I decided to write this article to let our Westchase neighbors know about an amazing school right here in Tampa for children with all sorts of disabilities.
My son has Asperger's syndrome and for the first six years of school it was a full-time job just helping the teachers and my son through the day.
Westchase Elementary and Davidson Middle School went above and beyond to help us. However, in my opinion, these schools are not equipped to handle these types of students properly. Not to mention kids will be kids and no matter how hard the school tries, these children are subject to bullying.
Once it was apparent my child would not be able to function in the standard public school setting, and knowing that many private schools were not equipped to handle children in the autism spectrum, I went to the School Board and spoke my mind. This was of no use until I was finally transferred to the head of charter schools.
This is the day my life and my son's life began to have some hope.
I was introduced to the Academies of Educational Excellence, also known as Hope Elementary, Quest Middle School and Pepin High School.
At first I thought, "this is too good to be true." Well, I was so wrong. These schools are truly the answer to many parents' prayers.
Yes, the school is in East Tampa — a good 35 to 40 minute drive. But there are other Westchase children who attend, and with carpooling it is a breeze.
Finally, my son is happy and is getting the education and skills he deserves. The school offers occupational therapy, speech therapy and weekly social skill training and no, they don't cost you a dime.
All the children are in the same boat and they help each other. The teachers are amazing; they understand that these children cannot adjust easily to change.
On the second week I was called into the school. I was so upset, thinking, "This is it; we're being kicked out." But that was not the case at all. They wanted to go over his IEP and let me know how much they loved Cody.
I thought my husband was going to have to pick me up off the floor. They said they LOVED Cody and Cody loves them. He has friends and actually loves school.
We still have some bad days. But when they occur I don't know about it unless my son tells me, because the school knows how to handle it. I don't get called every day any more and if you have a child in the spectrum, you know what I am talking about.
These amazing schools offer hope to parents who think there is none. They give our children a safe and fun place to learn and they don't charge us a penny. They truly care and love our children just the way they are and don't expect them to be like everyone else.
There are children there with autism, Asperger's syndrome, Down's syndrome, Tourette's syndrome and probably any other syndrome you can think of.
You are not alone. There are many of us right here in the Westchase area and we all count our blessings that we found each other and the Academies.
Sandy Pulliam is a mother of three in the Fords section of Westchase, volunteers for St. Francis Society animal rescue and hopes to start a support group for autism-spectrum parents. You can contact her at AndrewPllm@aol.com.