(April 21, 2016) -- The CDC reports about 1 in every 68 children is now diagnosed with autism.
Right here in central Indiana, there’s a special school that caters to this growing group of kids.
Alice Mitchell-Smith and Bill Smith are guardians of their nephew Ben. He’s a high school student at Independence Academy, a school his parents say allows Ben to flourish especially with his music.
“Ben has friends at school now which is something that wasn’t happening before,” said Mitchell-Smith. “He’s interested in after school activities.”
That wasn’t always the case for Ben who has Asperger's, but he’s getting extra attention at his school. There are only 36 students spread out through grades 5-12.
“A school like Independence Academy is 100% equipped to take a child who has not fit in before, feel like they are a part,” said Smith.
Independence Academy is housed in First Meridian Heights Presbyterian Church. This is the idea of two local mothers who know the school struggle well.
“I have two sons with high functioning autism,” explained Susan Le Vay, a co-founder of Independence Academy. “Both of them needed a different teaching style, more multi-sensory, visual hands on learning.”
The class size is small, with no more than eight students in one grade. This is the only school in Indiana that only serves high functioning students on the spectrum, and they operate as a nonprofit.
“I’m very proud to say that nearly half of our students are Choice Scholarship Recipients,” said school director Marisa Gill. “If a family is in financial need, they’re still able to attend and get some assistance.”
There’s a lot of work, long days and a lot of creativity to keep this unique facility running for students like Ben.
“With our students it’s not just a matter of intelligence. It’s social skills,” said Gill.
Independence Academy has a gala Saturday April 30th that is called Rio Carnival. The event is taking place at the Renaissance North Hotel in Carmel.
There is a silent auction, and anyone can bid on the items which include autographed jerseys from George Hill and Miles Turner, as well as Colts tickets.