David Paulk/Ohio.com correspondent

Annette Simon was obviously nervous while speaking to the Copley-Fairlawn Board of Education during its regular meeting last week, but her message was clear: thank you.


Simon’s appreciation was aimed at a school board she felt was a driving force behind her daughter graduating from high school. Her daughter is autistic and accepted her diploma in May. Simon did not want to release her name.


“The school is full of special needs students with IEP’s [individualized education plans] and I know how hard it is to be a teacher and do all this work for students and never get a thank you,” Simon said.


Her daughter, who, according to Simon was proficient in math and science, never liked the word disabled. That is why her daughter especially enjoyed the teachers who treated her like everyone else.


However, despite her daughter’s dislike of the word “disabled,” Simon often had to deal with the harsh reality of having an autistic child in school.


“I had conflicts at times with certain teachers and professionals and had to go in and work through issues, and I appreciated their time and willingness to hear me through so she could be successful in school,” Simon said.


Her extra effort paid off. According to the Autistic Society of America, only 56 percent of autistic students graduate from high school.


Simon’s daughter is 21 years old now and is part of a two-year training program with Summit County Developmental Disabilities. This program trains people with mental disabilities so they can eventually enter the workforce. 


Simon said her daughter is almost done with the training and should be looking for regular employment soon.