CCA provides family’s special needs’ students structured learning and helps them succeed

The Malliards needed a school to provide them more flexibility and that would work to meet the needs of their children.

The Malliard family had issues with their previous school not meeting the needs of their children. Tabatha and Jim had concerns with bullying and safety at the school, but an incident happened at school that left their son very upset and the Malliard family concerned about their children’s well-being and safety.

The Malliards, who live in Franklin, Venango County, needed to find a school that not only provided them more flexibility in their schedule but that would work to meet the needs of their children.

Tabatha did a tremendous amount of research to find the right school for her kids. “I researched a lot of different places, but CCA is the one that seemed to speak to us,” she said.

“We realized they needed structured learning that we weren’t capable of delivering ourselves as parents,” said Jim, Tabatha’s husband. “We needed another option and, after looking at a bunch, we landed on CCA.”

Compassion and support for families

Their 13-year-old son, Skyler, is an individual with autism and has chronic pain. Their 10-year-old daughter, Isabella, has a medical condition that has required numerous doctor’s appointments and surgeries. 

From the time Tabatha and Jim enrolled their kids, CCA has provided the support and compassion they needed. Both children have special needs, so finding a school with a dedicated special education department was important to Tabatha and Jim. CCA’s enrollment team put them in touch with the director of special education before they were even enrolled to help them decide if CCA would be a good fit.

“Both of our kids have IEPs,” Tabatha said. “Being with CCA, we have learned how to advocate and go over that whole process. This time we met with people who wanted to help us. I know I have a team behind me.” 

Skyler and Isabella also have Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a genetic condition that essentially means they have loose joints. At 10 years old, Skyler had both of his hips pinned into place. Having to move frequently throughout the school day or not being able to rest when his body needs it makes going to a brick-and-mortar school difficult for him.

“It was a combination of their health and their physical and mental well-being that we left traditional school and went to CCA,” Tabatha said.

Isabella has been in and out of the hospital since she was little. She had one surgery and has had multiple illnesses this school year. Isabella spent her first day of school at CCA in a children’s hospital. She used time in the hospital to get schoolwork done, something she could not have done at a traditional public school.

“That’s a huge benefit because instead of being marked absent she was able to get her classes in at the hospital,” Jim said.

With Isabella’s health issues, she can get far behind in her classes. CCA provides the flexibility to allow her to catch up.

“When she had her surgery in November, they called to check on her,” Tabatha said. “They sent her a get well card. It was something we never experienced before. The teachers cared about more than just turning in the paperwork. They wanted to know how she was doing and how we were doing.”

Isabella also has learning difficulties, but Tabatha and Jim can sit with her to help with schoolwork because they can refer to the recorded lessons to see how the teacher is presenting information to her. 

“The way they teach math now is different,” Jim said. “For me to try to help her wasn’t going to work. But we were able to watch the lesson together so I could help her with the lesson. In a traditional school, if she didn’t get it, I couldn’t have helped her. So the recording being available is great for everybody.”

Unexpected benefits of cyber school

The Malliards said there also have been unexpected benefits of enrolling their kids at CCA. They said CCA has helped their son become more social and helped build both of their children’s confidence. 

“One of the interesting things about being with CCA is he connected immediately with his math teacher,” Tabatha said about Skyler. “It’s something we never experienced with him with any other teacher in public school.”

Tabatha and Jim said they don’t have concerns about their children not socializing enough at cyber school. Skyler and Isabella are involved in Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. They also are very involved in their church. 

Isabella loves musicals, and they attended one as part of a field trip at CCA. The Malliards also love that their kids get to meet students from other parts of the state that they never would have met. 

The Malliards try to use routine daily activities as learning opportunities for their kids. They held math class one day in a grocery store while shopping. Jim taught his kids about unit prices for grocery items. 

‘The right choice for us’

CCA also has helped their son grow socially, which Tabatha said is important for a kid on the autism spectrum. 

“People that we know have come up to us and said, ‘Skyler is really different. He said hello to me.’ Up until that point, Skyler wasn’t talking to people. He started doing that, and that was a big thing for us,” Tabatha said. 

Tabatha and Jim said they have seen tremendous growth and positive changes in their kids since they enrolled at CCA. They said the communication with teachers is amazing and the staff works with parents on educating their children.

“There’s been so much this year that has proven this is the right choice for us,” Tabatha said.

Jim said he enjoys seeing what his kids are learning and watching them grow academically. 

“It has put us more directly into the day-to-day operation of the children’s education,” Jim said. “Because they are there in the home, you can get the real-time reaction. When they get excited about it, you can get excited about what they’re learning as well.”

Tabatha said she enjoys sitting down with Isabella to help her catch up on schoolwork.

“This would never have been something we could do before,” Tabatha said. “We wouldn’t have been this involved to help her understand it. I feel like I’m actually involved in her education. I helped her reach her potential.”

Tabatha and Jim want parents to understand that they don’t have to act as teachers in cyber school. CCA provides support and resources for families to succeed.

“There’s actual teachers to guide and support the students,” Tabatha said. “They go to classes. They can watch recorded lessons. The lessons are modified to meet them where they are. Teachers can modify a lesson to their ability. As a learning coach, I like that there’s still that aspect of a traditional teacher to help and support the kids with their education.”

Tabatha said she likes that CCA can adapt to the needs of both her kids. Skyler doesn’t like to be on camera. Isabella loves to be on camera. 

“CCA doesn’t force the kids to participate in a way that’s not comfortable for them,” she said. “Now that we’ve been with CCA, I’m really thankful that we switched. It’s a community that’s working together. It’s not just a school to us.”

Like many girls her age, Isabella has many dreams and aspirations. She wants to be a vet, a doctor, a singer, a dancer and a writer. Tabatha loves that her children are learning in a safe place and aren’t afraid to dream big.

“I want them to succeed and be happy,” Tabatha said. “I don’t want them to go into the world thinking it’s a scary place. No matter what, there’s always a place for them. I want them to choose their career path. CCA helps them understand that and figure it out.”

“The biggest thing is just having them be more confident in themselves,” Jim said. “When they’re thriving, it makes us feel proud of what we’ve built into them.”


High School Learner