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Natural Awakenings Northwest Florida

Elementary School Focuses on Children with Autism

Oct 05, 2016 07:38PM ● By Diana Pereira

Calley Middlebrooks

A unique elementary school for ages 3 through 6th grade is opening in Santa Rosa Beach. By early 2017, if all goes according to plan, children with autism and related disabilities as well as typically developing and advanced developing children will be learning and playing together at South Walton Academy.

Like many game changers in education, SWA Executive Director Calley Middlebrooks, a developmental therapist, was inspired in part by her experience as a parent: 

“As a professional helping families, and personally as a mother seeking services for my son, I have seen the challenges we face as a community with the lack of services available, specifically for those with autism. I wanted to create an education program that consists of a comprehensive curriculum, teaching children on an individual basis while allowing them the classroom experience to learn from and teach their peers.”

A private nonprofit school, SWA is creating a program to facilitate cognitive, language, social, adaptive and motor development in order to help each child reach his or her highest potential, Middlebrooks says. 

     “Our goal is to provide a broad range of individualized, educational and therapeutic opportunities for all our students, with guided instruction in the areas of education, behavior, social skills and communication,” she says. “Low student-teacher ratios will allow every child to get the individual attention needed for success. All our licensed therapists are certified in the Integrated Listening System, which is new to this area and is helping make great strides in overall child development.”

SWA will be the only area school created specifically to educate and treat children with autism, and the only area facility offering Applied Behavior Analysis, occupational, developmental and speech therapy all in one location. Ultimately Middlebrooks hopes to add a middle and high school as well.​

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