By: Meghan McRoberts
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — A local family is going the extra mile to give their son on the autism spectrum, and other children with developmental disabilities, the best chance at success.
Kristine Erice and her husband are starting their own school after struggling to find the right fit for their 12-year-old son Dillon.
Erice has lived in Port St. Lucie for several years, most of which she has home-schooled Dillon.
“He’s excited to learn, he wants to learn,” Erice said.
She also enrolls him in enrichment classes at area schools.
“What I really feel like he needs and kids on the spectrum need is to learn social skills and life skills,” Erice said.
Over the years, she said the classes fell short of what she felt was needed for Dillon. So, she decided to take matters into her own hands.
“Just over the last few months, I was seeing a lot of the other parents and their frustrations. I’m very lucky because I get to stay home with my son and he’s doing great and homeschooling has been a good fit for him. But, I know a lot of other parents just can’t do that. I want to be able to create that kind of atmosphere for their children because I feel like that’s what will work for them.”
She has received approval from the state to start her school, calling it the Exceptional Academy for Differently-Abled Learners.
“I’ve been wanting to do this for a really long time. This has been like when you feel like there’s something you’re meant to do,” Erice said.
She is planning to begin with 12-15 students from first to sixth grade, giving each child an individualized learning plan.
It’s also important to her to serve as a resource for families navigating life with a child on the Autism Spectrum.
"When my son was first diagnosed, it’s really lonely. I want to take that away and help people to not feel like I did when my son was first diagnosed.”
She has future hopes of the school growing to help as many families as possible. She said she is already getting interest and support.
“Because these kids are exceptional. They’re amazing and you just have to get to know them and give them a chance and they’ll show you their many gifts.”
To help with startup costs, Erice is hosting a comedy show fundraiser on Aug. 1 at the PGA Village Verano Clubhouse beginning at 7 p.m.
She is aiming to open the non-profit school in January 2020.
Learn more about the fundraiser and the school here.