By Anthony KaDarrell Thigpen
AUTISM ACADEMY – At the Autism Academy we strive to offer your child with autism the best education. As a school for students with autism, we can provide an education for them that other schools are unable to. We’re familiar with specific teaching techniques for children with autism and we encourage positive social interactions to build on life skills. Learn about our easy six step enrollment process below. Contact us if you have any questions about our teaching techniques, our skills to build on, or our school for autism.
Enrollment coordinator Catelyn Foster uses an easy-to-follow six-step registration process for parents seeking the best placement for children with autism.
STEP One: The Tour
During an initial campus visit, parents and caregivers are escorted on a guided tour of the facility. Guests are able to meet and observe teachers and staff, view classroom layouts, cafeteria/gymnasium, and examine our sensory room.
“Our sensory room has weighted blankets and vests that stimulate children with autism to help them feel better,” Foster explained. “Oftentimes they need to feel pressure, some students temporarily need dim lighting, and sometimes we have to help them deal with taste and touch.”
The school strategy of keeping kids first is well-measured from classroom layouts to curriculum choices.
STEP Two: Curriculum Overview
“Students rotate through various tables working with academics on their individual levels,” Foster described. “We also have physical education, music, and art.”
The Autism Academy uses MobyMax software to find and fix learning gaps by identifying strengths and weaknesses. In addition, students participate in an explorer program every Friday that helps with transition beyond high school.
“This gives students with autism exposure to diverse career paths,” she said.
Explorer course electives include cooking, robotics, coding and much more. The school offers both non-traditional and conventional curriculums combined. The school offers something for the entire family. Parents participate in after-school Zumba classes with students in Tempe and parent specialty classes at all three sites.
STEP Three: Questions and Answers
“Many parents have unanswered questions and lingering concerns,” Foster said. “We welcome parents and guests to ask specific questions and convey their concerns.”
The Autism Academy accommodates students with behavioral challenges, specialized scheduling, and special needs rehabilitation. Parents are also able to get respite care for adults in need of planned or emergency support. Many parents also inquire about funding.
STEP Four: Special Needs Scholarships
Students diagnosed with autism qualify for the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) or Student Tuition Organizations (STOs).
“You can apply for multiple STOs,” said Foster. “But it has to be an ESA or STOs – one or the other.”
An ESA is a year-round scholarship account similar to a checking account. ESA transfers 90 percent of the state funding from the school your child previously attended to your school of choice. Students with autism who qualify for the ESA program are able to attend the Autism Academy. The remainder of the tuition is waived and ESA funding is accepted as full tuition.
STOs are not as clear cut as an ESA.
“STOs are private organizations offering tuition-based scholarships,” Foster explained. “We prefer an ESA, but we help parents with the application process of their choice.”
However, STOs have maximum allowances, they have no guaranteed funding year-after-year, and each STO requires a separate application process.”
STEP Five: Student Assessment
Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), there are 13 categories under which a student is eligible for protection and services administered by law.
- Other Health Impairments (OHI)
- Emotional Disturbance (ED)
- Speech Language Impairment (SLI)
- Specific Learning Disability (SLD)
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
- Autism (A)
Educators use a Multiple Disciplinary Educational Team Report (MET) as a series of tests and evaluations to determine disability eligibility.
“We use the MET report to create an Individual Education Plan (IEP),” Foster said. “Sometimes it’s difficult to get an autism diagnosis because it comes down to funding.”
She says students diagnosed with autism have higher academic demands, require more services, and which can create added cost to schools. Students with autism may need an array of services like occupational therapy, speech therapy, and one-on-one para-professionals. As a result, a wide range of autism case studies indicate that many students with autism go undiagnosed.
“When you take the time and initiative to get involved you can avoid unwanted frustrations,” Foster said. “It starts by knowing your own kid.”
STEP Six: THE APPLICATION PROCESS
The final step is to apply. Foster says the staff helps parents with the application from start to finish.
“We usually complete the ESA and Autism Academy applications in the same sitting,” she said. “Parents only need an updated MET report and a birth certificate.”
Academy administrators understand that the scholarship and enrollment applications are nerve-racking responsibilities for the most parents. As a result, a special enrollment coordinator makes the process flow quickly and easily at the Autism Academy.
Once the application process is complete, approvals usually take less than 30-60 days. Afterward, children will grow and learn from well-trained teachers who take pride in their students. Staffers with specialized training in instruction and curriculum cater to students with autism in smaller class sizes. Most importantly, students at the Autism Academy are surrounded with like-minds, a challenging environment, and a bully-free community of achievers.
Undecided parents are urged to apply immediately because there is limited space available at the rapidly growing Autism Academy.
We look forward to hearing from you, if you have any questions about our school for children with autism, call us.