With nowhere to turn, Florida mom started her own school for students on the autism spectrum

Isaac Wilbanks, left, and Joshua Akabosu are two of the original seven students who still attend Dickens Sanomi Academy in Plantation, Florida.

Joshua Akabosu was nearly hit by a truck when he was 10. He had run from school that day, as he often did. Announced to the class he was going home, then bolted through a door and into the neighboring streets.

School officials told Joshua’s mom, Juliet Sanomi, what she already knew: that they could no longer accommodate her son. He was a flight risk and posed a danger to himself and others.

Joshua, now 20, is on the autism spectrum. He has attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. At the time of his accident, he was just learning to speak in complete sentences.

“I took him to (his district) school, they couldn’t handle him. I took him to private schools, same thing,” Juliet said. “And no fault to the schools. These children don’t come with manuals.”

But where does a single mother turn when she has nowhere else to go? When homeschooling is not an option because she is pregnant, and because she wants her son to interact with other children?

In Juliet’s case, she turned to herself. She started her own school.

Dickens Sanomi Academy in Plantation is celebrating its 10th year. It has 170 students, most of whom receive the Family Empowerment Scholarship for Students with Unique Abilities (FES-UA), which is managed by Step Up For Students.

Joshua graduates this spring. He was one of the original seven students during the school’s first year.

“I am very grateful for the (FES-UA) because it was difficult. He wasn’t asked to be born with autism and it’s been a difficult road,” Juliet said. “I thank God for the scholarship because he’s done very well, the best he’s able to do, and that’s because we had the funds to do that.”

Joshua was the school’s first student. The second student came through a chance meeting with the mother of an autistic child. The mother was standing in the parking lot outside of a school. She was crying because school officials just told her the same thing Juliet had recently been told about Joshua.

To continue reading, click here.

Avatar photo

BY Roger Mooney

Roger Mooney is the marketing communications manager for Step Up For Students. He joined the organization after a career as a sports and features writer for several Florida newspapers, including the Tampa Tribune and Tampa Bay Times.