Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Autistic Students Find 'A Place of Their Own' Through Private School in New Jersey

Check out the Newark Star-Ledger's series on how families united to form a private school for their children on the autism spectrum. During these lean times for the newspaper industry, it's heartening to see a paper devote resources to in-depth local jouralism.

From the day when her twin boys were 3 and a pediatrician broke the news that they were severely autistic, Laurie Duddy has set out on a life-changing crusade to find the best educational opportunities for her sons. Along the way, she would meet other parents like her -- regular folks who were frustrated with offerings in public schools and unwilling to take a number on a waiting list at one of the few private, special education schools catering to severely autistic children.
For the past three years, The Star-Ledger has followed Duddy, her boys and the people who came together to create the Garden Academy. Garden Academy is a story of struggle on two fronts. Starting from nothing, parents and teachers set out to create a specialized place that offered autistic children the hope of someday joining mainstream society. All the while they navigated a tortuous state approval process that kept the fate of the school hanging in the balance for three years.

"A Place of Their Own" is a four-part Star-Ledger series about Garden Academy, a private, special-education school in Essex County for severely autistic students.

The fate of Garden Academy may also be a window to the future. Though New Jersey's autism rate is the highest in the nation (and growing) state officials are taking an increasingly hardline on schools that are as expensive as they are specialized.
Their solution would be to start their own school.

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