When you walk inside of the doors of Autism Academy of Education & Development, there's a sense of calm and understanding. Its a place where students are learning in a special way. Executive Director Shannon Mitchell says after years of getting requests from parents asking for an alternative autism campus in Southern Arizona the Tucson location became a reality.
The school is located at at 6880 E. Broadway.
"We have small group instruction, visual instruction and visuals all over the classroom to support the students as they age and as their developmental level grows. The behavioral supports that we have help the students and affect the family at home to be able to tradition family activities together as a unit," Mitchell said.
The school has classes for students K-9, students learn about traditional subjects like art, history and English. The school is also planning to add higher grade levels over the next three years. Teachers use strategies to keep the kids active while allowing them to immerse themselves in the school experience.
"We really have them structured 20 to 30 minute time blocks dependent on their age and ability level and we work on math and reading and communication skills. We offer them the opportunity for a sensory break at the table and a sensory break in the sensory room," Mitchell said.
Right now there are 60 students in 5 classrooms and each class has one teacher and a couple of assistants on hand. Mitchell says the school typically has a 4 to 1 student teacher ratio.
"This school is really specialized for students with autism. We've got specialized teachers, we offer specialized training, off campus training," Mitchell said.
While Autism Academy is not a traditional school environment, kids do have regular school activities like dances and community events. The students also have enhanced lunch experiences.
"Lunch is done in the classroom we have so many students with specialized diets dietary restriction needs so we want to keep that in a controlled area. They sit down with their peers with their lunch that's brought from home and its hopefully growing into a social time," Mitchell said.
The school is funded by the Arizona Department of Education and scholarships are available for students who qualify. The academy is able to handle 100 students on campus.
"We have had such wonderful touching stories that families have shared with us saying that their student has never felt included has never felt understood in school and they do when they come to autism academy," Mitchell said.
School hours are from 8am-3:15 Monday-Thursday and until 12:15pm on Friday's. For details on enrollment.. click here.