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For Christopher Calo, an 8th-grader at Ohio Virtual Academy (OHVA), connecting with teachers and classmates in the virtual classroom has empowered him overcome a lifetime of learning challenges.

Christopher was diagnosed with autism at 18 months old, and Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections (PANDAS), when he was 6 years old. PANDAS is an autoimmune condition which can cause a child to exhibit such life-changing symptoms as obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, personality changes, sensory sensitivities and a decline in math and handwriting abilities.

All of these challenges have meant that life hasn’t followed a traditional path for Christopher, and his education is no exception. While attending a brick-and-mortar school, it was difficult for Christopher to accomplish tasks and assignments that were straightforward for many of his classmates. He fell behind in classes, and personal relationships with his peers were challenging.

“Christopher kept getting upset because the kids would be in his personal space,” said Angela, Christopher’s mother. “They would bully him to the point where he seemed depressed.”

Angela decided to enroll Christopher at OHVA, where he quickly settled into the virtual learning environment. Attending school from the comfort of home and with the help of supportive teachers, his grades improved tremendously. He became happier with school, and himself. Christopher now gets straight A’s, and is a member of the National Junior Honor Society!

“OHVA has helped me have a positive impact on my life,” said Christopher. “It boosted my self-confidence, letting me have freedom. I am not being judged by what I look like, and what other people think of me because I have autism.”

Now for Christopher, school is a place to learn, make friends, and have fun. “My favorite subject is history,” said Christopher. “My teachers, Mr. Hanks and Mrs. Schmidt, like to argue about who knows more on the subject, which makes it funny and helps engage me in the subject.”

With a flexible schedule, Christopher can also better manage his medical condition. His mom can see that OHVA has made a difference in how her son feels about school. “He loves his teachers, and working on his laptop,” said Angela. “Instead of being stressed and anxious, he is just enjoying everything about OHVA!”

At OHVA, Christopher is no longer known as “the kid with autism”, but is instead a respected member of his online classroom.

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