Take 6 million dollars, 26 acres and 115 autistic children put together with a dream every parent has for their child with autism and the Els Center for Autism Excellence is created. Ernie Els, a professional golfer and his wife, Liezl, have opened the center in Palm Beach County, Florida inspired by their son, Ben, age 12 who has autism and will be one of the 115 students there.
“For us it was a thousand times easier because we could travel to other places and find the expertise we needed,” Liezl said. “I saw the need out there and how much you can suffer if you don’t have the all the services and therapies.”
This isn’t just Ernie and Liezl’s dream, but every parent of a child with autism hope for a school just like this for their child. Each class will have its own restroom, to help teachers with supervision. Parents will be allowed to watch classes, and rooms are soundproofed to keep distractions to a minimum.
One goal of the Center for Autism Excellence is to allow researchers to watch classes virtually. Some international families will be invited to visit, and one group from Brazil has already seen the center.
“Each room can be broadcast by satellite around the world,” said Els, who finished tied for 25th at the PGA. “Scientists can look at a class, all day long, for eight hours.”
If all of the Els dreams come true, this will be a prototype for all schools educating children with autism. “We just want to show people what a school for autistic kids should look like.” said Els.
The Els for Autism Foundation was established in 2009 by Ernie and Liezl Els and has since embarked on a catalytic philanthropic project – The Els Center of Excellence – launching a capital campaign to raise $30 million to finance the facility.
According to the webiste, “Once completed, the Center will provide a uniquely designed on-site educational program for 300 children on the autism spectrum ages 3-21. It will also bring together the critical components of early intervention, transition to adulthood, medical and professional services, and adult services all on one campus. At its heart will be a multi-faceted global outreach program that will make best practices in education and therapy available to children, families and autism experts both in the U.S. and internationally. The Center will integrate unique architectural components to create a learning environment specifically designed for children on the spectrum, and will include the technology, space and design components that will enable the Center to connect the international autism community with best practices and the latest information and research.”
There will also be a high school and job training for graduates. Phys Ed class? Well of course there will be a putting green and driving range!