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Wow! What a year it has been for Max! We started the year with high hopes and we were not disappointed. Max is now completing puzzles, sitting for stories, requesting us to read him books, consistently going to the bathroom without struggle, laughing at funny things, playinggames of chase, using his I-Pad, and is remarkably more patient with his friends, family, and therapists.

As a mother of a special needs child, you understand better than anyone what this means to us. We have struggled for so long to find the right place for Max. There were the schools in West Virginia that didn’t understand autism and were unwilling to allow us to bring in our own help. There was the school in Florida that understood autism but didn’t have the resources or staffing or patience to work one on one with our child. There was the charter school for autism, that felt more like an institution than a welcoming learning environment. And then we found Sydney’s School.

 Max is eager to go to school. He loves the structure and the support he gets from the classroom and his therapists. His therapists at All Children’s Hospital make an easy transition from class to therapy and back again. Speech, occupational, and behavioral therapists work together to design a program that will work for our family. Simply put, it works beautifully. Yes, there are bumps and stumbles along the way. But every time we have stumbled and asked for help, we have found it at Sydney’s School.

I’m writing this to thank you. I give thanks to you and your family. Thanks to you and your amazing friends at Avila. Thanks to your dedicated work to a school that you started out of love and caring and have continued to support even though you and your family have moved far from the gates of Sydney School. Your love for Sydney and all kids like Sydney is remarkable. So many of us struggle daily and have grand ideas of how to make it better but we get wrapped up in our lives and don’t step forward to make it happen. I give thanks that you didn’t follow the crowd....that you worked hard to pull the school together and fight to make it affordable for more kids to make great strides at school.

We know Max would have been warehoused at public school. He is non-verbal and doesn’t have a lot of discipline problems (aside from wanting to stand on top of everything dangerous) and so he would have been allowed to sit in a corner and flip through books or stare at the ceiling. At Sydney’s School he is engaged and excited about learning. He is making progress! All of this is my way of saying thank you. If I could get organized enough to send you and your family a thank you note every day in the coming year I would do it. But...I’m not that organized so I hope that you will keep this note and pull it out every time you feel like your hard work is not appreciated or needed. It is. It is appreciated more than you will ever know.

All my family’s love,

Wendy Radcliff

Sydney's School

Our youngest son Julius was diagnosed with severe autism a month after his second birthday in March of 2006.  At the time Julius had no appropriate play skills, was non-verbal, showed no affection towards others, and cried a lot due to sensory overload. He spent most of the day spinning the wheels on his cars over and over or staring at ceiling fans and flapping his hands.  We weren’t given any hope for him and we were terrified of what the future would hold for him.

After doing some research on the Internet I learned of many therapies out there that had helped children with autism.  One of the therapies was Applied Behavioral Analysis, and I learned this was one of the best ways for these children to learn.  I learned also that with the right therapies and early interventions these children could thrive and become productive citizens.  I also learned how important interaction with typical peers was for these children and knew this is what I wanted for my son.

My husband and I toured the public school system when Julius was three and learned that they did not teach using ABA nor did they integrate the more severe autistic children with the typical students.  We were shown an “autism unit” that was busy with many other severe children and very little staff to handle them.  We were told he could not be integrated with the other developmentally delayed children in that Exceptional Learning Program because they said he was not high-functioning enough to tolerate that classroom. We left there feeling very depressed and worried for our son.

We then found out about Sydney’s School through the autism community and heard that not only did they integrate the autistic and typical kids together but they also taught using ABA.  We promptly put him on the waiting list and finally got the call that he could start in the fall of 2007.

Julius had a rough start at first because it was all very overwhelming for him, but the staff was incredible and so patient with him and they gave him the attention and compassion he really needed at that time.  The typical children were great role models for him and he learned so much from them as well.  I never, ever had to worry about my son while he was there because I knew what a fabulous staff they had and that everyday he was learning more and more.  The staff always took the time to write very detailed notes about his day and I always felt very informed about how he was doing.

Julius spent 2 very wonderful years at Sydney’s School and made many, many friends.  He is now a very verbal, loving, and affectionate, as well as very social child.  If it weren’t for this school that was willing to work so intensely with a severely autistic child, our son would not be where he is today.  Because all of the great progress he made there I was able to integrate him into a regular Kindergarten classroom in the public school system this year.  This is something that seemed impossible when he was diagnosed 3 years ago.

Our son is proof that with the right interventions these children can thrive and get better.  Julius is reading and writing right along with his peers without the help of an aide. There is just one teacher and 17 other children in his class and he has made many friends there as well.  His teacher is shocked that he hade such a grim diagnoses 3 years ago and believes Sydney’s School is responsible for his successful outcome.  Today he came home and performed the songs and hand movements they were practicing for the Thanksgiving program and I cried because I remember being told he might never talk!

We are eternally grateful to Sydney’s School and feel so fortunate that this school was there for us.  I feel that all children with autism deserve this type of early intervention and hope that one day Sydney’s School will be able to service all children in the Tampa Bay area.

Julius, now at age 5, is happy and well adjusted!



Our Son was three and a half years old when he was diagnosed with Autism in June 2005.
The emotional stress that this diagnosis brings to the entire family is something which no family should ever have to experience.

So, at an age when kids are just supposed to be kids and do nothing else other than play and have fun... our son was dragged through extensive evaluations and testing.  It seemed like everything that he said, did or even thought about was scrutinized.

It was with sheer desperation that we started looking out for schools that would best meet the needs of our son.  We were excited when he was accepted into Sydney's School.

Sydney's School is unique in the area because of several things.  Most importantly they integrate kids on the Autism spectrum with typically developing kids.  This provided our son with a great learning environment and the normally developing peers served as great role models.

Their class sizes were small which was perfect as our son gets easily overwhelmed in a busy large classroom.

There was a trained Aide available for him to provide one on one teaching and at the same time guide him towards independence.

Sidney's School was truly a Godsend for our son at that crucial early stage in his life.  The staff at Sydney's School were very focused, caring, loving and strived to make a positive difference in our son.

Our son made significant progress during the three years he spent at Sydney's School.

He is currently at a small private school and is doing reasonably well.  He still requires a One on One Aide for a part of his school day.  Yes there are still goals to be achieved and progress to be made.  However he is moving at a steady pace in the right direction and we firmly believe the strong foundation that he received at Sydney's School is his stepping stone towards Success.

We wish the School great Success.

Ananthi & Jey


Click Map for Directions!

Sydney's Academy
St. Patrick Catholic Church
4518 South Manhattan Avenue
Tampa, FL 33611
T: (813) 835-4591 | F: (813) 832-3427