• Report: #1113525

Complaint Review: Academy for Autism Inc.

  • Submitted: Tue, January 07, 2014
  • Updated: Tue, January 07, 2014

  • Reported By: didir1010 — Orlando Florida
Academy for Autism Inc.
5232 S Orange Afenue Orlando, Florida USA

Academy for Autism Inc. Tuition disguised as Donations and now called MANDATORY DONATIONS Orlando Florida

*Author of original report: Donations CANNOT be deducted for services

*Consumer Comment: ACADEMY FOR AUTISM-An Extraordinary Place !!

*General Comment: I pay alot more for my child's well-being...

*Consumer Comment: Academy For Autism donations

*Consumer Comment: Parent of a student at the school

*Consumer Comment: Academy tuition

*Consumer Comment: Academy for Autism does everything they can to help parents


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The Academy for Autism Inc is a Non-Profit school for children with autism.  On Saturday, August 17th, I attended a mandatory parent meeting that the school administration determined was required for all parents with students that would be attending the 2013-2014 school year.

I anticipated that this meeting would be to discuss how this year was going to go, and provide updates on the school.  Instead this meeting became a shake-down of the parents for funds.  This is a school that doesn’t have tuition, and I have been told on more than one occasion that they are the only autism school in the area that doesn’t ask you to pay tuition, but only takes the McKay Scholarship for payment, and asks parents to try and donate money and raise funds for the school.

When I asked during the meeting, why the school isn’t trying to raise funds through grants if they are in such desperate need of additional funds, I was advised that it would not look good for the school to open up their books for scrutiny for a federal grant.  When I probed further, I was told, how would it look if they had so many parents who aren’t paying their tuition?  When I asked about grants that can be obtained from other non-profits that support autism and autism related schools, I was told they had no time to try to obtain these grants, although I and others on many occasions have advised the director that we would provide our assistance in applying for grants.

The meeting deteriorated very quickly where we were yelled at like children about how the school needs money and that we HAVE to pay the school mandatory donations of $150 a month.  We were advised that this wasn’t called tuition, to HELP the parents as they can then write it off on our personal tax returns.

This meeting raised many red flags for me, including the fear of opening a non-profit organizations financial books to federal scrutiny, and telling parents to lie about the tuition/mandatory donation on their tax returns.  I am now being hounded by this school for the mandatory donation they say I owe them for the time my son was a student at their school.

They are not telling parents the truth up front or advising them that tuition can also be listed on their tax returns.  I was advised when my son originally enrolled that they had NO tuition, to find out a year and a half later, they are going to try to come after me for what appears to be an illegal ‘mandatory donation’ and are threatening me with a collection agency.

I’ve consulted an attorney and have been advised that a school may be involved in conspiracy to evade taxes if it tries to call required payments from families as donations.  I’m very concerned that other parents are not going to do their own research and will also be paying the school when they were initially advised there was no tuition as well. 

This report was posted on Ripoff Report on 01/07/2014 07:20 AM and is a permanent record located here: http://www.ripoffreport.com/r/Academy-for-Autism-Inc/Orlando-Florida-32809/Academy-for-Autism-Inc-Tuition-disguised-as-Donations-and-now-called-MANDATORY-DONATIONS-1113525. The posting time indicated is Arizona local time. Arizona does not observe daylight savings so the post time may be Mountain or Pacific depending on the time of year.

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#1 Author of original report

Donations CANNOT be deducted for services

AUTHOR: didir1010 - ()

I will never understand the reasons that others lie to benefit this school.  Yes, there was a meeting that started with only talking about money.  Yes, we were told at THIS meeting that there was now mandatory donations and we were required to sign (which I did not as I was at that already planning to not re-enroll my son into this facility) and show that we were going to be paying this money.  Yes, there was quite a bit of yelling and finger pointing going on, which is why I got up and left and said, I did not come here to be treated like a child.  And the mom next to me yelled as I walked out asking where did I think I was going.

It amazes me how others can be deaf and blind to the fact that yes, the majority of the therapists are amazing, and a few of the teachers are awesome, but the director of the school leaves a lot to be desired in terms of organization and professionalism.  Yelling at parents about how much she doesn’t make because she works at a non-profit school and yelling at them to remind them how much she does for them day in and day out, is not professional.

It also amazes me how others state they were in the meeting where I was but didn’t hear the director tell us “How would it look if we opened our books for a federal grant and it showed there are so many parents that aren’t paying their tuition.”  What tuition?  I have never ever received an invoice from the school asking for TUITION.

Were you not in the same meeting that started with the “VP” of the “Board of Directors” saying that “We are not going to let (the director) be nice anymore about the donations.”  That to me shows that I was correct in saying that what I was told by the director (which no other parent was there so they cannot speak to what I was told personally, although others can lie now about what they told me) that they REQUEST a certain amount per month, but “we take what we can get and appreciate all donations received.”

As for the parent that does claim the donations on their taxes, please PLEASE be careful that you are not audited.  Per IRS Publication 526 titled Charitable Contributions, Page 6 under the heading “Contributions You Cannot Deduct” it says there are some contributions you cannot deduct and others you can deduct only in part.  Under # 3 it says “ The part of a contribution from which you receive or expect to receive a benefit. “  As when I spoke to the Board of Education they advised me that the school shows $27,000 a year in tuition charges (at least for my student), if the McKay Scholarship doesn’t cover that entire amount, and you are then deducting the $150 per month you pay as donations, that is incorrect.  You are providing them tuition in the form of this “mandatory” charitable donation and are then receiving a benefit for the donation. 

It isn’t the about the money, it is about the principle of what I was personally told versus what is being said now.  As Lis Santiago stated, they TOLD me that they would work with us that we didn’t have to pay the amount that it was a SUGGESTED amount.  Now they are claiming it is MANDATORY and that I knew that up front.   

My eyes have been opened WIDE since my son has since been moved to a different school.  The communication is superb, we are advised WELL in advance of early dismissal days, days off, functions, school field trips, etc.  We are told of the date, time, location and even INVITED to attend the board of director meetings and be more involved.  We are ENCOURAGED to participate in any and all fundraising, student and teacher activities.  Not only are they asking us to participate, but they would like us to help coordinate and execute these activities.  Which didn’t happen at the Academy and when I offered to volunteer my time and services, I was told there was nothing I could do since I work during the day and I would never be able to assist with setting up an outing.  And this was from the VP of the Board of Directors who is also a therapist.

There is no transparency as there should be with non-profits.  Someone, anyone at all, ask them for a copy of their 990 and see what they tell you.  More than likely you will be told no, and be quesionted as to what you need it for.   Administratively there is a lack of organization, leadership and again transparency. 

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#2 Consumer Comment

ACADEMY FOR AUTISM-An Extraordinary Place !!

AUTHOR: Evelyn - ()

 I presume when somebody doesn’t feel that the education of their child with Autism is cherished at a supplementary of $150 a month, subsequently informed after GRACE was extended for a long period of time, this is the consequences. A disgruntle parent out to tear down an extraordinary place; what a disgrace!  I treasure my moments with my son; I wouldn’t fritter away time writing to websites to harm the reputation of a school that has provided my child, academics, therapy, and at times aftercare services.  I would immediately depart calmly, if I couldn’t meet the expense. 

 As this parent says with some research you could discover other schools.  I have researched; I’m a well-informed human being that in any situation, I accomplish my research. You should utilize your time and energy to focus on your child’s potential.  I am capable of expressing that what the Academy for Autism provides it’s far-off and few schools can competition it!  If you do discover a school that provides these services, I guarantee you; the asking price is a great deal additional than $150 a month. As for your concern about me and additional parents, we are not brainwashed, how dare you! 

 Outside of the staff’s focal point on my son’s learning, one-on-one therapy sessions, they offer transportation service; the calendar school year is longer than countless private schools. With all they propose, it’s feasible for me to remain working and it’s my satisfaction to compensate whatever I’m capable to meet the expense of.  The day that for some motive I can’t meet the expense of the school, I would walk away gratefully for ALL the school has completed and depart without any animosity feelings or YET TO BE PAID INVOICES!

 This negligent performance deprives the services to other students. A word of recommendation, comprehend everything before you sign a document.  If you can’t afford it, don’t commit.  If you do commit, and you neglect to pay, you will have a collection agency knocking on your door.  That’s how the actual world works in every circumstance.


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#3 General Comment

I pay alot more for my child's well-being...

AUTHOR: Evelyn - ()

As a contracted speech therapist at the Academy for Autism who believes in this program and as the mom of a child with special needs(not autism), I pay about 3 times the amount required by the Academy. I would find a way to pay more if necessary to improve the well-being of my child, no matter what it is called(tuition, donation, etc.). To choose not to pay it after agreeing and signing a contract, that is the problem. The good quality of care, love, support and education should far outweigh the cost.    

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#4 Consumer Comment

Academy For Autism donations

AUTHOR: Jaime - ()

My son started attending the Academy for Autism in 2013 after he was being abused in the public school system.  We were told of the donations up front.  I looked into other private schools and I'm yet to see one that only charges $150 a month.  Most wanted much more in addition to the money they receive from the scholarships.  The school is willing to work with you and let you pay when you can.  I was not at the meeting that the events occured at but knowing the director and staff, I find it hard to believe that anyone was yelled at or if there was some sort of "shakedown" type thing.

My son has made amazing progress at the school.  He is on the severe end of the spectrum and the public school system was more of just a babysitter for him.  He has been at the academy for almost a year now and has gone from being pretty much non verbal to attempting to make many sounds/words.  His teacher is amazing and so is all of the staff.  I would highly recommend it to any parent with an autistic child.

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#5 Consumer Comment

Parent of a student at the school

AUTHOR: Mauragee Dzejak - ()

I am at a loss of words to express to the original complaint. My  son has attended this school now for 2 years. I know all of the teachers, therapists, and office staff, they are all exceptionally gracious and generous people. I was sitting beside this woman in the meeting she is referenceing. I have never seen a more warped story, so very far from actual facts. The director went over many things that day and at no point yelled at anyone or raised her voice. For some unknow reason to me, this woman went off at the meeting. Extremely defensive to our required participation in raising funds for the school. My daughter attends a public charter school and we are required to do the same. The public schools have mandatory meetings as well. The children at this academy THRIVE. It is amazing to see the commitment demonstrated by these people. I saw NO PARENT side or voice to support that woman. We were left baffled by what she had went off about. I will continue to support this school, staff, and administration because of their devotion to these children. Their faith in our children's ability to become a successful citizen, functioning on their own , is only surpassed by their passion to help the parents realize our childrens full potential. 

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#6 Consumer Comment

Academy tuition

AUTHOR: Lis Santiago - ()

Am a parent of twins that attend the Academy for autism. my girls have been students of the academy since july 2013, I have to say that this is by far the best school and therapy clinic for children with autism. The teachers, therapist, assisntants go above and beyond to fill every childs need.This donation mentioned above is a minimum amount of money to put towars a childs well being . Unlike other private schools they only ask for a donation and they will work with you if your family is having any financial harsdhip. This a great school with really great and dedicated staff . Please dont let anyone think other wise. My kids have improve in all areas. They will take the time to teacj the kids academics and daily living. 

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#7 Consumer Comment

Academy for Autism does everything they can to help parents

AUTHOR: Vilena Cruz - ()

I was in the aforementioned meeting. These donations are tax deductible, i claim them in my taxes.

There is no scam. My child is a student of this school and has been a student for 4 yrs. From the beginning, it was clearly stated to me about the donations and fundraisers. Other private schools charge at least $500 /mo. for tuition, even when you have McKay scholarship. I did my homework and found this was the case. Really, is this parent crying because the donations are $150/mo.? Sounds like this person was attempting to obtain a free ride. You know very well the scholarship at maximum pays $16k per year to the school. There's only 20-21 students in the school because it is so small. Do the math. The teachers, the staff, the rent, utilities, materials, etc. that have to be paid can't  be covered by the scholarships alone. That is why the school is a clinic also. The clinic, with the occupational, speech and physical therapies it offers, carries the school.

About the grants: The director is ALWAYS looking for ways for parents to find grants and maximize their benefits. In 2011 my kid received a grant for $5000 from United Healthcare to cover therapies that not were covered by regular healthcare and that I would not have been able to pay for myself. Managing that grant for me took a lot of effort and time, since I had to file all claims with my healthcare for them to deny coverage so I could then file them with the grant so payment would be received. There is simply no time for the reduced staff of the school to be dealing with grants, when the staff has to be dealing with therapy coverage, with health insurance nonsense, and with regular business issues. That is why parents have to find what grants they qualify for and apply for them. And the director is the one who is always coming up with these opportunities for the parents! The school is not the one to apply for grants, you are, and there is plenty.

This parent is crying about not wanting to pay donations for a school that is saving every penny it can to move to a bigger facility to help other low income parents like us and accept more students, yet it retains an attorney to look into this matter? We have all been working hard on fundraisers to be able to move, and now this parent is going to ruin it for all of us and our kids?

Has this parent ever volunteered to work at the school? I did, and the work there is hard, and the teachers, parents and staff are a big family. I can tell you the people there love and care for your child. Where else will the teachers work alongside the therapists to give an all inclusive plan for your child? For $150/mo.? I understand if you can't pay, that means your kid will have to go to public school and probably be babysat like they usually do with our kids on the severe side of the spectrum, and be called every other day to pick up your child because they are having a tantrum. At least that was my story, until I took my kid to the Academy. Over there he has learned he has to complete his work, wether he wants to or not.

Did I mention the school has a bus that will bring your child from far away Poinciana to Orlando, for $25? Other bus services will charge you $40 a week, for a few blocks of transportation .

What was this parent expecting to donate? A$5 here, a$10 there? Nah, this parent IS the scammer, looking for a free ride. I was at the meeting, there were 2 meetings. And I have witnessed the so called shakedown. It makes you work harder to fundraise for the school. It is uncorfortable to witness, after all, we should all be taking pride of our little school and work to get a bigger place. Be proud of your school and see all it has done for your child. And if you can't appreciate all that is done for your kid's benefit, kindly step aside, make a payment plan, and don't ruin all our hard work.

And my name is here for everybody to see.

Vilena Cruz, mother of Gabi Bourgeois, Orlando, Florida

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#8 General Comment


AUTHOR: michelle - ()

I AM A PARENT OF 2 CHILDREN WHO ATTENDS THIS ACADEMY AND I WAS AT THIS MEETING THIS LADY IS TALKING ABOUT IN NO SHAPE OF FORM DID ANYone  yell at anyone at this meeting and noone was treated like a child it was a meeting about our children and what was coming up in events and ect and also it was metioned that if any parents owed the manditory donation to please pay at a certain date and month and one of the parents got upset thought it was directly to her and it wasnt it was for every parent that was there and she got very upset that wh she is trying to tear apart the reputation of this school as soon as you call to visit the school to see if you even like it they tell you right off the back there is a manditory donation every month so its not like she wasnt aware of it when she enrolled her child in the school and when you enrolled they give you a hanbook that says it also this is a awesome school for children with autism they are well taking care of and they learn so much and the staff and director are amazing please dont let this lady stop you from putting them in this school its amazing  she has an agenda with this school to ruin them for her reason and its probably because she didnt pay her manditory donation like she suppose to every month thats the only thing i can think of why she doing this its a great school for children with autism my kids love the staff there and they have learned so much in this school dont let her discourage you from this school its amazing

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