Academy focuses on kids with disabilities

June 6, 2010 (CHICAGO) Clare Woods Academy in Barlett accepts children 5 to 21 years old from 41 different school districts who have specific disabilities with very special needs.

Kyle Walice, 11, has been attending the academy since he was in kindergarten. He is autistic, and his mom, Robin, says his speech pathologist recommended the school.

"Years ago, you know, he was with her, and when we found out that he would not be able to attend our district schools because of all his disabilities and all his specific needs-- like occupational therapy, speech he needed, the sensory room, which would be in the room," the mother said.

It was a perfect choice for Kyle.

"I feel here at Clare Woods Academy, the opportunities for my son have been endless," said Robin. "We are reading, he's doing math, he's learning numbers, he's doing money."

"You feel like your child is in a safe secure and welcome and loving place, and I think as a parent of a special needs child, you look for those things above and beyond the academics," Robin said.

Clare Woods Academy's curriculum is designed for individual students to help them achieve, says school principal Michael Meis.

"We start with a basic premise that all kids can learn and that's a belief that runs throughout this school," Meis said.

"We do the basics, reading and the writing, math, social studies science and so forth. We also have what is called enrichment curriculum. Ms. Herrig, that you've just been listening to, provides the music program for us. We have art. We have PE. We have library. We have life skills so that rounds out our enrichment," said Meis.

"The third program that we feature is the hiring of speech and language therapist, occupational therapist," the principal said.

Sarah Donnelly's 10-year-old daughter Emma is autistic.

"She has speech delay, fine motor delay, some physical delay, trouble integrating herself into normal situations," Donnelly said.

Emily has been going to Clare Woods Academy for four years.

'It's been wonderful. It is a place where they embraced her. They embraced her limitations but found all of her strengths and she's grown considerably and has never given up on her at all," Sarah Donnelly said.

Clare Woods Academy has about 110 students. They can stay until their 22nd birthday. Both moms speaking with ABC7 say their children will stay until they graduate.

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