Online academy helps boy who has autism thrive in his education

Posted at 11:22 PM, Apr 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-17 08:40:03-04

For kids struggling with Autism, school can be a huge hurdle, for both them and their parents.

Managing their daily routine in the classroom can be a real challenge for the one and 68 kids who are autistic. 

"Kaleb was going to preschool, they pulled me aside and said Kaleb is having a hard time transitioning.  I don't know what that means, I'm offended, you know, we move on," explains Chantelle Buckner.  "He goes to second grade and he's having a hard time reading."

12-year-old Kaleb Davis is a very bright, high functioning autistic child.  He was attending Detroit Public Schools and was falling behind. His mom was frustrated with repeated phone calls from the school.  He was not keeping up and was constantly getting in trouble.

"He's acting out, it's behavioral issues and we need to correct those.  Everyone, principals, custodians, security - everyone knew me, that's how often I was at his school," said Buckner.

Kaleb said he had a hard time concentrating in class and completing assignments.

"Sometimes I just drifted away from doing it," Kaleb explains.  "Usually I didn't do it or understand it."

Jannell Phillips is a neuropsychologist at The Henry Ford Hospital Center for Autism and Disabilities in Hamtramck.

"There's a lot of challenges for kids that have autism and in schools in particular, there's social difficulties that arise," said Phillips. "The curriculum can be challenging for kids - behaviorally kids can have some differences and so that can be kind of difficult to manage in this whole setting." 

After receiving professional counseling, Chantelle decided public schools wasn't the right answer for Kaleb.  She researched her options and decided to enroll him in Highpoint Virtual Academy of Michigan.

"It has been the best decision, it's not home schooling - like it's my own curriculum, it's a virtual school you can take anywhere, you can go to the park," she says.  "He went from reading at a first grade level to fifth grade.  He went from not wanting to raise his hand and participate to raising his hand in class."

Dr. Phillips encourages parents to find the best option, but suggests starting with the public school system.

"I really encourage the parents just to have open communications with the schools," she adds.  "They really need to talk to their educators and come together to determine what's the best plan for the children."

She says the downfall of online classes, private schools and homeschooling can be lack of government mandated programs that's available in public schools and lack of socialization.

Kaleb has self-defense that he does for an hour a day.  There are kids he socializes with, which gives him opportunities to be around other children his age.

Kaleb is now thriving at Highpoint Academy.  When he grows up, he wants to be a paleontologist.

"A paleontologist researches ancient dinosaurs.  Seeing actual dinosaurs being resurrected from fossils would be a dream come true to me," said Kaleb.

"I thought my child wasn't going to be able to be a successful young man on his own, but he has shown us that whatever you set before me, I can conquer," said Buckner.  "I'm so proud of him. I really am."

Remember to talk to your school and doctor to find the best education for your child.

Everyone has different needs and challenges in their lives.