BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – Choosing the right school for your child is a very important step in their education, and it’s even more critical when they have special needs.

“We were all worried, what are we going to do? Wiley really didn’t have the best behavior and to find a spot for him, there just wasn’t the right fit,” Baton Rouge mother Chanler Mittendorf recalled.

The Mittendorfs needed something different for their son Wiley, who struggled with communication from a young age. With the help of other families with similar needs, St. Lillian Academy was founded.

“We wanted to continue that experience into a school setting where we can bring therapy, intervention and education onto the same campus and provide that holistic experience where the child was the center of the focus and not being brought to scattered services around town,” St. Lillian Head of School Elissa McKenzie said.

Parent Major Mittendorf added, “St. Lillian bringing all that together in one cohesive unit, it allows families to be families after school. But with the therapies, they all work together, they communicate with each other. Teachers and therapists to make sure they have the right curriculum for that child.”

For Wiley, St. Lillian has instilled confidence and enhanced his communication.

“We’ve really seeing him grow and prosper,” Chanler Mittendorf said. “Because of everything and the love they felt here. It’s really an amazing place.”

Major Mittendorf added, “This school was able to help develop him into a program to use IT to help him communicate. Along with traditional classroom settings but also ABA therapists working with him on his behavior, so it really has molded him into a wonderful child and to go into the community to do the things he wants to do.”

Now celebrating 10 years, St. Lillian has moved into a new facility on Goodwood Blvd. However, the financial hurdles of operating during a pandemic have been tough. To help its mission, today the school kicked off its 24-hour online giving day.

“It has been a very challenging year,” McKenzie said. “But the families keep us invested and we’re gonna work hard to raise those funds that we need to keep building, because it’s definitely the right thing to do.”

Major Mittendorf added, “With that there’s also more needs and more dollars needed to support the school, so it’s really critical now so we can grow it and give the community what it really needs out there for these children.”