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Simon Thomas was diagnosed with high-functioning autism when he was in first grade. Because of his differences, he struggled both academically and socially and was constantly bullied by his peers. Mistreated and misunderstood, Simon came home from school in tears one time too many.

Thankfully, Simon’s mother, Heather, supported her son throughout the ups and downs of his educational journey. Heather knew that for Simon to succeed in school, he had to be in a safe learning environment where he wouldn’t be discouraged by others. In order for him to reach his full potential in the classroom, there had to be a change. After doing research, Heather enrolled Simon in Insight Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School (ISPA) for seventh grade.

In just one year, Simon went from being two grades behind to learning and excelling in classes at his own grade level. Simon established meaningful friendships and is more self-sufficient than ever before.  For the first time in his school career, he genuinely looks forward to learning every day.

ISPA’s rigorous curriculum constantly challenges Simon, and he continues to excel. That is to the credit of his teachers, Heather says. “The educators at ISPA are professional and at the same time make learning enjoyable,” she explained. “Simon is now able to learn independently and flourish in his schoolwork.”

Thanks to the controlled environment of online school, Simon now knows how to communicate with his classmates in a healthy manner. “I love online school because I am no longer getting bullied nor peer pressured,” he said. He’s even made friends in his school chat rooms where his peers and teachers encourage him to be the best student he can be. After years of being tormented, these chat rooms have helped Simon open up to his peers, and he is blossoming socially.

Simon and his mom often attend in-person events hosted by ISPA, which give them a sense of community and belonging. While Heather exchanges stories and gets advice from parents, Simon can connect with and meet kids his own age in person. Additionally, ISPA offers clubs and camps that Simon participates in. He is currently involved in a social skills and behavior group organized by the school. This has helped him become more outgoing, as he continues to cultivate friendships.

Because of ISPA, Heather says she has seen her son accomplish so much more than she could have ever imagined. “I’m excited to go to school every morning,” Simon said.

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