When Nick Turchi was in fourth grade, his family realized he
needed more services to assist with his autism. A student at Nordonia Hills City
Schools at the time, the district recommended Kids First in Akron, run by the
Summit Educational Service Center (ESC).
Flash forward seven years. Nick, now 17, is a student in TOPS, or the Transition Opportunity Program for Students. It is the Summit ESC’s program for high school students with autism. “He loves school,” said his mom, Ginny Turchi. “His speech has come a long way while at Kids First, as well as his ability to express himself.”
Both Kids First and TOPS provide students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) comprehensive educational and therapeutic programs from kindergarten through twelfth grade. The services offered are determined by the student’s individualized learning plan, or IEP, and may include speech language therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, adaptive physical education and music therapy.
The reality of students achieving significant milestones
throughout the past 10 years is not lost on the instructors, such as when one
who had only communicated with a device learned to become verbal.
“It was wonderful to see the progression of a student in learning how to read some words and say the words,” said TOPS teacher Kanin Bailey. “You could see how proud the student was of their new abilities. The team approach at our school is fundamental to the progress our students can achieve.”
Students must be referred to the program through their home school district, which covers the cost of tuition. For additional information on the program, visit the website here.