Autistic boy's family fundraising to keep new school open

When their severely autistic son's private special education school abruptly announced it would be closing down, two Barrie, Ont., parents decided to take matters into their own hands.

Tammy and Greg Kliewer took matters into their own hands when their son's special ed school shut down

Tammy and Greg Kliewer decided to start a private school to help their severely autistic son, Tavish. They're reaching out to the community and other parents with kids like theirs to join them. 1:57

Tammy and Greg Kliewer were devastated when they got a letter telling them their son's school in Barrie, Ont., was closing down. 

It was no ordinary school.

Their son Tavish, who was diagnosed with severe autism when he was two years old, had been enrolled at Renaissance Academy, a private special school. 

When it abruptly announced last month that it was closing down, the Kliewers decided to open their own school, determined to not interrupt the gains that 14-year-old Tavish had been making.
Tammy and Greg Kliewer play with their son Tavish at Little Blue Schoolhouse in Barrie, Ont. The Kliewers are reaching out to the community to raise money to continue funding the school, which provides specialized education for their severely autistic son. (CBC)

"Tavish had been having a very rough time in the public school system as he grew up," Greg Kliewer said, adding that his son was had been miserable and aggressive and had been hurting himself. 

"We want to see our son happy and we found a place that was able to deliver programming to him that transformed his life," he said.

It took only about two-and-a-half months at Renaissance Academy for Tavish to transform into a content, serene and confident child, Kliewer said. 

And so they started The Little Blue Schoolhouse to continue providing Tavish with specialized education.

Potential and hope with the right programming

The Kliewers hired an educator who had been laid off at Renaissance and some support staff, and leased a schoolhouse using the tuition money that had been set aside for the next year. 

But the money is only expected to last a few months.

Right now the Kliewers are fundraising and reaching out to the community to help establish a more permanent location for both Tavish and other children like him. 

They said they're providing programming that's focused on life skills, self-care and academics only to the level that is appropriate in the context of children with autism. 

"We see potential and hope," said Tammy Kliewer.

"They came from having the right programming and having the right place and we refuse to let that go because we know it works," she said.

"It works for a segment of the population that is vastly under-serviced right now. So that's what we're going to try to accomplish."