Autism Academy opening soon, will help tackle resource shortage

Autism Academy opening to help kids with special needs

TUCSON, AZ (KOLD News 13) - Everyone knows school can be tough, but for students on the autism spectrum, it can be even more of a challenge.

Amanda Nattress knows of this struggle first hand. Her 7-year-old son Ian is autistic and currently attends Tully Magnet Elementary.

Some days are good, and others can be just the opposite for Ian.

Ian (Source: KOLD News 13)
Ian (Source: KOLD News 13)

"His autism will lapse and he will blow up and explode sometimes.” said Nattress.

In the past month, Nattress and her husband said they were called four to five times to come pick up their son because he had an episode. Nattress said the teachers often don’t know how to respond to Ian’s specific needs when he has an episode and there are not enough aides to go around.

“He misses quite a lot of school because they don’t know how to handle his episodes when he does flare up.” said Nattress.

In fact, Nattress said Ian has missed 43 days this school year.

Desperate to find a better fit, Nattress found the Autism Academy. A new private school opening next fall meant specifically for kids like Ian.

“At the Autism Academy for Education and Development, we strive to improve the lives of each student, their families, and communities. As a school focused on children with Autism, we achieve this by addressing the needs of every student academically, socially, and behaviorally.” states the Autism Academy website.

They currently have locations in Phoenix, Chandler, Tempe, and now Tucson.

“Autism Academy for Education and Development specializes in providing education to students with autism, Kindergarten to 12th grade. Low teaching staff to student ratios are maintained to maximize individual attention as well as address the needs of each student. At AAED, your child will learn academic content along with Music, Art, PE, Life Skills, and Technology. Students are engaged with hands-on teachers who provide a multi-sensory approach to learning and real-world experiences. All instruction is presented in an atmosphere designed for learning, acceptance of others, compassion, and encouragement.”

Nattrass and her family attended the informational meeting and decided the school would be the best option for Ian.

“It’s going to be--my goodness I can’t even describe it,” she said. "It’s going to be such a relief to know that they know he’s autistic.”

Things like smaller class sizes and specifically trained teachers automatically appealed to the Nattrass family, something that isn’t available at a typical school.

"It was quite a struggle to find out there’s not a lot of resources for kids with autism here in Tucson.” Right now the only other option is Intermountain Academy.

Enrollment is still open for the school that plans to be ready for the 2019-2020 school year.

The Autism Academy is also hiring teachers and para-professional support staff.

ANNUAL TUITION (Tuition does not include: Yearbook, enrollment / re-enrollment fees, field trip costs, before/after school care, transportation, club and activity fees and other school events.):

  • Kindergarten half day: $13,500
  • Kindergarten full day, 1st-8th grades: $27,000
  • High School: $28,500

SCHOLARSHIPS AND PAYING FOR TUITION: There are a variety of scholarship opportunities in Arizona and because of this, most students are able to attend Autism Academy with little or no out of pocket cost. The school is committed to helping parents with the process of finding and applying for funding. Anyone with questions or who need assistance applying for scholarships, please contact the funding specialist, Kym Wilbur or 480-525-6197.

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