Schools - Autism Spectrum Disorder Schools - Sunrise School


Sunrise School offers comprehensive special education day school programs for students, ages five through twenty-two, with moderate to severe global delays associated with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities. The primary goal is to enable each student to realize his or her fullest potential and to become as independent as possible.

With a multidisciplinary team of professionals, Sunrise provides a wide range of learning opportunities that foster growth in all essential areas. This integrated educational program promotes communicative, behavioral, academic, motor, adaptive and independent living skills, as well as social and emotional development.

The highly individualized curriculum is designed to address the specific needs of each student. Class sizes are small with a high teacher to student ratio. The program is based on current research and evidence-based best practices in the field. Teaching strategies and reinforcement methodologies are reviewed on an ongoing basis to maximize each student's success.

Sunrise School is dedicated to helping its students make significant strides toward productive and rewarding futures. Students develop their self-esteem and a sense of achievement as they master each new skill. Their unique personalities are observed, respected and celebrated through this structured, individualized, nurturing environment.

Sunrise School, Sherman Oaks Campus, is certified by the California State Department of Education. The Sunrise Program, Culver City Campus (opening Fall 2013), operates under the auspices of THG, West, which is also certified by the California Department of Education. All services are provided by a highly professional, licensed and credentialed staff.


Sunrise School is committed to building competence and confidence through explicit teaching using modeling, backward chaining, adult facilitation, repetition and opportunities for independent practice. Instruction is based on best practice strategies and evidence-based programs.

Individualized academic programs

The Sunrise curriculum uses the Unique Learning System, a standards-based, comprehensive, age-appropriate curriculum specifically designed for special learners and differentiated for each student's unique learning style building from his or her strengths and prior knowledge. Areas of instruction include functional reading, writing, functional math, self-help, vocational and community awareness and safety. The classroom environment is structured using the methodology of Teaching and Educating Autistic and Communicatively Handicapped Children (TEACCH).

Speech and language and occupational therapy providers work hand-in-hand with the teaching staff to support students' learning experience. The integrated delivery model ensures the consistent application of correct strategies and techniques in the classroom throughout the school week.


A variety of methods are used to conduct comprehensive assessments for every student.  Student portfolios are also an ongoing measure of growth and achievement. Parental involvement and input is encouraged in the assessment process.

Community-based instruction

Generalization of learned skills is a key component of the Sunrise curriculum. Research shows that these skills should be taught and reinforced through real life experiences in the community and include tasks such as purchasing items, money management, taking public transportation, abiding by safety signs and symbols, exhibiting socially acceptable behavior, practicing communication skills with community members, and tolerating various environmental stimuli.

Independent Living and Transition

Beginning in the elementary program, Sunrise students learn pre-vocational skills such as following directions and developing a sense of responsibility. By Middle School, students start applying these skills to the community through local community outings. As students move to High School, the curriculum emphasizes more complex vocational experiences such as on-site office and clerical work, culinary preparation, providing customer service in the Student Store and gardening. Transition students gain real-world experience at local businesses such as Regal Cinemas, Kmart, Sharky's and Petco.

Self-determination and self- advocacy are taught through creating and implementing strong transition plans that are student-centered with parental involvement. Connections are made with community agencies for smooth transitions from Sunrise to post-school environments.


Sunrise School is committed to increasing and enhancing the overall communication skills of every student. Speech and language therapy services are provided in a collaborative model by licensed speech and language pathologists within the classroom setting, and communication goals are supported in all aspects of the Sunrise curriculum.

Some of the tools include:

  • Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) allows the students to communicate effectively their wants and needs both on-campus and in the community
  • Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC) is any method of communication which supplements or replaces speech for people with severe speech or language impairments. AAC multi-modal strategies may include gestures or signs; writing; communication books and picture icons; and speech-generating devices such as TeckSpeak, GoTalk, AltChat and Big Mac.


Sunrise School recognizes the value of technology in teaching and learning. Teachers integrate iPads, augmentative communication devices and computer software into the curriculum to provide additional modalities for learning and communication.

Each classroom is equipped with computers, and students have access to the computer lab on campus on a weekly basis. Students with motor challenges have access to AlphaSmart keyboards to assist with writing. iPads are used daily in every Sunrise classroom to support the curriculum. The tablets are customized to each student's needs, providing a variety of educational applications for communication and practice of social skills.

Sunrise Early Elementary students use a software program called Teachtown: BasicsTeachtown is a comprehensive, research-based, developmental intervention that is based upon principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). Teachtown addresses language learning, social skills, communications skills and emotional development. Another software program that all Sunrise students use is News-2-You, an online literacy program with pictoral support to bolster comprehension.

Student Life

Sunrise School believes that children show the most growth when they are provided with a safe, predictable and structured learning environment. Their opportunities for development are maximized in the following ways:

Social Skills

Sunrise students are taught coping, negotiation, delay of gratification and turn-taking skills within the natural course of the school day through incidental teaching, pre-set scenarios, modeling and role playing.  Communication and sharing are taught through project-based activities such as campus-wide events, including the Science Fair, Spirit Weeks, and Art Exhibits.


Sunrise School calendars weekly themed socials to foster peer relations in a fun, meaningful and age-appropriate setting. Socials are school-wide, and all students are encouraged to participate. Themed socials are an excellent opportunity for our students to come together as a group in a recreational environment.


School dances are an important part of a student’s experience during his or her middle school and high school years. There are three regularly scheduled school dances during the school year that include students from the entire campus. In addition to these dances, there is also a Sunrise School Senior Prom. The dances provide students with an opportunity to interact socially in an age-typical event but in an atmosphere which is safe and nurturing.

Holiday celebrations

Sunrise students enjoy several annual traditions. Every year for Thanksgiving our students take part in cooking, preparing, and setting up the “Thanksgiving Feast” that serves approximately 400 or more students and staff. Students put on a holiday show for all family members and staff before winter break where they sing carols, perform skits and play instruments.

Music Program

Students participate in the Orff Schulwerk Music Program, which utilizes poetry, rhyming, games, songs and dance to teach the students about music. The instructor teaches patterns, rhythm and spatial awareness as well as reinforcing visual thinking and social skills.


Positive Behavior Support

The philosophy of Sunrise School is to provide every student with school-wide, classroom and individual positive behavioral support.This tiered behavioral program creates a predictable environment through which each student can improve his or her personal, health, social, family, work and recreation quality of life. Students are assessed on an ongoing basis, and this information is used to develop a pro-active, individualized behavioral plan based on each student's strengths and needs. Teachers and behaviorists continue to monitor progress and make necessary revisions throughout the year.

Sunrise uses a variety of Applied Behavior Analysis management methods:

  • Discrete Trial Training
  • Behavior Intervention Development (BID) and Behavior Intervention Implementation (BII)
  • Pivotal Response Treatment

Program Administration

Pamela Clark, MA
Director of Autism Schools

Sherman Oaks Campus 
Mary Bauman, PhD
Director, Clinical Services
Sue Anne Kaples, MEd.
Sara McCracken, PsyD, BCBA
Director of Early Elementary Programs
Angela Polson, MS
Assistant Principal
Culver City Campus 
Nata Preis, MA
Head of School
Diane Nunez
Pat Sandler, MFT
Director, Clinical Services


Sunrise School is located in Sherman Oaks and Culver City (Culver City Campus opening in Fall 2013). Sunrise School admits students from the San Fernando Valley, the Westside, the Greater Los Angeles area and neighboring communities. Door-to-door transportation is available.

The state-of-the-art campuses feature the following:

  • A daily living center
  • Occupational therapy room
  • Computer learning lab
  • Athletic and play areas
  • Student-operated store

Sherman Oaks

13130 Burbank Boulevard Sherman Oaks, CA 91401

[sgmap w="400" h="300" z="14" addr="13130 Burbank Boulevard Sherman Oaks, CA 91401"]

Culver City Campus

4160 Grand View Boulevard Los Angeles, CA 90066

[sgmap w="400" h="300" z="14" addr="4160 Grand View Boulevard Los Angeles, CA 90066"]