Former First Lady Barbara Bush and NY Times Best-Selling Author John Elder Robison Highlight the Dedication of the Monarch Institute for Neurological Differences, John M. O’Quinn Campus

The Monarch Institute for Neurological Differences, home to The Monarch School, hosted a private dedication for major donors at the new Monarch Institute--John M. O’Quinn Campus on Tuesday, February 18, 2014. 

click picture to start slideshow

The dedication was highlighted by two very special guest speakers; Honorary Dedication Chair--Former First Lady Barbara Bush, and Keynote Speaker--New York Times Best-selling Author John Elder Robison.

The dedication represents the culmination of a nearly twenty-year vision of Monarch Founder, Dr. Marty Webb. In 1997, what began as The Monarch School, the cornerstone program of the Monarch Institute for Neurological Differences, now includes The Monarch Diagnostic Clinic, Therapy Services, Training Center, Transition Services, and Replication. All are part of the new Monarch Institute for Neurological Differences, John M. O’Quinn Campus, located on an 11-acre site in the heart of Spring Branch, in Northwest Houston.

Emcee for the dedication was KPRC Channel 2 Anchor Dominique Sachse, who thanked Mrs. Bush for making it an extra special day, and welcomed special guests and public officials. 

Reverend Dr. Russell J. Levenson, Jr., Rector of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church led the invocation.

Monarch Board of Trustees Chairman David Matthiesen shared his personal story. Mr. Matthiesen is the proud father of Kate, a Monarch student, who is a resident in the Transitional Living program. Mr. Matthiesen shared his gratitude for all who have supported the Monarch vision and acknowledged the Monarch board members, past and present. He then introduced Monarch Institute and Monarch School Founder, Dr. Marty Webb. 

Dr. Webb shared her passion for the Monarch vision and its history. Dr. Webb gave an enthusiastic thanks to  “All who had said ‘YES’ all along the way”-- from the Monarch School’s humble beginning in her garage all the way through to the Monarch Institute dedication. 

Dr. Webb then introduced Honorary Dedication Chair--Former First Lady Barbara Bush.

Former First Lady Barbara Bush engaged the audience with humor, style and grace. Mrs. Bush spoke of her passion for education and shared her thanks for a School and Institute, in Houston, that helped those with neurological differences. Mrs. Bush then introduced Keynote Speaker and NY Times best-selling author John Elder Robison. 

Keynote Speaker John Elder Robison is the author of New York Times best-seller “Look Me in the Eye”, a moving memoir of his life with Asperger’s syndrome. He also wrote “Be Different” and his newest book "Raising Cubby" will be released March 16, 2014.  

Mr. Robison is a world-recognized authority on life with autism, and is widely known as an advocate for people with autism and neurological differences. He speaks about being different at schools and conferences all over the country.
He is very active in efforts to support and promote research leading to therapies or treatments that will improve the lives of people who live with autism in all its forms today.  Currently, John Elder Robison is the Neurodiversity Scholar in Residence at the College of William and Mary.  

During the dedication, Mr. Robison spoke of his long-time affiliation with the Monarch School, Monarch Institute and Monarch Founder Dr. Marty Webb. 

He spoke of Marty Webb’s vision -- a place where kids could feel safe; a place where their talents would be developed and nurtured.  

He spoke of his first visit to Monarch in 2007 and how he knew immediately that Monarch was a very special institution.

So special, that Mr. Robison worked with students and staff to develop teaching guides for the books that represented the perspective of students and faculty on the subject of autism.

The audience learned that Mr. Robison applied his extra-ordinary talent to his passion for electronics and music. As a sound engineer he built equipment for the rock band Pink Floyd’s sound company and created the signature special effects guitars for rock band KISS. He went on to design sound effects and other circuits for some of the most popular electronic games and toys of the 1980’s era. The audience also learned of Mr. Robison’s passion for restoring cars. His company, J E Robison Service Co, is one of the largest independent restoration and service specialists for BMW, Bentley, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mercedes, and Rolls Royce cars. The company has become one of the top-ranked Bosch Car Service centers in North America.

Mr. Robison spoke of his own passions and talent, because he wants students with neurological differences to develop their talents and use them to nurture their passions.

After Mr. Robison gave his Keynote Speech, Dominique Sachse introduced Monarch’s Head of School and Institute, Dr. Debrah Hall, who thanked parents and faculty. Dr. Hall was then joined by Dr. Webb for two special presentations. 

Dr. Webb thanked Rose Cullen and Kathy Cullen McCord for their support. A video feed of the Rose Garden, dedicated to Rose Cullen and Kathy Cullen McCord, was show to the audience while Dr. Webb introduced Rob Wilson, President and Trustee of The John M. O'Quinn Foundation.

Mr. Wilson spoke about his friend John M. O'Quinn and the special place Monarch held with Mr. O'Quinn. The guests then watched as several of the founding Monarch School faculty and post graduate students unveiled a bronze statue in honor of John M. O'Quinn in the Rose Garden. The bronze statue bearing the likeness of John M. O'Quinn and two Monarch students was created by sculptor Edd Hayes. 

The dedication concluded with Dr. Debrah Hall thanking all for their contributions and attendance.

The dedication of The Monarch Institute for Neurological Differences would not have been possible had it not been for the generosity of its major donors.
Monarch would not have its new campus without the $5,000,000 lead gift of the John M. O’Quinn Foundation, or Roy Johnson and MetroNational’s generous gift of a 90-year lease of the 11-acres of land. 
Click here for the dedication program listing all the major donors who made the Monarch Institute for Neurological Differences possible. Click here to see The Monarch Institute for Neurological Differences dedication video.

Monarch Student In the Community: 


Seven students in the Transition Services Program at the Monarch Institute, are currently enrolled in Houston Community College.

Recently, the students attended an orientation briefing and registered for their classes at the HCC Spring Branch campus.


Courses range from developmental reading, math and science to fashion design, English and accounting.

Accompanied by Voyager Program Co-Manager Keith Preston, the Voyagers met with HCC ADA Counselor, Lisa Parkinson, to discuss the courses they were registering for and to talk about the expectations they had for the upcoming semester.


“The students will come to campus each semester to talk about courses they are interested in or are needing for their degree plan. We discuss their expectations and how instructors can accommodate student needs in the classroom.” said HCC ADA Counselor, Lisa Parkinson.  

For more information about the Transition Services program contact Audrey Omenson at 

Dr. Debrah Hall, Head of The Monarch School and Institute, welcomes guests to the ReelAbilities 2014: Houston Disabilities Film Festival showing of “Come as You Are (Hasta la Vista)”in the Monarch Center. 

The Monarch Institute is again proud to be a collaborating partner in ReelAbilities: Houston Disabilities Film Festival 2014.

This city-wide film and arts festival is dedicated to promoting awareness and appreciation of the lives, stories and artistic expressions of individuals with various disabilities.

The Houston ReelAbilities Disabilities Film Festival was held February 9 - 13, 2014. As a collaborating partner, the Monarch Institute for Neurological Differences provided the venue for the showing of the Houston ReelAbilities Disabilities Film entitled “Come as You Are (Hasta la Vista)” on Tuesday, February 11, 2014.

The film was shown at the new Monarch Center building to 80 people who braved cold and rain and enjoyed the film and the talk back session after the film. More than 50 people participated in the interactive talk back session, some shared questions and comments, others sent messages using Twitter.

The interactive talk back session was hosted by the Monarch Institute for Neurological Differences faculty -- Dr. Neal Sarahan, Dr. Tara Devine and Dr. Bryant Shaw.

Houston ReelAbilities Disabilities Film Festival
February 9 - 13, 2014
Houston Films, Venues, Schedule and Tickets in PDF

Each newsletter we will spotlight several members of our Board of Trustees in the Boardmember Profile feature. This issue our profiles include David Matthiesen, Grier Patton, Richard Bartell, and Glenda Dole.

David Matthiesen

Richard Bartell

Glenda Dole

Grier Patton 


Since 2003, The Monarch Diagnostic Clinic has served the assessment and support planning needs of The Monarch School.

Beginning in 2005, our Clinic began to see clients who were not associated with our School, which gave our Clinic the important mission of helping to spread the word about the Monarch developmental model within the greater community. 

By 2014, Clinic faculty had evaluated a very diverse group of children and adults – including individuals from 15 countries across the globe. 

Each individual seen in our Clinic returns to their home environment with a support plan that mirrors those that our School faculty put together for our students. In this way, people from around the world are given access to the wealth of information our School faculty has amassed about working with individuals with neurological differences. 

Clinic faculty are also out in the community regularly teaching professionals and parents about innovative therapeutic education. They are working to increase access and understanding of what we have learned about supporting growth in the key areas of self-awareness/self-regulation, executive functions, relationship development, and academic/professional competence. 

Founder of Colegio Monarch Guatemala, Alessandra Arimany and Founder and Head of School of the Monarch Therapy School in Mexico City, JenniKate Estavillo Galswothy, came to Houston for the dedication ceremony for the Monarch Institute for Neurological Differences. 

Alessandra is founder of the first replication school,Colegio Monarch Guatemala, which opened in 2007. JenniKate opened the Monarch Therapy School in Mexico City, in August, 2012.

Click here for more information on Colegio Monarch Guatemala.

Click here for more information on Monarch Therapy School in Mexico City.

Click here for more information about Monarch's Replication Program.



Music is filling the halls of The Monarch Institute! In addition to supporting relationship development during group music therapy sessions, Cay Taylor, MT-BC and Sarah Posey, MT-BC offer individual music therapy and adapted lessons to students and members of the community.

click picture to start slideshow

Strengths emerge and successes are celebrated as students utilize music to practice Four Core Goal work while developing a leisure skill such as piano, guitar, ukulele, or drums

Creativity and joy are key components of each session and many students proudly display their abilities during performance opportunities. 

Please enjoy these videos: 

Oliver practicing referencing, gross motor coordination, and rhythm skills using a drum and movement to music.

Matt practicing sustained attention and fine motor coordination while playing guitar.

Seth practicing focused attention and working memory while reading music. 

For more information about Therapy Services -- Music Therapy for the community or as part of The Monarch School contact Cay Taylor at



The Voyagers have explored utilizing music to build community and relieve stress this quarter.

Following a session in which they discovered one another’s musical strengths and preferences, a group of Voyagers collaborated to create an arrangement of “Miss Movin’ On” by Fifth Harmony.

They worked together to analyze the lyrics and assign solo and group sections, then practiced the song. Along the way, they welcomed constructive feedback and shared joy!

Please enjoy this video of an impromptu performance they offered for the Voyager community.


Monarch faculty, and student/VIP tour guide Lauren H., join Neal Sarahan, Ph.D., Director of Culture and Transition Services, Randy Copas, Vice-President of Program Development at Starr Commonwealth and Larry K. Brendtro, Ph. D., Dean of Global Learning Network, as they meet at the Monarch School to chart path forward for Montcalm School.

Replication support is ongoing for Colegio Monarch--Guatemala, Monarch Therapy School--Mexico City and Montcalm in Albion, Michigan. Weekly consultation, shared training modules, and site visits have marked this last quarter of activity.

In addition, the Monarch Institute for Neurological Differences was recently featured in The Vital Balance magazine in its Spotlight on Excellence feature.


On  Wednesday, November 12, 2013, The Monarch Institute for Neurological Differences, hosted a Panel Discussion: “Autism as Trauma” -- Lessons from Trauma Models and Reasons for Hope and Resilience. The Panel featured world renowned Youth Advocate Larry K. Brendtro, Ph. D. representing Global Learning Network, Tara Devine, Ph.D., Director of Therapeutic Services for the Monarch School, and Bryant Shaw, Ph.D., Director of the Monarch Diagnostic Clinic.  Neal Sarahan, Ph.D., Director of Culture of the Monarch Institute served as moderator.

The purpose of the panel was to dialogue across interdisciplinary fields to incorporate theories of external trauma with the internal traumatizing experiences of individuals with autism. Dr. Devine and Dr. Brendtro have both dedicated their professional careers to service in support of relieving trauma, coping with trauma, and establishing critical factors in resilience.

 “The experience of autism creates a traumatic reality that can be destabilizing and chaos making for individuals and their families. We should be talking more about how to overcome the internal trauma.” said Neal Sarahan, Ph.D., Director of Culture of the Monarch Institute.

After the Panel Discussion, the panelists hosted a Question & Answers session with members of the audience.