MINNETONKA, Minn. - Autism diagnoses seem to be on the rise, with the CDC now estimating that one in 42 Minnesota kids is on the autism spectrum.
One school in Minnesota is working to make sure those kids are set up for success in college.
The Academy of Whole Learning in Minnetonka claims the distinction of the only school in the state to offer a K-12 program for kids with autism up to the age of 21.
The head of the private school, Wyayn Rasmussen, says it's one of only a few in the country to help meet students with autism where they are at.
“Autism is a social communication disorder, so it’s diagnosed by having social difficulties or communication difficulties, so if those are not directly addressed, we can’t help students learn the skills in that area to be successful later in life,” said Rasmussen. “The main thing they learn differently here is we integrate our social skills teaching into every classroom and every moment, so if in the middle of math class a student blurts out, we can stop the lesson in a moment and talk about the importance of listening and raising your hand.”
The school’s tuition is $27,000, and financial assistance is offered. Lue Ramberg says it’s worth every penny, as she wants to see her child go to college and succeed.
“Social skills are integrated into everything, so they can understand the social world better," Ramberg said. "As they work through this, there are teachers making corrections or help them understand it better, which, it’s not there in the public school system."
According to Rasmussen, one-third of children with autism go on to college - and 80 percent of those children drop out.
“So what we’re trying to do is come up with strategies, study skill strategies, but also those social skills strategies, self-advocating strategies, so when they go to college they can handle the busyness,” she said.
Ramberg says parents should know there are options and support.
“There’s no reason for any parent to struggle," said Ramberg. "If their child is struggling in school there are options, and this is definitely one of them."
Learn more about Academy of Whole Learning on the school's website.