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The Graham Academy offers a year-round learning experience for students living with Autism. A consistent educational, social and recreational routine is instrumental in the growth, development and progress of individuals living with Autism. An extended break or disruption in routine could result in loss of skills or regression; even the standard summer vacation could result in setbacks for many students. As one can imagine, “getting back into the swing of things” can take on a whole new meaning for many of these individuals. The simplest of skills that can be easily picked up by most students at the start of a new school year, can take weeks or even months to regain for an individual with Autism. With school in session for only 180 days, an ESY program allows students to go beyond that point to continue their education to maintain the skills they have learned.

Summer school, by definition, is different than ESY. ESY is an opportunity provided to individuals who have an Individualized Education Plan, or IEP, and is designed to support the maintenance of skills and education acquired to date. ESY is not required or necessary for every student with an IEP but having it as a viable option is critical.
Determination for the recommendation for ESY is made by a students’ IEP Team. For the previously learned skills to be maintained, ESY is an important part of the special education system.

ESY at the Graham Academy is something the students look forward to every year. The Garden Program is in full swing and there is an abundant amount of activities and learning that takes place every week. The summer programming includes, a nature and bug curriculum for the elementary students, produce stand and job readiness skills for the upper elementary and middle school students, and transition skills with career clusters for the high school students. A great thing about ESY at the Graham Academy…freezer pops tend to ‘pop’ up on Thursday’s for good behavior during the week!

The fruits and vegetables harvested from the gardens allows for the students to manage the produce stand and showcase the “fruit of their labor”. Students have fun developing social skills, practicing math skills, and working as a team as they sell produce to the local community. As an added feature, the students provide patrons with a recipe to show how they can creatively use the produce purchased.

Learning takes place even while we are having fun. Marketing materials, created to advertise the garden, including sidewalk signs, are all made by students during their graphic arts elective. The graphics arts elective teaches students the basics of computer programming and exposes them to the fundamental aspects of marketing and design. Typing skills are practiced in the creation of recipes and pricing labels. Students also spend time researching common facts about the produce and add these facts to the recipe cards for the patrons. Everywhere you turn there is something to be learned at the Graham Academy.

The mission of the school is to educate students living with autism and students living with emotional challenges to excel in life through communication, exploration, opportunity, acceptance, accountability, and ambition. To see the students in full swing, come by the produce stand once it opens again after school is back in session. For daily updates, visit the Graham Academy on Facebook or go to for more information including employment opportunities.