Hailey was diagnosed with autism when she was six. Despite being placed in various special education programs, she fell behind in school, which made her frustrated and angry. She had limited social skills, was bullied, isolated and very unhappy. In high school, she was placed in a group with other autistic students, but recalls being treated like a baby and was bored because she wasn’t given a plan tailored to her strengths. Hailey finished school but didn’t earn a high school diploma or a GED because she was too far behind in core subjects due to the nature of her program.

“I didn’t deserve to be in programs like that,” Hailey pointed out. “Those teachers treated all the students with disabilities the same. They don’t understand what you really need or what level of a disability you have. Teachers need to understand what help a student really needs and what they’re going through in life.”

Hailey found that empathy at our school. In just 14 months, she caught up on credits and graduate in December. Our personalized, one-on-one teaching helped her develop her strengths and gain confidence. More importantly, her counselors and teachers helped Hailey with life skills like anger management, and coping skills that will help her transition into adulthood.

“I used to get easily frustrated over my credits, social skills and attitude. I got so much help with tutoring and helping me learn things like using a calculator to take notes. The school helped me change my attitude by using coping skills, taking deep breaths, and learning about passive, aggressive and assertive behavior/communication in counseling.”

Though painfully shy, Hailey told her counselor and teacher that she wanted to make friends. Through role playing, she learned to introduce herself to other students, ask how they are feeling and make small talk.

“I’ve learned to be an innovator, driven and a hard-working student because my teachers always challenged me. They even understood everything I’d been through before coming here. I learned to control my emotions whenever I’m sad or angry about something.”

Today Hailey is happy and eagerly taking classes in child development at a community college, with a goal of becoming the owner of a daycare. She volunteers at a nonprofit organization for kids and adults with disabilities to help them with activities such as art, dance, sports, theatre, field trips and summer camp. She is determined to help others with disabilities by showing them kindness and empathy.

Written By:
Ann Abajian