In the early 1990’s it became clear to Dr. Kathryn Stewart that adolescents with NLD and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) were in need of a more comprehensive program than the weekly outpatient treatment she was providing. In IEP meetings, in family sessions, in consultations with parents and school staff the needs of these bright, but socially limited kids were discussed and interventions suggested; interventions that often felt inadequate. The need for an educational program for bright, academically gifted kids with neurocognitive disorders became imperative.
In 1988, after hearing Dr. Stewart speak about the type of program needed for these students, Sue Thompson, well-known educator/speaker on the topic of NLD, Judy Lewis, webmistress of the NLD-line and later president of NLDAA and Kathy Allen, author of the book Star Shaped Pegs, approached Dr. Stewart with a challenge: would she be willing to take the action she herself had been suggesting for years and start a school for NLD and ASD kids?
The three put Dr. Stewart in touch with Aaron and Val Simon, parents of a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder who were willing to support this dream. With hard work and the overwhelming financial generosity of Val and Aaron Simon, the first Orion Academy board was formed and the work began. It took two full years of meetings and outreach to get the funding and details of our comprehensive high school off the ground.
Orion Academy opened its doors in September of 2000 with eight students, four teachers. By June of 2001 there were twelve students. Through out that first year, the Orion families who started with us were truly visionary because they believed in the mission and vision of Orion, and took a chance on a new and untried program.