ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Children with autism who may often fall behind or lose interest in a school environment are blossoming at a St. Petersburg non-profit.
Bloom Achievement Center fosters a creative learning environment made specifically for children with autism.
"Bloom Achievement Center is the culmination of about 17 years of teaching," Kelly Paxton, director of Bloom Achievement Center said.
Paxton, affectionately known as "Miss Kelly," started the effort in 2021. The non-profit learning center is one-stop shopping for students who learn differently.
"A lot of our students that are neurodiverse have to go multiple places to get their support," Paxton explained. "Here they get the one-on-one and smaller environment as far as educational and remediation goes for natural skills and basic skills."
The center offers applied behavioral analysis, occupational therapy, speech, as well as a tailored Montessori education.
"When our children transition to other school settings that are a 35-hour a week based situation, they have all the self-actualization that they need and all the skills that they need to go other places in life," Paxton added.
That’s something that parents like Vanessa LeVesque appreciate. She has three children with autism who attend the center.
"Anywhere else that we went to, we just felt like we were a burden, that our children having different needs, it just felt like they were going to be an issue or a problem," shared LeVesque. "Whereas with Miss Kelly, she never looks at our kids like a burden, and rather she sees the potential that they have. And it's just it's a completely different experience."
It's an experience she is happy her children get to take part in.
"I think having a place like this in our community where so many parents feel like they don't have anyone to turn to or any resources that having this place here and having someone like Miss Kelly, it's just it's huge for St. Pete and the autism community," LeVesque said.
"My main goal is to support them feeling capable and independent and therefore everything that we do, they're expected to be able to do on their own," Paxton said.
The center is open from Monday-Friday.
LINK: Learn more at https://bloomachievement.com.