New autism school focuses on helping teens and young adults prepare for everyday life

Unicorn Village School opens up in Boca Raton

BOCA RATON, Fla. - Just eight days into the school year, Carol Nigro is watching her son Matthew come out of his shell.

Matthew transferred to the Unicorn Village Academy in Boca Raton, a school for students with autism and other neurological disorders.

Carol says when her son was in public school, he had a personal aid to keep him on task in class, he no longer needs one. He's now able to focus on classwork on his own.

"It made me realize he could've been doing that all along with the right environment. I am blessed he has that now," said Nigro.

Students are aged 14-22, a crucial time when school leaders say services for special needs are few and far between. The school offers counseling, speech and occupational therapy for the 25 students enrolled. The school has space for a total of 100 students.

There are also life skills classes for cooking, how to catch the bus, and even doing your own laundry.

"We want to take the education outside of the classroom, take them out in the community so they can practice what they learn here," said Sharon Alexander, the executive director for the Unicorn Children's Foundation which helps fund the school.

"It is truly individualized, not like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Instead they celebrate the square peg," said Nigro.

The ultimate goal is to develop their interests, from math to music. And before they're adults, help them find a job. 

That's something Carol Nigro admits she's been anxious about for years.

"Will he live independently, will he hold a job, will be successfully maneuver in the community?"

That may all be possible now that Matthew is somewhere he can flourish.

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