Gilbert school helps autistic kids succeed

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

GILBERT, Ariz. -- Guiding your child's education can be challenging for any parent, but for parents with special-needs children, sometimes it can feel overwhelming. However, there are some tips and options that can help.

Shaun Millett loves going to and showing off his school, Pieceful Solutions in Gilbert.

But just a few years ago, his mother Jennifer Doucet feared his days in class might be over.

“We were at a point where I would have had to have home-schooled him," she said.

Shaun has autism, and his mom says navigating the education system can be challenging for parents with special-needs children.

“That is one of the biggest things is a lot of parents don't understand," Doucet said. "Especially with special-needs kids, you have rights. There are legal rights.“

Her advice? “I would suggest to a parent they get a hold of the special ed director at the district, not necessarily at their school because then they are going to be able to go over all of the options that the district has available for them.”

Many districts do have resources for special-needs kids, but Doucet says sometimes they don't.

“It's their job to educate your child. It is your job as a parent to make sure that they are doing it right and if they are not that you know you have other options out there," she said.

For her, the option was Pieceful Solutions.

“Pieceful Solutions is a K-12 school for children with autism or other developmental delays,” said founder Kami Cothrun.

She started Pieceful Solutions after hearing the frustrations of parents with special-needs kids.

“Trained staff is huge," Cothrun said.

Parents also want to know their kids are learning at the right level.

“And so, for example, if we had a fourth- and fifth-grade classroom, one group may be working at a kinder/first-grade level. Another one may be working at a second/third-grade level.“

And Cothrun says whatever school special-needs parents choose, they should make sure socialization skills are included.

“Many therapy agencies have social groups: Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Special Olympics, general ed sports," she said.

At Pieceful Solutions, they even offer help with life skills.

“And so that is really important to these families and these parents that they know their child is getting everything they need to be successful in life," Cothrun said.

And she says all you have to do is look at students like Shaun to know that even though these kids have special needs, you still have the power to help them succeed.

“They are capable," Cothrun said. "It takes time, and they need to be shown and taught, but they can do it.“