Gr8 Inspiration: Local mom opens school to help children with autism

SEFFNER, Fla. (WFLA) — Raising a child with autism isn’t easy.  Navigating education, extracurricular activities, or just simply finding normalcy is a struggle for many parents.

“We tried different schools different classrooms. We tried different teachers. It was very heartbreaking, you just want your son to fit,” said Colette Stibich, who has a non-verbal son who is on the spectrum.

The Seffner mom was sharing her feelings with a fellow mother one day at BuddyBall, an after school activity for children with autism, and suddenly an idea was born.

The two moms decided to join together to open a school that would welcome all children with autism from K through 12 called Impact Academy.

The first campus opened in Seffner and the two ladies expected about 30 kids to show up.

“We just continued to grow and knock down more walls and hire more teachers next thing you know we’re at capacity there, and now we have people on this side of the Bay knocking on the door- saying we need space we need help we need access to somewhere our children can go and be accepted,” said Stibich.

Soon, a second campus opened and the two women who came together to fight for their own sons ended up helping so many families.

“Even though sometimes it’s exhausting. I told Colette, I went to bed four years ago worrying about one little boy, now out of our 125 students total, we have about 95 little boys that we go to bed worrying about and a few girls. So for us it’s the driving force,” said Impact Academy Principal Kathy Gross.

Now, the two women are expanding their concept again to help young adults on the spectrum, find jobs and learn how to blend into mainstream society.

One Impact Academy is not for profit and the other is private, but those children have access to McKay Scholarships, so most pay little to no tuition at all. Learn more here.

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