Wednesday, June 15, 2011

School for Students with Autism Celebrates First Graduate

Happy Graduation, AJ!

PHILADELPHIA-Overwhelming odds can be just the right trigger for success.

Joanne Corless said she proved that to herself and her family after her son was diagnosed with a severe form of autism before he was 3.

A doctor told the family that they should put AJ in an institution because there was no way he would be able to function normally. Corless couldn’t believe that. She said she found instructors who could work with kids with autism and founded the AJ Corless Foundation for Children with Autism. She later went on to open the Comprehensive Learning Center, a nonprofit private school for kids with autism.

After going through a yearlong approval process with the state Department of Education, the licensed private academic school opened in September 2000 in Holland. It moved to Upper Southampton about two years ago. The pre-k to high school facility has 24 students. The facility is funded through tuition, fundraising, private donations and grants.

Now age 21, AJ was in cap and gown Tuesday to get his diploma as the school’s first and only graduate. He plays the piano and works two part-time jobs. Soft-spoken, yet confident, AJ said he’s about to start a third job this summer.

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