Autism school expands in Tampa Bay - WNCT

Autism school expands in Tampa Bay

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Joanna Rosario and her son Gabe,6 Joanna Rosario and her son Gabe,6
TAMPA, FL (WFLA) -

Joanna Rosario says she knew something 'wasn't right' with her oldest son, Gabe.

"I kind of knew something was wrong. He wasn't talking," Rosario said. "He was unruly and hard to control."

Doctors diagnosed then 4-year-old Gabe with autism.

"It was scary to get a diagnosis but it was almost a relief to know now we know what's wrong," Rosario said.

Now Rosario's sons are four and six. Both of them go to the Florida Autism Center for Excellence. She says it's the only place they fit in with their peers.

"We get a lot of eye rolls, a lot of stares," Rosario says. "It's difficult taking him out into the community and have some acceptance."

The teachers at the school (FACE) have experience with autistic students. Rosario credits the students and staff for helping her 4-year-old Louis say his first words. The school director Tiffiany Lassin says the school has an extensive wait list.

"A lot of our students come from other schools and they don't get made fun of here," Lassin said. "Normally there's that shyness. In reality they don't want to be left alone but that's what happens because they don't fit in."

FACE is one of four schools in the state for students with autism, but that's changing soon. FACE officials hope to open another school in Pasco in the fall to help cut down on the Tampa site's wait list.

Rosario thinks it's a great idea.

"I completely credit the school for everything," Rosario said. "If it wasn't for this school he wouldn't be talking. He wouldn't be doing half the things he's doing." 

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