News 12 This Morning/Wednesday January 15, 2014
(WRDW)--After 24 years working in Richmond County schools, Jill Sharpe was excited to get her son, John Thomas, into class.
"We adopted him from Russia when he was two years old," Sharpe explained.
She says he started school at age four.
"We got him in Richmond County. We got him in Special Ed and they helped us just start him out," she said. "He did really great up until about 4th grade and we felt like that we needed to find something else for him because he was having issues.
Sharpe says several doctors diagnosed him differently.
"Somebody said he was autistic, he had aspergers, he was LSD, AD, ADD, ADHD," she said.
After private school didn't work, they tried homeschooling before finding SOAR Academics Academy.
"He went from a 2nd grade reading level to now he's on grade level, his grade level--6th grade. It's only been two, three months," she said.
"You don't have to fit a mold when you come here because we'll teach you according to your learning style," said Kenisha Higgins.
Higgins, Educational Director at SOAR, tells me they're finding success in students like John Thomas by using an approach public schools can't provide.
"I don't fault teachers at all," she explained. "When I have kids that come from big classroom settings and they've got IEP's (students with Individual Education Programs)who require so many accommodations, we know a teacher can't do that. And that's why here we have four teachers. We want each child to receive that individual attention."
"I actually thought 'he's never going to be able to go on his own,'" said Sharpe. "And, I am hoping that SOAR Academy will be able to just lead him in the right direction to where he wants to go to college."
Higgins tells me, aside from small class sizes, the school uses a multi-sensory approach with students. Instead of lectures, worksheets and online learning, students learn by using sight, sound, touch and movement in their lessons.
SOAR does not only cater to learning disable students. Higgins says 75 percent of the parents there work, so SOAR is also an option for parents who want their children home-schooled, but aren't able to do it themselves because of scheduling.
Right now parents pay for each student out of pocket, but Higgins says she is applying for grants and looking for alternate funding as the school continues to grow.
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