Their Voice: Spectrum Academy hosts groundbreaking ceremony


The following article was published in the Daily Herald on January 2, 2021.  (Image courtesy of Monica Villar and posted by Daily Herald) 

In some ways, it feels like 2020 was a year where time stood still. A lot of our plans for activities and traditional events were put on hold as more and more of these were cancelled. However, while a lot of things have been put on hold this year, some organizations, including Spectrum Academy, have moved forward and begun to pave the way for future growth.

Spectrum Academy began, as most organizations that support individuals with special needs do, by a group of mothers who were “frustrated with the educational opportunities that were available for students with autism.” In 2006, after a lot of coordination and hard work, the “first charter school in the state dedicated solely to the academic, behavioral and social success of students with high-functioning autism was opened.” What started as an elementary program of 150 students has, in the last twelve years, expanded to include elementary and high school programs in multiple campuses with a combined population of over 1,400 students.

Earlier this month, Spectrum had a groundbreaking ceremony just east of their Pleasant Grove location. This new building which is expected to be completed in August 2021, will house their STARS program. The Spectrum Transition and Academic Resource School — also known as STARS, similar to the one in North Salt Lake — serves students in grades K-12 and provides differentiated instruction on the Essential Elements to help students develop skills that support a successful transition to adulthood.

The new Pleasant Grove campus will be a 22,000 square foot facility with more than a dozen classrooms, two serving kitchens, sensory rooms, open space to socialize, therapy rooms and areas where students can go when they are stressed. The campus will be tailored to students with higher needs and will include a mock apartment where they can learn to make a bed, wash and fold laundry and other skills necessary for success as an adult.  Students will also receive instruction on academic skills, communication skills, self-regulation, life skills and transitional skills development programs in age-appropriate groups.

The world is a better place and holds more promise for adolescents with autism as they transition from school to adult life. It wasn’t that long ago that students who had aged out of the school system didn’t have a lot of options and found themselves with little to look forward to. Now, with programs around the state including STARS, there is better likelihood that these individuals will have options of working or secondary education like their peers.

Congratulations to all of the people at Spectrum Academy for the work they have put into building a better future for young people with autism. Thank you to the group of mothers who did not give up and found a way to improve education for their own children as well as many others.