Alternative Schooling - Summit Academy

Overview: Summit Academy is a free, non-profit Community School that caters its education style primarily to students with AD/HD and Asperger's Syndrome. Offering a holistic approach, Summit Academy engages students in specific ways that are best suited for their learning style.

Why it worksStudents at Summit Academy have a sense of belonging because they are taught in an environment where their learning needs are met and mainstreamed. Summit Academies are completely committed to tailoring all aspects of the school to the needs of students with AD/HD and Apergers syndrome. Every student is held highly accountable for their education and social progress but is strongly supported by staff and mandatory parental involvment.

Why it mattersIn 1999 1 out of 1000 children was diagnosed with a form autism but today 1 out of 88 children is diagnosed. An increase in AD/HD diagnosis also increases the demand for alternative learning options. Research shows that the earlier a child is diagnosed and treated, the better chance they have of adult independence.



History and Background

In 1999, Peter DiMezza, former Cheif Executive of Summit Academy, helped create the framework for the first Summit Academy in Akron, Ohio. Formerly a practical clinical counselor, DiMezza was able take the success of a therapeutic martial arts program for AD/HD children to the classroom. By integrating a mixed martial arts class into school curriculum and using similar values and principles in the class, he was able to reach students effectively. Summit Academy grew quickly across Ohio and after two years had seven schools statewide.

After a few years of operation, it became clear to administrators that students with AD/HD and Asperger's syndrome had similar learning styles and educational needs. Summit Academy begin immersing social skills into everyday curriculum to help their students improve interpersonal disabilities. Continuing to respect their student's fragile attention span, schools improved their model with shortened lesson plans, repetition of information in a variety of activities, and physical stimulation, Summit Academy continued to grow.

In 2009 Summit Academy went through a broad review which resulted in the resignation of Peter DiMezza. In 2012, Asperger's was re-classified as high functioning autism leaving the term Asperger's medically irrelevant. This change in medical jargon will not change Summit Academy's focus or impact its future success. helping ensure its future is Summit Academy's pride in evolving with the latest education and technology advances. By using smartboard to teach lessons with and reinforcing them with the latest education software in classroom computers, Summit Academy is preparing students for the future.

Today, Summit Academies offer 27 schools rangning from grades K-12.




Students at Summit Academy struggled in the traditional classroom settings of public schools and were often tested for learning disabilities because of concerned teachers alerting parents about poor student achievement. Parents look to family doctors or psychologists to diagnose their children with AD/HD or high functioning autism and then can take the steps to submit an application to Summit Academy. Students may enroll at Summit Academy at the age of five but are encouraged to start with the program as soon as possible. 


Summit Academy values the differences in student's abilities and uses Individualized Education Programs (IEP) to help pinpoint students strengths and weaknesses. Currently at Summit Academy, roughly 90% of students are on IEPs. Summit Academy has 2 procedures for diagnosing a student with a learning disability.

  1. If a student comes to Summit Academy without an IEP, they will be monitored by multiple staff members of the school for several weeks in order to better understand the child and what needs they have. Once the observations have been made and are looked over, an IEP team is created specifically for that student. The parents and or guardians of the student are highly encouraged to be a part of this team in order to help monitor and assess their child’s progress that is made both outside and inside of the classroom.

  2. If a student comes to Summit Academy with an IEP, the diagnosing process is much more simple. The school's faculty is informed and notified of this student's learning disability and the time spent monitoring and observing the student's behavior is less intense. Following this, any suggestions or additions that faculty think should be added to the IEP are discussed within the student's IEP team.



Summit Academy deals with AD/HD and other learning disabilities with instructional methods that are consistent across the board but unique from traditional public schooling practices. Intervention services at Summit Academy are designed to benefit all of its students but recieve unique individual attention depending on their specific needs and IEP.

Martial Arts Classes: A class apart of Summit Academy curriculum, students gain self-confidence, discipline, control over their bodies, and respect for themselves and others. The physical activity stimulates mental health and improves performance and attention span in the classroom. Martial art classes also help with the immersion of social skills allowing students to practice making eye contact, having good posture, and following group directions. No physical contact is allowed for the students when participating in these classes, providing for a safe, nurturing, and learning environment.

Classroom setup: All classrooms at Summit Academy offer an 18:2 student/staff ratio that includes one Highly Qualified Teacher (HQT) as well as a partner who is HQT co-teacher. Depending on student needs, Summit Academy offers additional classroom settings with IEP Differentiated Specialist, a Multiple Disabilities (MD) specific class with a 12:2 ratio, a cross-categorical class with a ratio of 10:2, and an Autism (AU) specific placement class with a 6:2 ratio.

Special Education: Summit Academy is fortunate enough to employ an IEP Coordinator who is responsible for helping to manage the Special Education process for each student. The IEP coordinator maintains all Special Education records and serves as the primary connection between the parents and or guardians of the student and the school for issues regarding Special Education. 

Behavioral Services: All Summit Academy schools follow a building-wide behavioral plan that is based off the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis. These principles are used as models by teachers in their own classrooms to help create behavior systems and plans. All schools also employ Behavior Specialists besides the secondary schools who use Performance Coaches. These positions are held by licensed professional counselors, social workers, and school counselors. The purpose of a Behavior Specialist or Performance Coach is to support students in ndividual or small-groups in order to help achieve behavioral goals outlined in the student's IEP.

Parental Involvement: Involvement from parents and guardians is critical to student’s success. By keeping parents involved with weekly newsletters and requesting their time to help volunteer for field trips and other school activities, parents buy into the importance of their student's education and lead their children to overall success and growth as a person. 

If student's intervention methods are not resulting in the achievement of a student's IEP goals, the team meets to assess the situation. They ensure that the goals are reasonable and that they are following the outlined plan of the IEP in order to provide the student with whatever necessary for their achievement of their full potential. 




Students at Summit Academy are assessed in two different ways, academic and social behavior. The main part of academic assessment is to ensure that the student is on track academically with the school's curriculum while still progressing and working towards achieving the goals set on that student's IEP.

In regards to assessing social skills and social behavior, it is much more difficult to place a "grade" or "measurement" on the student's progress. It is often up to the school's faculty and the child's parents/guardians to monitor and determine how well the student is doing. If it appears that no progress is being made,the child's IEP team should then meet to reevaluate and decide how to go about reaching that child's specific learning and social goals. 



For more information about the topics discussed on this page click on the blue highlighted links above or browse through the following websites:

Summit Academies Home Page

--This link to the Summit Academies website will be helpful for those interested in finding out more information about enrollment, locations, services, and contact info of Summit Academy Schools.  

Summit Academy Schools Handbook for Students/Parents/Guardians

--This PDF of the Summit Academy Handbook is a great resource outlining every aspect of Summit Academy Schools. 

Legislation for Community Schools in Ohio

--Courtsey of the Ohio Department of Education, this website is vital in understanding legislation in matters with Community Schools.

A Parent's Endorsement

--A father's blog about his son who atteneded Summit Academy and was diagnosed with Autism and the empowering impact it had on each of their lives.

ADHD Background Information

--Also a part of the Performance Pyramid this web page breaksdown ADHD and gives a clear background about this learning disorder.

The Autism Spectrum

--This site discusses what Autism is and provides countless links to more online resources concerning the topic.

About Asperger's Syndrome 

--A web page offering valuable information about the history, diagnosis, and characteristics of the syndrome.




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