A special school for brains wired differently

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By Melody Guyton Butts, Herald Sun

DURHAM – Stephanie Ratliff’s son, a whip-smart fourth-grader with Asperger syndrome, didn’t feel at home in his traditional public school. He felt bullied. He was withdrawn. He was unable to express himself.

Then, in August, Ratliff found “an answer to prayers” when the Asperger Connection School – touted as the nation’s only school to cater to the needs of children with Asperger, or high-functioning autism – opened in Pikeville, just north of Goldsboro.

“For the first time in his entire life, he has friends,” Ratliff said. “It’s just been amazing.”

Now, just five months later, a second location of the school is set to open in Durham, aiming to answer similar prayers of dozens of Triangle parents. The Asperger Connection School will open its doors southern Durham on Monday, serving kindergartners to high school sophomores.

In August, Executive Director Nancy Black plans to open a third location in Wilmington. “It’s a constant request from people in the state: Please help my child,” she said.

Asperger is often characterized by difficulties in social interaction and repetitive routines and interests.

Like other autism spectrum disorders, it’s growing in prevalence, with the National Institutes of Health’s conservative estimates putting the syndrome’s incidence at about two out of every 10,000 children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 1 in every 110 American children are somewhere on the autism spectrum, a 600 percent increase in prevalence over the past two decades.

Read more: The Herald-Sun - A special school for brains wired differently

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