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Jericho School in Jacksonville serves families affected by autism: 'No other place for a lot of families'

Florida Times-Union - 10/21/2021

When Brandon Lupi was small, his parents, Cynthia and Michael Lupi, knew something was wrong. They had two more sons in quick succession, but their oldest child was clearly charting a different course.

"His speech and fine motor skills were delayed. His behavior was very challenging," his mother said. "It was very difficult for everyone in the family."

At 21 months old, Brandon was diagnosed with autism, a neurodevelopmental disorder marked by repetitive behaviors and impairment in verbal communication and social interaction.

But Brandon is now 23 and his world has widened, largely thanks to The Jericho School in Jacksonville, which uses applied behavior analysis and verbal behavior in the treatment of children with autism and other developmental problems. That's why board member Cynthia Lupi is helping promote Golf for Autism, a Saturday fundraiser for the private, nonprofit school.

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"The comprehensive individualized instruction Brandon received from the dedicated teachers and staff at Jericho impacted not only his life, but his siblings and parent's lives as well," she said. "The Jericho School improved the quality of life for everyone in our family."

The school was founded in 1995 by a group of Jacksonville-area parents and business leaders who saw the need. At the time, Jericho was one of only a few in the country to provide a science-based curriculum utilizing applied behavior analysis, which includes positive reinforcement and is now widely recognized as a safe and effective treatment for autism.

"The Jericho School was created to make available the best practices in early childhood development and education to families who have children with developmental disabilities," according to the school website. "We believe those children with autism and other developmental delays deserve the opportunity to reach their full potential."

Currently, 35 students attend full-time and learn language and communication skills, independent functioning and socialization, among other things, with one-to-one or one-to-two teacher-student ratios. There is also an hourly communication clinic and kindergarten, community outreach and summer programs.

Executive Director Angelo Martinez joined the school in 2000.

"There is no other place for a lot of families. ... They've been at other schools and not been successful," he said. "If we weren't here, they don't know where their child would go. We're reminded of that quite often.

"Lives have been changed," Martinez said.

The Lupis discovered Jericho when Brandon was 8 while they were seeking additional services from the school he was attending in Southeast Georgia, where they lived at the time. They later moved to Ponte Vedra Beach.

For a time, he spent half his day at the Georgia school, the other half at Jericho.

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"He had very long days and very long car rides," Cynthia Lupi said.

But Jericho clearly had an impact.

"We immediately saw positive changes in Brandon's behavior, speech and motor skills, as well as improvements with other delays," his mother, now a Jericho board member, said.

About 1 in 54 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder, which is four times more common among boys than among girls, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There is currently no cure, but "early intervention treatment ... can improve a child's development," according to the CDC., (904) 359-4109


To donate or get more information, contact the school at 1351 Sprinkle Drive, Jacksonville FL 32211; (904) 744-5110; or or go to

Registration for Golf for Autism begins at 8 a.m. Saturday at Blue Sky Golf Club, 1700 Monument Road, Jacksonville. The 18-hold, four-person scramble begins at 8:30 a.m; lunch and an award ceremony begin at 1 p.m. To pre-register or get more information, call the school at (904) 744-5110.

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