LAS VEGAS - When he was only about three-years-old, Mitchell Ostrovsky's family knew something wasn't right. "We thought Mitchell was speech-delayed. He's a boy, first child," said Mitchell's mother Julie Ostrovsky.
After doing some research on the Internet and visiting the doctor, Mitchell's family learned what was wrong. "She called the next day and said, ‘Your son has severe autism,'" Julie Ostrovsky said. "That was hard to hear and a devastating diagnosis for a parent."
Mitchell, now 12-years-old, never learned to speak. His primary form of communication is sign language. It's one of many challenges Julie says both she and her son face every day. "You can't prepare yourself for a child with autism," she said.
Catina Haverlock is the special education director for the Autism Academy at Cumorah, which opens next month. She also has a child with autism. "It was really a hard thing to come to terms with," Haverlock said.
She says autism is a disorder that is becoming increasingly common. "Conservatively speaking, one in every 100 children is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder," she said.
Haverlock says educational resources for children with autism are lacking. She hopes to change that with the opening of the Autism Academy. The school is designed specifically to teach children with autism. "Kids with autism, they are all so different. They all exhibit different strengths and different deficits. That requires very customized educational planning," she said.
The Ostrovskys and many others plan to enroll their children, when the school opens. "They are built for our kids," Julie Ostrovsky said. "The classrooms have academics built for our kids." She hopes the school will give her son a new lease on life. "It will offer our children the opportunity to blossom and be the best they can be. That makes me feel wonderful," she said.
The Autism Academy is enrolling children ages 5 to 14. Fifteen students have already signed up for classes.