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Community Partners

says, “Donations, grants, sponsorships and volunteerism from our partners make the work of Lionheart possible. Their support is instrumental in our school realizing our mission of providing a developmentally appropriate education for children with special needs.”


he number of children diagnosed with autism has increased exponentially every year since The Lionheart School in Alpharetta opened to serve children with autism in 2000. Lionheart was founded by some of the southeast’s leading, early childhood education professionals and a group of families unable to find a school or program which fit the needs of their children. The goal was to create a new type of learning environment, one which combines the expertise of special education teachers, speech, occupational and music therapy professionals and concerned, involved parents. The Lionheart School serves students ages 5-21. This year, the school is adding a new program to address the needs of young adults. Lionheart WORKS is designed for students who are transitioning from school to a work environment. The program will enroll students ages 18-26. The Lionheart School’s methods are a national prototype for the education of children with autism and similar challenges of relating and communicating. While many schools for

children on the autism spectrum focus on rote learning and compliance, The Lionheart School emphasizes relationships, abstract critical thinking, problem solving and social cognition. By focusing on each child’s individual differences, and maintaining a 1:3 staff-to-student ratio, the Lionheart School crafts a nurturing and supportive environment, addressing the child’s emotional, social and intellectual development. Dr. Patrick Spafford, one of the school’s founding parents, says Lionheart was built out of necessity. With an initial group of just six students, Spafford and the other parents sought out specialists willing to explore each child’s potential. “We wanted to build a school environment where ‘I can’t’ is replaced with ‘I can,’” says Spafford. The students focus on social interaction, traditional academics and life skills.

The community rallies around Lionheart in three annual events: Heart and Sole 5k in May, Heart and Soul Winetasting and Auction in February, and the upcoming Grilling & Gridiron on Saturday, September 12, 2015 in downtown Alpharetta. Lionheart’s Director of Operations, Mary Ulich, describes the event: “Presented by Whole Foods and Choate Construction, this event is a community tailgate party in downtown Alpharetta (Food Truck Alley) on the first day of SEC conference play, and we will watch the UGA game on a giant LED screen, surrounded by restaurants, businesses and community groups preparing grilled specialties and other tailgating tidbits for attendees enjoyment. The celebration will feature a ‘Grillmaster’ and ‘Taste of Tailgate’ competition, judged by local chefs, and beer from Jekyll Brewing.” Please support Lionheart by attending Grilling & Gridiron on September 12, starting at 2:30 pm. Tickets can be purchased on the website or at the event.

Community and corporate partnerships are critical to the success of The Lionheart School. Elizabeth Dulin, Lionheart’s Head of School

To learn more about The Lionheart School, or Grilling & Gridiron, please go to or email Mary Ulich at 26

North Fulton Family Life | SEPTEMBER 2015

North Fulton Family Life 9-15  
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