Gersh Academy Student on a Beach

One Step Closer – Somewhere to Belong

Program: Gersh Academy
Campus: Cougar Mountain

My son is 9 years old and started at Gersh Academy Cougar Mountain Campus in Fall 2019. He is non-verbal, has an Autism diagnosis as well as a very rare chromosome micro-deletion. He has always had success in school but the move to WA was our biggest yet so I knew he may struggle a bit at first. Before learning about Gersh I had been interviewing and visiting many different schools (both public and private) and none of them met my standards for what I knew my son deserved and some even turned him away due to being nonverbal or displaying behaviors. I was defeated…..and then I found Gersh! All I wanted for my son was to find a school who could encourage his strengths as well as have empathy for his weaknesses and have patience with his behaviors. I wanted a school that embraced him for all he is while also guiding him outside of his comfort zone onward and upward toward success. I wanted a school I could drive away from each day knowing he was safe and happy…and finally.. finally I had found it!

Gersh is everything I could ask for and more for my son. FINALLY, a school that accepted kids throughout the ENTIRE spectrum. When I say accept, I don’t just mean admission wise, I mean fully, truly accept and love and appreciate for who they are and what they bring to the world. He was thrilled to be there his first week. He had great days and he had bad days (as he still does) but the good days are outweighing the bad and his bad days are becoming more and more like “moments”. His teachers and coaches are always thinking of ways to help him and guide him. To make sure they honor his ability to do wonderful in academics as well as develop plans for his behaviors so he can be successful throughout his school day AND throughout his life as a whole.

He absolutely loves his teacher and his coaches (as do I!). I couldn’t ask for a better team! He has so much fun with his peers, both in his class and in other classes and I hear he is loved by everyone in the school and I believe it because I see it! I am always hearing from everyone how much of a joy he is and it absolutely melts my heart and is a constant reassurance that he is in the right place and a safe place. I never worry about his well-being while he is at Gersh. I know he is amazing hands by people who are becoming close contenders in knowing him just as well as I do.

My son has already grown so much since he has been at Gersh. I feel like he is coming into his own there. I see a confidence in him I haven’t seen before. I see new abilities arise in him each week and I see the behaviors become less and less and much easier to manage. His academic skills are gaining in strides and his social skills are blowing me out of the water. Did I mention he has also become a drummer since starting at Gersh?!

At the end of each school day, when he is running to the car laughing hysterically hand in hand with his coaches, I know there is no better place for him than Gersh and I am so thankful for everyone that makes our campus and every campus possible!

About the One Step Closer Campaign

For over 30 years, our mission has never wavered, to change the lives of individuals on the autism spectrum and their families. We are humbled to have helped so many children, so many families across the U.S. and abroad thrive.

All year, we’ll be sharing the stories of our students and families – stories of hope and progress, of perseverance and success. Stay tuned for stories from each of our programs, including our schools, summer camps, clinics, and post-secondary programs, and all of the fantastic students and families we’ve had the honor of impacting. Keep watch here and on social media for more of these incredible stories.

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