Local News

Raleigh School For Autistic Children Looking For Home

Posted September 12, 2001

— Some parents who have children with autism say they do not think public schools are helping, and they have taken matters into their own hands and started their own school.

A group of parents heading up the Mariposa School for Children with Autism are having a rough start, though. The school was ready to open Sept. 4, but lost its lease. They are still determined to bring parents a choice beyond public school for children with autism.

A.J. works with Tracy Vail, a therapist using the verbal behavior technique to encourage speech. What is usually a simple task is a significant hurdle for children with autism.

"What should we do?" Vail asked, holding a toy.

"Turn it on! " A.J. said.

"Turn it on! OK!," Vail said.

This model will be the cornerstone technique at the new Mariposa school.

"It's just spending that time early getting that intensive one-on-one so we can avoid a lot of problems and then we don't have to keep them in separate classrooms or separate schools," Vail said.

But finding a school building for the Mariposa school has been a chore. A church who promised space pulled out just as the school was ready to open.

"We need space that will accomodate about 10 children full-time and some part-time students coming in for tutoring services," school co-founder Cindy Peters said.

Parents want a choice in addition to public school special education classes, which they believe are often too big.

"The special needs classrooms in the Wake County system can't really offer my child that special one-on-one intensive training that he needs," parent Susan Fathi said.

These parents believe in their school because they have seen results with the technique.

"At 7, Kenny could not talk. At 8, he is able to make requests, he is able to tell us what he wants. He is able to answer questions when we ask him," Peters said.

With his new-found communication skills, Kenny is a happier little boy.

Several students are getting help in temporary space at a speech and language service in Raleigh. When the school finally opens, it will accept students on a tuition basis.


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