The Paragon School prepares students with autism for life's milestones

By Julie Broughton - Anchor

ORLANDO, Fla. - When a Central Florida mom couldn't find a program to fit her son's needs, she started her own school. The Paragon School serves high-functioning students with autism or Asperger's syndrome, using research-based methods.
Head of School Helen Leonard said the staff-to-student ratio at the school is about one to five. The 1,700-square-foot facility offers 12 classrooms, as well as a functional living classroom that teaches students how to cook and do laundry.
"We have a phrase that competence is confidence, so we feel the more we can prepare students in terms of skill base and the more they can do for themselves, the more their esteem will be," Leonard said.
In addition to typical academics, Leonard says the school offers specialized therapies, including one called "neuro net."
"That is working on a lot of physical milestones students miss throughout infancy and toddlerhood. This program helps remediate those and also helps to build reading, writing and math," Leonard said.
Another part of the program focuses on work skills. The Paragon School partners with 10 local businesses to offer jobs and internships. Junio Logan Smith says he loves getting work experience and also loves building his social skills.
"That's the one thing that's really great about this school. You get to make a lot of friends and just knowing that, it builds social skills. And it helps you with that so you can make more friends outside of school," Smith said. "What makes us different is who we are and it just brings us together."
Students who are eligible for the McKay and Gardiner Scholarships can use them to attend the Paragon School.

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