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I am a parent of a student at Gateway Academy in Phoenix, AZ. Our son has ADHD as well as being on the Autism spectrum. Gateway Academy only accepts students with high-functioning autism so we believe it is the ideal environment for our son. Since he started attending Gateway, his grades have dramatically improved as well as his attitude. Our family life at home has improved as well since he is in a less stressful school environment.

“Since he started attending Gateway, his grades have dramatically improved as well as his attitude.”

At our son’s school, class size is limited to 10 students (for high school) and teachers have special training for autistic students. Teachers have time to give each student special attention when needed. Assignments can be adjusted for each student’s needs since the class size is much smaller than most public schools. The teachers help with their social skills as well as academic skills. Kids on the autism spectrum definitely need extra help with learning social skills. Public schools didn’t have time to help our son with his social skills and I believe that created a lot of problems for him.

“Without the ability to choose a school, the students have extra stress trying to fit into a public school environment.”

Public schools cannot give students with special needs the attention they deserve to succeed. Teachers that have special training for autism (or whatever special diagnosis) make a huge difference in the way they relate to each student. Without the ability to choose a school, the students have extra stress trying to fit into a public school environment. The extra stress that the student encounters every day causes extra stress for the family at home too. Our son was so stressed out that he tried to commit suicide at the end of sixth grade. When he was hospitalized after the attempt, he was finally diagnosed with being on the autism spectrum which helped us get him ESA funding in Arizona. Without the ESA money, he would still be in public school and struggling with depression, contemplating suicide, and severe anxiety every day.

I believe it is important to give families the ability to choose a school that fits their student’s needs better if public school is difficult for their child(ren). Not everyone has the personal finances that are needed to attend a private school so there needs to be another way. I am very thankful that Arizona has the ESA program so that our son can attend Gateway Academy.

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