Officials break ground on school for those with autism spectrum disorders

Posted at 4:37 PM, Jan 10, 2014
and last updated 2014-01-10 18:37:14-05

PLEASANT GROVE, Utah -- A ground-breaking ceremony was held in Utah County for a new charter school for children with autism spectrum disorders.

Spectrum Academy opened its first location in North Salt Lake back in 2006, and Friday was the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Pleasant Grove location.

Terrie Elder is the parent of a Spectrum Academy student who spoke well of the program.

“It’s incredible,” Elder said. “I cry almost every week because he’s treated like a rock star. The teachers are amazing.”

Elder said she can’t stress enough what an impact Spectrum Academy has had on her son Austin.

“I get really emotional because I love the school,” she said. “I love the teachers, they dedicate so much to these kids.”

At age 3, Austin was diagnosed with pervasive development disorder, or PDD, which falls in the autism spectrum. Utah has the highest number of autistic children in the nation, and Spectrum Academy Director Brad Nelson said specialty schools like theirs are in high demand.

“We have lots and lots of families that want our help and what we can do for them, and we just don’t have the capacity to do that,” Nelson said.

Nelson said the decision to add a Utah County location comes after several families asked continuously over the years.

“There’s a lot of families here that need these education services, and so that’s what did it,” Nelson said. “We looked all over Utah County, but we primarily centered, we wanted to have it as centralized as possible to the population, which is why we chose Pleasant Grove.”

The school is projected to open for the 2014 school year and will serve kids in Kindergarten through eighth graders the first year, and the school will continue to add grades until it serves 600 students K-12.  More than 300 students have already signed up during early registration. Once the initial 400 openings are full, students will be placed on a wait list.

Visit the school’s website for more information.