Students and adults work together at the Autism Academy for Education and Development Chandler campus. 

A new K-12 school for children with autism is coming to Tucson. 

Autism Academy for Education and Development will be open for the 2019-20 school year in the former Sonoran Science Academy space at 6880 E. Broadway near Kolb Road. 

Enrollment in the private school is open for children in grades K-9 for the first year (do that here). Subsequent grades will be added each year. 

The school boasts the ability to focus on individual needs of students because of its low student-to-teacher ratio and small class sizes.

"We have a really good student to adult ratio," says Laura Newcomb, the school's founder. "Higher functioning kids are 4-to-1 and for lower functioning kids we have more adults."

Classes cap out at 17 students and include a lot of small group instruction, Newcomb adds. 

The school caters to children on all levels of the spectrum, from low-functioning life skills students to high-functioning college bound students.

Students get academic classes along with art, music, PE, life skills and technology.

The school uses ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) methodology along with best teaching practices for children with autism, says Shannon Mitchell, the school's executive director.

"We're not a sole ABA school," Mitchell says. "We use what works for the kids. Every methodology doesn't work for every kid."

It also offers animal, occupational and speech therapies which are included in tuition. And, there's a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) on staff. 

Annual tuition is $13,500 for half-day kindergarten, $27,000 for full day kindergarten through 8th grade and $28,500 for high school. There are a variety of scholarship opportunities including Empowerment Scholarship Accounts and Student Tuition Organizations. Learn more about that here.

Newcomb founded the school about seven years ago after working as a special education director and principal.

"What I had to do was go out and find placement for kiddos and when I went out looking at programs I didn't see anything that really covered the whole spectrum," Newcomb says. "Nor did I see anything that was autism specific. So I was like, I'm gonna start my own program."

She started in Gilbert with 24 students on one campus. The school now works with about 400 children on three Phoenix-area campuses. 

The expansion to Tucson has been in the works for about a year-and-a-half. The school was receiving calls and messages from families in Tucson wanting more school options for children with autism, Newcomb says. 

The school is currently hiring teachers and paraprofessional support staff. You can apply online here

You can learn more about the new school at an informational event March 28. Details below. 

AAED Tucson Informational Meeting

What: Learn about the program, get help with the enrollment and funding process and get your child's IEP and MET reviewed for enrollment eligibility. Administration, teachers and specialists will be on hand to answer specific questions. You'll also be able to meet the Tucson campus director, Melissa Krueger.

When: Thursday, March 28, 4:30-6 p.m.

Where: ALoft Tucson University Hotel in the Tactical Room, 1900 E. Speedway

Cost: Free

Info: Go here for details and to RSVP

#ThisIsTucson is made possible by people who ❤️ our community just as much as our five-woman team. If you believe in what we do, support our work by becoming a member today

Angela Pittenger | This Is Tucson