The Roanoker - July/August 2017 - 63
EDUCATION | AUTISM SPECTRUM
ing at a much higher levels, to the point of being able to
attend public schools.
Angie Leonard is founder and CEO of the recently
expanded BRAAC, a 34,000-square-foot, 80-employee
facility that accommodates 70 people (pre-school to 22
years old), with a wide range of learning abilities.
Leonard says that students "get what they need, from
toilet training, to eating, social skills and for all older ones
vocational education. There is no one size that fits all."
And there is an analysis of student skills every day. Some,
says Leonard, "transition back to [public] school. My son
spent half a day here and half a day at Lord Botetourt
High School." She smiles. "He wanted access to football."
Some of the BRAAC students even make it to college, says Leonard. "Right now, we have students at
Virginia Western [Community College] and Radford
The cost of BRAAC and similar facilities is borne by
the Community Services Act through the child's IEP (Individual Education Plan), some health insurance (covering children until their 12th birthday) and private funds.
When children are labeled "developmentally delayed,"
however, public funding can be hard to come by.
Love Kingsbury says her son's autism doesn't affect
his grades, "but it can be scary for a child to be around
higher functioning" students. Rollie Kingsbury attends
Roanoke County schools.
No matter the level, autism awareness and understanding have come a long way.
"Those with autism used to be labeled 'mentally retarded,'" says Leonard.
Trail says that "when I first started looking for alternatives to public school, there was nothing in the phone
book under 'autism.' I made it my mission" to find resources. "It is just in a mom. It is our journey. We were
born to it. We are not just parents: we became advocates."
She says she and Kingsbury "have about 30 clients [in
her advocacy group] which we have been retained to advocate for in the school by their parents. These kiddos are
a vast array of autism with many different issues within
the schools, most of which start with lack of 'Child Find,'
which is when the school is supposed to comprehensively
evaluate in all areas of development to be able to provide
goals and services to meet their needs."
"I can't un-see" autism, says Love Kingsbury. "When
I see struggle-for anybody's child-I have to get services; have to help others. We want these children to be
as independent as possible. Our children should not have
lower expectations because of autism."
"It takes us to do it," says Amy Trail. "The squeaky
wheel is going to get the attention. These kids are smart."
And so are their mothers.
AUTISM RESOURCES IN THE ROANOKE VALLEY
In the past, some parents have not been able to afford autism care. Private insurance and Medicaid will now pay for ABA in-home services up
to 12 years of age on private insurance and up to 18 for Medicaid. -DS
TO LEARN MORE:
Virginia Tech Autism Clinic
Roanoke Valley Autism
Parent Support Group
Camp Easter Seals
Roanoke Valley Speech
Creative Therapy Care
Dr. Felicity Adams
U.S. Office of
Office of Special
(mental health therapist)
JULY/AUGUST 2017 | 63