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Empowering education: the Victory Autism Academy approach

Located at 20365 W. Ocotillo Road in Queen Creek, the fourth and newest Victory Autism Academy campus opened for the 2023-24 school year. Applications for the 2024-25 school year can be found on VAAs website.

Victory Autism Academy’s education can be summed up in one word… empowering. 

Focusing on three core beliefs; enrich, inspire and empower, Victory Autism Academy’s (VAA) mission is to “provide students on the autism spectrum a whole child education that will not only improve their quality of life but also prepare them for future success.”

The team at VAA will work with each family and student individually to develop a program based on that student's interests and goals. They’ll also look at pathways. Is the student college bound, working towards getting a job or developing independence and life skills? The education they receive will be geared around that goal.

“With kids on the spectrum, everyone is different. If you’ve met one kid on the spectrum, then you’ve only met one. We like to meet with each specific student, see what interests them and motivate them that way,” Krystal Lowe, director of education said. “They have to be motivated and excited to want to learn, grow and be successful beyond the school setting.”

Located at 20365 W. Ocotillo Road in Queen Creek, the fourth and newest VAA campus opened for the 2023-24 school year. There’s a Phoenix Elementary Campus, a Goodyear Elementary Campus and a Goodyear Middle School/High School Campus. 

Nick Schuerman, chief executive officer, has a child on the autism spectrum and has worked in education for 22 years. After getting together with Lowe they knew this was something they had to do. 

“District schools and even charter schools didn’t have the resources or programs to do justice for these kids. We were tired of seeing that,” Schuerman said. “We’ve been expanding because there’s a need out there for quality, private autism schools.”

Teaching in the private sector for 12 years, Lowe saw the need for autonomy. “We created our program from the ground up,” Lowe said. “We were able to find things that are scientifically proven and best practices for kids on the spectrum and do what’s right by them. We do what’s best for each individual child versus a one size fits all program.”

Kids are grouped by their grade and ability level. Everything in the classroom is run in small group instruction with a 1:3 staff-to-student ratio. 

VAA uses a multi-sensory, hands-on approach to learning through real-world experiences and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) methodology. 

One example is their life skills room that is embedded throughout the students’ day. They’re constantly working on skills, whether it’s doing laundry, cleaning the dishes or cooking, that will set them up to be successful outside of the classroom. 

During high school, students have the opportunity to work an internship. Teachers will see what interests each student and help them apply and interview for jobs. With different partnerships throughout the community there’s a variety of positions students can have to see what they like best. 

Each campus has physical, occupational and speech therapists. They even have one of three certified music therapists in the state of Arizona that works with the kids. Other programs include yoga, animal therapy, daily P.E. and art therapy.

Next year they are looking to change the Queen Creek campus from K-8 to K-12.

“We have a lot of kids that have a limited vocabulary or haven’t spoken at all and after they’ve been with us for a year or a couple months, they’ll say their first word. Then we’re able to record that and share it with their families,” Lowe said. “That’s a huge moment.”

It’s moments like those that make the work so rewarding. 

“At the end of the day, it’s about life success. That’s why we do what we do,” Schuerman said. “We want these kids to be successful.”

For more information about VAA or to start your application for the 2024-25 school year visit