- Parma City School District
A.C.E.S. Center for Education provides high-quality instruction, new opportunities for students with autism
October 13, 2020
Accept. Champion. Educate. Support.
These are the four core values to A.C.E.S. Center for Education, the new school for autism established by the Parma City School District.
The school is starting out serving students K – 5 but will expand and grow to serve students K – 12 who are medically and educationally diagnosed with autism and require a different type of programming to access and learn curriculum.
Located inside Parma Senior High School, A.C.E.S. Center for Education is a separate school that has been completely renovated to meet the needs and provide high-quality, 21st-century instruction for students.
“We are a developmental model and we focus on the therapeutic and educational aspect,” Caitlin Sabo, Director of A.C.E.S. Center for Education, described. “Our classrooms are six students with one intervention specialist, and depending on the need of the classroom, one to two special education assistants as well. Our classrooms are strictly instructional.”
The school has three rooms that are specifically tied to a student’s sensory needs including a ‘volcano room’ for students who are having large emotions, a sensory room to help regulate and calm students, and a sensory motor gym designed for a child’s nervous system.
Other support services, like speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy, are included as the school will follow each child’s IEP.
There are currently eight students at the school, five in one classroom, and three in another. Originally classes were going to be divided by grade, but instead, staff evaluated the needs of the students and split the classes accordingly. The vision is to have 6-8 grade programming next year.
“To build infrastructure and a solid foundation, we need to start small,” Sabo said. “There is way too much that goes into programming and the different avenues our students can take. Being able to establish those pathways takes time and we want to do it right. We don’t want to grow a program so fast that it’s not able to support the kids because that’s what we are here for.”
It’s not very common for other public schools to have a separate school dedicated to students with autism. However, the district recognized the need and made the concept become a reality.
“Oftentimes students go from a self-contained classroom, which is the most restrictive you can get in public schools, to private outplacement,” Sabo shared. “So, for Parma Schools to recognize that there is a middle option for families and IEP teams to consider, is a testament to our leadership and doing what is best for all students.”
“I’m ecstatic that the opportunity is here,” she added. “If we can keep our students in the community in which they live and have a greater chance of reintegrating them back to their home schools or moving to that less restrictive environment, that is our ultimate goal. I’m excited that our kids get to stay here in the district and that we are developing a program that gives them access to their Parma peers and the ability to learn their community.”
The school is working to develop partnerships in the district, such as with Nutrition Services to grow their own garden in front of their school entrance and the Career and Technical Education teaching professions program.
With only a few weeks into the school’s opening, Sabo said there has been amazing progress.
“The rapport and relationships our staff is building with students are outstanding,” she expressed. “You hear laughter, you hear the excitement, you see the smiles, and these are just going to continue as the year goes on. We have a truly phenomenal staff and the success of the program is going to be because of them.”
“My goal is for our kids to feel like they have a place in the world,” she further shared. “I want them to come to school, feel supported, and even reach achievements that they never thought they could. I want our families to feel supported and I want our community to have a better understanding of our students.”
With a background in school psychology, Sabo has a strong passion for A.C.E.S. Center for Education and the programming being developed for students.
“I have always said I wanted to change the world one kid at a time,” she shared. “I want to give our kids as many opportunities I can regardless of their circumstances. I want to make a small imprint on the world, change it, and leave it a little bit better than when I started.”