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School serving students who have autism spectrum disorders filling up fast

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Posted at 6:23 PM, Feb 16, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-16 20:23:12-05

UTAH COUNTY, Utah -- A new charter school for children with autism spectrum disorders in Utah County is filling up with registered students before it’s even been built.

Spectrum Academy broke ground on its new Pleasant Grove location just last month, and has already had to create wait-lists for some of its lower grade levels.

The Spectrum Academy opened its North Salt Lake location in 2006, and Sunday the school’s waiting list is more than 400 names long. The new Pleasant Grove location isn’t even finished being built, and already three grades are filled and have created waiting lists.

Jessica Schmute’s son Dalin is already registered for the Pleasant Grove school’s first school year. The 9-year-old with autism has been in and out of several elementary schools, and Schmute said finding one that fits his special needs has been difficult.

"With this school in place and the things that they’re doing, the prognosis looks good,” Schmute said. “They take care of them therapeutically, as far as their sensory is concerned as well as their social skills, which is all skills that they need to be able to grow and flourish as they become adults.”

Doctor Jaime Christensen, director of schools for Spectrum Academy, said the classes are filling up fast.

Utah has the highest number of autistic children in the nation, and schools like Spectrum Academy are in desperate demand.

“We’re at the point where we do have waiting lists for a couple of grades already,” Christensen said.

But school officials said interested parents should still call in and register. The school is projected to open for the 2014 school year and will serve kids in Kindergarten through eighth grade the first year. The school plans to continue to add grades until it serves 600 students K-12.

“I’m hoping that Spectrum can continue to expand and the community supports us in doing that because the need is endless," Schmute said.

Registration is now open on a first-come, first-serve basis. Once the initial 400 openings are full, students will be placed on a waiting list and receive admission on a lottery basis.

Visit the school’s website for more information.