Old Barn Gets New Life Helping Children with Disabilities at Paxton

A 145-year-old stone barn, long open to the elements and overgrown with vines, is getting new life as Paxton Campus’s newest program.

As it launches into its 50th year, the Arc of Loudoun at Paxton Campus is getting ready for some big new services, including the Paxton Advantage Behavior Clinic, which will open after renovations in what was once a barn. The barn is part of the estate built in 1872 by Charles and Rachel Paxton, and which Rachel Paxton willed into a charitable trust to benefit needy children.

In 1967, a group of parents of special needs children formed the Arc of Loudoun to start a preschool for their children, and in 2009 the Arc of Loudoun moved to Paxton Campus, where it has been growing ever since.

Its latest addition has been in the works for two years, clearing work on the historic structure with the Leesburg Board of Architectural Review and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, but now the Paxton Advantage Behavior Clinic’s future program director, Kendra McDonald, says it should be open in about six months.

“Aurora School and Open Doors are stellar at providing services for our students that are enrolled in the Aurora School and preschool,” McDonald said, referencing programs Paxton Campus has for educating autistic and disabled children. “So we do a really good job with the behavioral and clinical assessment and clinical treatment, however the community at large doesn’t have access to them. So the behavior clinic will extend the services from Aurora to the community.”

The program will benefit people like McDonald’s own son, who attends school at Clarke County High School, but who sometimes has difficulty socializing.

“When he hits bumps in the road, he can come and our team can figure out a behavioral plan,” said Paxton Campus Executive Director Jennifer Lassiter.

The new program will also bring diagnostic and medication prescription services to Paxton—helping families skip the months-long waiting period for a diagnosis before any treatment can begin, and bringing all of a person’s needs into one place and onto one team.

“You really don’t know what you need to know at that time,” Lassiter said. “What you do know is that things aren’t progressing normally, so you’re waiting to see these professionals who can help you. That waitlist is probably the most frustrating time for a parent in terms of finding out what’s going on and what they’re going to do about it.”

Lassiter went through that struggle with her own child.

“When I left with Katelyn’s diagnostic packet, it was probably 40 pages in total, because each of the professionals had given their assessment and recommendations in four to eight pages each,” Lassiter said. “I had to read all that, and it was like, okay, go off into the world and figure out how to do this.”

Inside the 145-year-old Carlheim Barn at Paxton Campus. (Renss Greene/Loudoun Now)

The new program means families won’t lose crucial months of early intervention while on a waiting list for a diagnosis, children will get treatment from a team of specialists all on the same page, and families can get help as they start grappling with their child’s needs.

“This multidisciplinary team will work together, they’ll be in the same please,” Lassiter said.

“And that’s the Aurora model,” McDonald said. “That’s what we do. We have a multidisciplinary team.”

Paxton Campus now houses the ALLY Advocacy Center; Open Door Preschool; The Aurora School, for students with autism and disabilities; STEP-Up vocational training, the Supported Training and Employment Program; and Maggie’s Closet, a nonprofit store. It also holds annual events like Shocktober and Music at the Manor.

rgreene@loudounnow.com
@RenssGreene

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