Nationwide School Network Launches for Students with Autism

Arizona Autism Charter Schools, Inc., a network of specialized charter schools serving neuro-diverse children and winner of the 2022 Yass Prize honoring transformational education, announced plans to form The National Accelerator of Autism Charter Schools in partnership with the South Florida Autism Charter School, Inc., in Hialeah, Fla.

Diana Diaz-Harrison, founder and executive director of Arizona Autism Charter Schools, said they will use part of their $1 million Yass Prize to jumpstart the accelerator. The ultimate goal is to open autism-focused charter schools in every major U.S. city.

“With one in 44 children on the autism spectrum, there is a need for an autism-focused charter in every major city,” Diaz-Harrison said. “We are initially supporting founding teams who have reached out to us and have identified a need in their own cities and want support navigating the challenging process of starting a charter school.”

The new accelerator will provide committed start-up organizers with training and residencies at the existing schools’ campuses. Residencies will ensure that new founding teams have firsthand experience with pivotal practices specific to operating an autism charter, such as proper staffing ratios, embedded behavioral supports and added layers of safety practices. The purpose will be to fully immerse new school leaders in the day-to-day management and operation of such specialized schools. NAACS will also provide support for parent training, after-school programming and extracurricular support services.

Plans are underway to open schools in Tucson, Ariz.; Shreveport, La.; Tampa, Fla.; Las Vegas, Nev.; Dallas, Tex. and Los Angeles, Calif. Additional cities will be added with the goal of operating schools in at least 10 cities by 2030 and twice that number by 2035.

Arizona Autism Charter Schools is the only public charter network for students with autism in Arizona and the first in the West dedicated to serving neuro-divergent learners.

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About Julie Coleman

Julie Coleman is a contributing writer for Frontdoors Media. She is Principal of Julie Coleman Consulting, providing strategic philanthropy consulting services for individuals, families, businesses, foundations and nonprofit organizations.
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