Marigold Learning Academy: Sunny outlook for children with Autism

ROCKWALL, TX (March 31, 2014) Rockwall’s Marigold Learning Academy is a quaint, intimate learning center for children with autism.  The cozy and warm atmosphere is immediate when you walk through the small unassuming house on Goliad Street.  However, what happens in the Marigold Learning Academy is anything but small and unassuming.  Its brightly colored language enriched walls hint of the care that is provided by the learning academy staff.

Karri Wilson, who began the Academy, greets every visitor with a happy smile, and just like a proud parent, begins to demonstrate the amazing structure of the programs used for children with autism.

When asked where the name “Marigold” Learning Academy came from, Karri explains that she and her mother wanted a name that was strong, positive and perhaps misunderstood.  They agreed to name the unique school after a flower, the marigold.

Karri’s passion shone through her large green eyes when she explained, “Most people assume the marigold is a negative flower and harmful, when in reality it is one of the most long-lasting and beautiful flowers around.  It is strong, unique and can handle any weather- just like our children with autism.”

Wilson, once a special educator in a large school district, became frustrated with the school system, and wanted to give more to students with autism.

Karri, her teachers, an autism specialist (who is skilled in the ABA approach), business manager, Tracy Wilson, and volunteers from Lake Pointe Church turned the academy into an explosion of learning strategies and well-behaved children.

In addition to an already impressive environment, the children skillfully change classes throughout the day, and with the 1-3 or 1-1 as needed ratio, students with autism are receiving an enriched curriculum for learning and life skills.

The beautifully decorated walls serve a purpose as the walls are covered with academic skills.  Every turn of the building is filled with instruction, schedules and an incredible learning environment. The classrooms have teachers who instruct in the reading room, the math room and sensory area as the autism specialist walks from room-to-room. The patient specialist directs students toward success while assuring every child is following protocol.  The teachers and Wilson have created an environment where every student learns and socializes in age appropriate activities with others.

When I read more about the marigold flower after leaving the academy it dawned on me the marigold flower is named after the Virgin Mary as the definition of marigold, is “Mary’s gold.”

The climate is positive, the children happily learning and socializing as they are often, like the marigold, misunderstood, long-lasting, and beautiful. Children with autism are truly Mary’s gold.

Kristie Smith

Story and photos by Blue Ribbon News special contributor Kristie Smith, who writes about people and subjects of interest in the community. A teacher for the blind, Kristie has authored a series of novels about a blind girl detective, and has written more than 15 activity books for children with special needs.

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