved or ignored by other organizations through every step of our journey. The Gersh family of today is more robust, more unified, and more resilient than ever. Our new logo design reflects a more polished and mature version of ourselves, ready to learn from our experiences and expand on our successes, to better cater to the needs of individuals on the autism spectrum of all ages, backgrounds, ability levels, and talent.
We chose a singular design to unify our programs. Whether you’re with us for our one-of-a-kind post-secondary residential programs, our groundbreaking schools, cutting edge social and recreation programs, independence and vocational training, or anything else, you have the power of the Gersh team at your disposal.
Gersh grows stronger every day. We want our parents to know that, no matter what Gersh program you’re enrolled in, you have the full weight of Gersh Autism’s services with you every step of the way. Every family, child, and young adult who joins the Gersh family has access to the same top-of-the-line quality education, support, and resources that the Gersh name is known for.
The Evolution of Gersh
Kevin Gersh’s father, Ed Gersh, opens West Hills Day Camp in Long Island, New York. His years growing up at the camp and overcoming his own learning challenges would light the spark that began Kevin Gersh’s lifelong journey to help children succeed.
West Hills Montessori
In 1991, Mr. Gersh founded West Hills Montessori School. Among the children enrolled in the program was one child with special needs. The lack of diagnosis’ and adequate services designed to assist such children came as a shock to Mr. Gersh and inspired him to redirect his energy toward children with special needs.
As a result of his experiences with children with special needs in his schools, Mr. Gersh founded Gersh Academy. This very successful and much-needed program for children ages 5-21 focuses its educational efforts on students on the autism spectrum. Today there are locations in New York, Washington State, and Puerto Rico serving over 500 children on the spectrum.
Over the years, Mr. Gersh recognized the need for a similar program for emerging adults on the autism spectrum. In 2007, he opened Gersh Experience. This post-secondary residential supported living program for students on the spectrum was designed to assist emerging adults struggling with the skills needed to navigate college life and independent living.
Gersh Summer Camp
In 2009, Mr. Gersh joined forces with his father in running West Hills Day Camp. That summer, Mr. Gersh expanded Gersh Academy to include a traditional summer camp program currently located on the grounds of West Hills Day Camp. This dynamic program allows children on the autism spectrum to engage in a traditional summer camp experience while receiving the support necessary to succeed in a mainstream setting. This program has grown in size every year since 2009.
Gersh Academy International
Upon learning that 1 in 68 children in Puerto Rico is on the autism spectrum, Mr. Gersh saw the pressing need to open their first international Gersh Academy in San Juan. Gersh Academy International is currently the most extensive and only bilingual school for children with autism in Puerto Rico and will be opening two additional locations across the island soon.
Mr. Gersh recognized that the educational path of a child on the autism spectrum involves more than just academics. To ensure children who needed critical therapy services were getting the best quality service they could, Mr. Gersh created Therapy Solutions. Therapy Solutions provides occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, and behavioral support for children on the autism spectrum.
Gersh Driver Education
In 2014, Mr. Gersh created the Gersh Driver Education program; currently the largest driving program in Suffolk County, NY. The Gersh Driver Education program serves over 1,400 students of all abilities each year and includes a structured program that allows children with special needs to master the material.
West Hills Academy
Mr. Gersh recognized that it wasn’t only children on the autism spectrum who needed the customized education and individual attention Gersh programs provide. As such, he created West Hills Academy, a private alternative school specializing in meeting the needs of students for whom the traditional classroom is not working. This program serves children of all abilities and is structured to support the students’ individual needs – emotionally, socially, and academically.
Lending a Helping Hand
Each year, Mr. Gersh participates and contributes to various charitable organizations. In 2016, the Gersh Autism raised funds for Sunrise Day Camp, a camp for children with cancer and their siblings. Mr. Gersh also headed up a uniform drive and mentor program for the Wyandanch High School on Long Island. His efforts and personal contributions provided uniforms for hundreds of students in need.
Gersh Academy at Cougar Mountain
Mr. Gersh is proud to bring Gersh Academy’s unique, student-focused approach to the greater Seattle area as an invaluable resource to the many children and young adults in the region who are living with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This unique campus is the first school for children with Autism in the country with a zoo on campus! Research has shown that introducing an animal to children with ASD can promote a more relaxed environment and result in a reduction of stress, anxiety, and irritation.
Autism Day at Six Flags Great Adventure
In 2018, Mr. Gersh successfully created the first-ever Autism Day at Six Flags Great Adventure event. Over 100+ highly trained Gersh Academy staff throughout the park to assist guests, created sensory-friendly decompression areas throughout the park, developed a unique event map with a custom ‘sensory’ rating system for each of the rides, and connected families with professional autism resources.
Gersh Academy at NY Equestrian Center
Gersh Academy and NY Equestrian Center have been partners for many years and have seen incredible success in utilizing equine therapy throughout a student’s typical day at school. Through this collaboration, Mr. Gersh plans to open the first school in the country for children with Autism on the same grounds as an equestrian center. This unique hybrid school will take animal-assisted learning to the next level, and already has eager parents waiting to enroll.
We Bend, But Do Not Break
COVID-19 affected everyone. The Gersh team flew into action and helped quickly and efficiently create a more robust distance learning program than ever. Supported by cutting edge technology, we were able to successfully pilot a plan to safely send Behavior Technicians into the home to support the behavioral challenges students on the autism spectrum faced while transitioning to distance learning.