All in the Family: When a Diagnosis Leads to a Family Business or Nonprofit – Part I
A diagnosis of a developmental, neurological or learning difference impacts families as a whole. So many of our best resources in Atlanta came into being because of this impact. Kids Enabled would like to highlight a handful of the stories behind businesses and nonprofits that were created to meet a need brought about by a diagnosis. Our hats are off to these amazing individuals who became part of the solution!
Part I – Cumberland Academy
by Debbi Scarborough, Cumberland Academy Co-Founder
If you would have asked me four years ago, “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” I would have said, “Relaxing on the beach with my husband.” But that isn’t the case anymore. I was given the gift of redirection, and I am so lucky to do what I do and see what I see every day. I see struggling students now thriving and stressed-out parents starting to smile.
My son Steven, who has Asperger’s syndrome, was 12-years-old when we started looking for a special needs middle school. Although the public elementary school was successful for Steven, he needed more attention than most public school students. I knew that public middle school would present more challenges and would not provide him with the right environment in order for him to thrive. My husband and I began our quest for a special needs private school that could provide Steven with the extra attention he needed in order to feel comfortable in his surroundings, as well as excel academically and socially.
We were shocked to find out how many schools did not accept children with Asperger’s Syndrome. My husband and I toured 15 schools, and we were turned away by the majority of them. As all parents with special needs children, I felt lost and alone, but I couldn’t sit by and do nothing. I had no choice but to open a school which was designed specifically for the high-functioning child with autism, Asperger’s, ADD or ADHD. We opened Cumberland Academy of Georgia in 2007 with one student, my son Steven.
Now we have more than 64 students in grades four through 12. Cumberland Academy of Georgia has received the high quality of accreditation from the Southern Association of College and Schools (SACS) and the Georgia Accrediting Commission (GAC). Our curriculum follows Georgia standards. We have hired the most experienced teachers in the area of the special needs student. They are all certified in special education. We have full-time counselors and therapists on staff to help our students cope with their daily struggles. We employ social skills specialists to help our students acclimate into different environments, as well as teach them how to make a friend and be a friend. But the most important part is that our students are thriving and our parents are proud.
My son Steven is now driving me to school every day, and he works part-time at a car dealership through our work program. Our graduates are all working and attending college. They are independent, self-sufficient adults.
It would have been easier if I’d found a school where I could just drop Steven off, but there was a more fulfilling calling for me. I am actually glad that I never found that school, because now I have 64 “Stevens” that I get to see growing and thriving every day. I know that Cumberland is making a huge difference in the lives of these children and in the lives of their family members, and that is incredibly rewarding for me. I am so happy to share it with those in need of a safe, secure, and welcoming environment for their child.