Fall 2019 Newsletter


A Message from the President


Fifty - two years ago we opened our doors to youth and their families who at that time were not allowed to go to school.  Through no fault of their own, the youth who came to us faced countless obstacles. We are very proud of the fact that we provided a place for our youth to learn and develop prior to the passage of the federal law mandating a free and appropriate education for all people.    

Not only have we provided our services for 52 years, many of our staff have served here for decades.  This longevity is a powerful testament to everyone’s commitment to our mission and our values.

Our core values are infused in our daily practices.  We are faithful to:  integrity, compassion, safety, commitment, individualization, effectiveness and community.  All of these values revolve around our belief in the strengths of our youth.

Each child and family who cross our threshold belongs to the PHILLIPS community.  We accept the youth as they are and we guide them in finding their strengths and building on them to the be the best they can be.  Through our practices we instill hope, which often absent when they first come to PHILLIPS.

One of our parents said it best, “You give our children and us parents hope.  What seemed impossible before is possible with hope and PHILLIPS.”

A 26 – year- old alum echoed the impact of our value system when he told me, “They didn’t give up on me.”   And that is what made all of the difference.

You are reading this because you believe in our youth as much as we do.  I welcome you to join our prestigious Circle of Hope and support our work to ensure our youth can reach their full potential.  As you read the stories that follow, think about how you can best ensure their future.  Join us today! Click INVEST.


Piper Signature - 2 2.JPG

Piper Phillips Caswell

President & CEO



Building Futures: One Student At A Time

How would you feel at seventeen having experienced nothing but failure in school? Mark was doing the best he could with what he had available to him at the moment, but diagnosed with overall developmental delays in preschool, he fell behind with every passing year.

Gifted with creativity, a talent for mechanical things and a great sense of humor, Mark struggled with writing and attention in elementary school. By middle school he experienced increased difficulties completing work and began to fall behind in all subject areas. Mark became caught up in a self-perpetuating cycle of defeat because for some, failure in school triggers a stress response which results in behaviors in the classroom. Mark responded with increased hyperactivity, impulsiveness, defiance and some aggression.

In high school he fell further behind. His reactions became more often and more intense. Once you are suspended, you are suspended again and again. Missed classroom time means you fall further and further behind in your academics. Mark failed ninth grade twice. At 16 he was so frustrated and had such a low self- esteem, he had resorted to rule breaking, lying, stealing and destruction of property. Finally, he was referred to PHILLIPS.

PHILLIPS provides learning environments that focus on success and that minimize the risk of failure through small classes, individualized attention that builds relationships and support, providing time and space to reinforce learning. He was placed in our Building Futures program where our youth spend part of the day on academics and part of the day constructing a new home.

Mark immediately presented a proclivity for carpentry! His first year at PHILLIPS he was very engaged in the half of the day on site building a house. He loved the construction work and was good at it. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and Mark still had some work to do. He liked to joke around and passed his classes earning C’s and D’s. Mark attended our Extended School Year offered during the summer months and then really showed us the gem inside his second year!


Mark attained and maintained Honor Roll his second year at PHILLIPS! Imagine the look of pride on his parents faces at that assembly. Mark was beaming. He believed in himself! Now that Mark has improved his academics and felt good about himself, the social-emotional pieces began to fall into place. Socially, he became a leader and the other students looked up to him. A student was new to the classroom in the middle of the year, and some of the other students were not being kind. Mark said he would talk with them about the need to treat all respectfully. He had that conversation and his peers followed his advice.


Mark is on track to graduate with a high school diploma in two years. We are building futures one student at a time!

Inspired by this story?

Technology is the Great Equalizer

An interview with Sam Son, PHILLIPS Program’s Designing Futures Program Coordinator


The current systems supporting young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to transition from school to work are not meeting the rising need. Young adults with ASD are struggling to obtain and maintain employment. They have the lowest rate of employment compared to their peers with other disability types (NAIR, 2015). Many of those employed are working part-time jobs and earning low wages (Roux, 2013). To compound the situation, autism affects the lifespan of an individual. The 2017 National Autism Indicators Report 14 states that approximately 50,000 youth with ASD turn 18 each year, and that there are currently about 450,000 youth with ASD aged 16–24 years old in the United States. As rates of ASD continue to rise, more and more youth will exit high school and want to enter the workforce or postsecondary training but viable, sustainable employment options are simply not available. There is a critical need to change the employment landscape through development of replicable innovative job training and employment models. Unemployment for those aged 16-24 has doubled in the past decade. Each young adult who is unemployed costs approximately $4,100 annually in lost taxes but more importantly represents lost opportunities for our communities. For those with disabilities the costs to society become staggering.

For three years we have offered a powerful program, Designing Futures, a 3D design and print class at our PHILLIPS Schools ~ Annandale and Fairfax and a weekend community program.


Students work on both hard and soft skills so that they can attain jobs in the growing field of additive manufacturing.

There is a great opportunity in this field. In a joint report issued by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute, “As many as 2.4 million manufacturing jobs (due to a lack of skills and impending retirements) may go unfilled by 2028, putting $454 billion in production at risk.”

The youth enrolled in our Designing Futures program are both technically savvy and uniquely suited to do this work. Explained Mr. Son, “We are all unique learners and we all learn in different ways. For instance, one of the hallmarks of an individual on the spectrum is he or she can become very focused on a particular task. 3D design and other Computer Assisted Design (CAD) programs require attentiveness and attention. Our youth have a natural inclination that helps them to better navigate the task. Young adults with ASD have struggles with social interactions and communication. While our youth may not be able to verbalize the designs and their creative ideas, technology is the great equalizer and allows those individuals to access their creativity that they were not able to fully express.”

Mr. Son will provide leadership and instructional expertise for this new initiative. We are poised to become the trendsetter in the space and look forward to reporting our progress as the year unfolds.

Inspired by this story?

Did You Know? 

  • Our youth are building a house in our PHILLIPS ~ Building Futures program. Currently, they are preparing to put in insulation and drywall; install kitchen and bathroom appliances and start laying down the floor!

  • The Education for Employment students from PHILLIPS School ~ Annandale are volunteering at the Alexandria Symphony this year completing mass marketing mailings 2 to 3 times a year!

  • PHILLIPS Schools ~ Annandale and Laurel have new playgrounds! Read about our partnership with KaBOOM! here.

  • We served high school youth through our Pre-ETS program from the broad Laurel community in a summer work readiness program at PHILLIPS School ~ Laurel. Students learned culinary arts and indoor vertical farming.

  • During our Extended School Year (ESY) at PHILLIPS School ~ Annandale, students participate in a contest based on the popular television show Chopped!

  • This year’s gala theme is P.O.P. The Power of Play! We are honoring KaBOOM!, The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation and Marriott International with our Community Engagement Award for their commitment to provide beautiful play spaces for every child! Mark your calendars for April 25, 2020 and check out our Pinterest – P.O.P The Power of Play!

  • A PHILLIPS School ~ Laurel student earned an internship at Little Wild Things thanks to her expertise gained in our vertical farm?

  • PHILLIPS Family Partners is offering comprehensive Autism diagnostic and psychological testing. This addresses: language and communication; social interaction; restricted, repetitive and stereotyped behaviors and interests; and play and use of materials

  • PHILLIPS ~ Designing Futures program partnered with The YouthQuest Foundation and seventh and eighth grade students at iTech Preparatory, a STEM-focused magnet school in Vancouver, Washington. The iTech students did 3D scanning of 19th-century artifacts from the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site to create an interactive virtual museum. The scans were sent to PHILLIPS students who used the full-color powder/binder printer in YouthQuest’s lab to make reproductions. The reproductions were mailed back to iTech Preparatory! It was a great way to demonstrate our concept for giving high school graduates on the autism spectrum a path to employment.

  • PHILLIPS School ~ Fairfax added art therapy as a way to assist students express themselves through art .

Join PHILLIPS Circle of Hope


Skip one weekly coffee and become a member of PHILLIPS Circle of Hope by donating $10 on the 10th of every month!

Changing the lives of youth with behavioral health needs and their families doesn’t happen overnight. It takes hard work every day of the year.

We do the challenging work we love to do so that our youth can grow up to do the work they are meant to do.

By making an affordable automatic tax- deductible gift each month, you can help PHILLIPS Programs change lives and lift up children, youth and their families to lead enriched lives. Not only will your donation transform lives, it will make on-going support of PHILLIPS Programs’ work so much simpler.

Save Time and Make Your Gift Go Further

You simply decide on an affordable amount that meets your budget and your desire to help families in need in your community. Your gift can be automatically billed to your credit card or debited to your checking account on or about the 10th day of the month.

In addition, since our costs for managing this program are much lower thanks to your monthly giving, so much more can be dedicated to our life changing programs that are helping children, youth and families and building long-term solutions for people with behavioral health needs.

To become a monthly donor, join the prestigious Circle of Hope today. Click INVEST.


Connect with Us: Facebook | Twitter

PHILLIPS Programs for Children and Families is a private, non-profit organization serving the complex needs of children and youth living with cognitive, emotional and/or behavioral challenges in the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area. Through excellence in specialized education, community programs and individualized support services, we provide our children and families every advantage to ensure they develop to achieve their greatest individual success. Their potential is our commitment.