Gateway Academy to use new method to help its students with Asperger’s, Autism

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a 15 percent increase of autism’s prevalence nationally, rising to 1 in 59 children, from 1 in 68 children over two years.

Gateway Academy will use equine assisted therapy from Hunkapi in Scottsdale. (Submitted Photo)

Gateway Academy, a private school for children with Asperger’s Syndrome and High Functioning Autism at 3939 E. Shea Blvd., will be using a new way to help this growing demographic, according to a press release. Students can access Gateway Academy tuition free with the help of Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, according to a press release.

While Gateway Academy has utilized equine assisted therapy and specifically Hunkapi’s Equine Therapy Program, 12051 N. 96th St. in Scottsdale, for 10 years, it will be redoubling its efforts to provide additional help to their twice-exceptional students outside of the classroom.

“Equine therapy is a great tool to help students rebuild self-esteem, rekindle curiosity, and encourage the risk-taking necessary for learning,” Executive Director and CEO of Gateway Academy Robin Sweet said in a prepared statement.

“We are so thankful for this wonderful program at Hunkapi, which I have seen change so many of our students lives over the years.”

The benefits from equine therapy have been supported by large amounts of research, a release states, when it comes to the education and special programs activated at the school.

The school will start the equine therapy program at Hunkapi the third week of October. Benefits from equine assisted activities include developing sensory integration, mindfulness, building healthy relationships and connecting with others, regulating thoughts, emotions and behaviors, and identifying strengths.

The students also learn how to horseback ride and groom the horses.

“When I watch the kids ride the horses, I see busy feet become quiet, anxious minds turn to focused, wandering eyes change to determined, and clenched jaws morph into smiles,” Hunkapi’s Founder and Executive Diretor Terra Schaad said in a prepared statement.

“It changes everything about their nervous systems; braced turns to relaxed, closed turns to open, fear turns to love. It’s more than learning riding skills; it’s taking the reins approach to learning how to love and live life.”

Gateway Academy has a capacity of 150 students, with 97 students currently enrolled for the 2018-19 school year. Enrollment can take place at any point throughout the year.

While a private school, Arizona parents can also use the state’s existing Empowerment Scholarship Accounts for Gateway’s tuition, if they feel the school is a better fit than a district one.

Empowerment Scholarship Accounts are available for children with a variety of special needs, including foster children, Native American children, and children of active military.

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