School Gives Autistic Students Way to Communicate

The Community School caters specifically to autistic students.

ByABC News via logo
November 11, 2008, 3:04 PM

Nov. 12, 2008 — -- Many autistic students such as 13-year-old Ty Martin find traditional schools are not able to deal with their condition.

For Ty, loud noises were crippling, and his former school couldn't handle his outbursts.

"Everyday moments could be catastrophic to him," said Ty's mother, Judy Martin. "I said, 'There has to be some place for my son. I do not accept that at the age of 9 or 10 that we're just at a dead end. I do not accept that.'"

After years of searching, Martin found the answer to her concerns at the Community School in Decatur, Ga. Founded by Dave Nelson, the specialized school consists of eight male students and 12 faculty members. It has given the handful of boys with varying degrees of autism a way to thrive and improve their communication skills, although it is open to female students, too.

Nelson, who has a 19-year-old autistic son, understands the students' plight. Some battle anger and obsessive behavior.

"These are kids who have struggled so much for meaning and contentment in their lives," said Nelson, who is also a licensed counselor who specializes in working with children. "As a result [the students] actually develop and grow. That's incredibly rewarding."

Student Kenny Busey said the three-year-old Community School is "definitely a better environment than his previous school.

"I would get bullied just about every day, and none of the teachers knew it was happening," the 17-year-old said. "Not even the principal knew."

His mother grew frustrated with the system.

"We were getting no support from the schools. They were all blaming it on him," said Kenny's mother, Lee Busey.

The Community school is designed for students in junior high and high school between the ages of 12 and 18. It allows students to graduate with a GED and, while it's too new to have had any graduates yet, it's expecting to graduate two or three students this year.

The Community School is one of several in the nation that addresses the needs of students using Stanley Greenspan's DIR model.

Click here to learn more about the Community School in Decatur, Ga.

Click here for information from The Interdisciplinary Council on Developmental & Learning Disorders.