Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

April 18, 2013

New school for autistic children hosting benefit walk

Mike James
The Independent

ASHLAND — A new school for autistic children is hoping to raise its profile and a few dollars for its services with a walk and awareness day Saturday.

The event will start at 10 a.m. at the former Steve and Barry’s store in the Kyova Mall. Walkers can get information on the school and about other resources for autistic children and their families in the Tri-State.

The I Believe I Can Learn school is close to completing its first year of existence and its five students “have done wonderfully,” said executive director Jackie Martin. “It’s been a huge learning curve for us.”

Opened in August 2012 by the nonprofit I Believe Foundation inside the Debord Terrace Community Center, the school helps fill a need for schooling for autistic children, Martin said.

Martin and her colleague, Courtney Sharp, both occupational therapists, learned about gaps in education for autistic children through conversations with parents who brought their children for therapy.

The school runs on tuition, grants and donations, so community help is imperative, and organizers hope the walk will bring more community exposure.

 Its staff includes a teacher, Kelli Chandler, and an aide, Stephanie Cox. The school is seeking state accreditation and Medicaid approval, and Martin hopes to be able to add one or more students to its enrollment in the fall.

It also offers summer programs in sports, dance and other activities. “We think of it as a stepping stone to help integrate children back into public schools,” Martin said.

She is planning some summer fundraisers, including a 5K obstacle run June 1 at Wildwood Park. Details on the event are at tristateracer.com.

Registration for the Saturday walk is $20 and all proceeds benefit the school. Nonwalkers may donate, too. Registered walkers get T-shirts. There will be inflatables, face-painting, door prizes and games.

MIKE JAMES can be reached at mjames@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2652.