Parents at Pioneer Day School were clamoring to tell me their autistic kids’ success stories Monday night after an emergency meeting at the Pacific Beach private school, which serves 13 autistic students, some referred from public schools.

“With most schools, you’re trying to put a round peg in a square hole,” said Bruce Blackham, whose 10-year-old son attends Pioneer. “This place is different.”

Even in the midst of a financial crisis, they wanted to tell me about the little things, the stuff they really loved about Pioneer. Like this story from Deborah Woo-Ming, a parent who also works at Pioneer as an office assistant:

At age 4, my son was a really early reader. But all most teachers noticed was that he couldn’t sit still. They didn’t know what to do with him. I took him to see Jim (Leiner, the school’s director) but the school didn’t have any students under age 8, at the time. He said, “Go have a cup of coffee, I’ll take him for the rest of the day.” I left, but I was in panic for the rest of the day, just waiting for him to call. He did. It was to ask me if he could give him a fruit snack. … When I came back, Jim told me, “He can read!” It was the first positive thing I’d ever heard from a teacher, about my son.

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