Valley school specializing in autistic students celebrates new location

Posted at 6:08 PM, Apr 20, 2017

If you walk into a classroom with Robin Sweet, you know immediately she is passionate about her students.

After her child was diagnosed with autism, she started searching for a school specialized toward kids of the autism spectrum. Instead, her dead-ends led her to start Gateway Academy — a private K-12 day school.

In 2005 she had just six students. Today the school has 74 bright and talented young people.

"Because they’re smart, they know that they're different," says Sweet. "No kid wants to be different. So here, they're not different."

The classes at Gateway are small — just a handful of students with each teacher. But they are nothing like a traditional public school. Every teacher uses sensory integration so every class is hands-on. 

Bill Dutcher's son Dawson has been attending Gateway for five years. Now a junior, Dawson plays in Gateway's band class.

"To have him go through a public school system would just eat him alive," says Dutcher. Here, it's easier for Dawson and other students to learn and make friends without the fear of being bullied. 

"A lot of kids don't understand kids that are on the spectrum and it would have been traumatic for him to be in that situation," says Dutcher.

Gateway's new location on Shea Boulevard in Phoenix is about double the size of the old building.

The school is celebrating its grand opening Saturday, April 29 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.