The Founding of Appalachian Banner Academy

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-Mikael Gouge and Tyson
Founder of Appalachian Banner Academy and Why

My son has level one (high functioning) Autism.  This comes with significant behavior issues stemming from the lack of social awareness and impulsiveness, which is part of his diagnosis.
We struggled through 5 years of education in the public school system. We tried everything they had to offer him: early intervention, general education inclusion, and finally, a contained special Ed classroom. It’s not unusual for these types of classrooms to be overcrowded, which they were, and so the result for him was over-stimulation.
He would act out to gain attention or access help because his social communication was significantly delayed. He would try to connect by stepping on teachers’ and students’ heels, grabbing their glasses, or getting out of his seat to get their attention.  He didn’t understand how to navigate these environments.
All of these behaviors were an inconvenience for the teachers.  They felt ill-equipped to meet my son’s atypical needs while teaching other typical children.
I would get notes and phone calls saying things like:
“He finds his own distractions.”
“He is the only student acting this way.”
“He knows how to get under my skin.”
Hearing this, my heart would just break.
I would explain that my son does not wake up every morning and choose to have Autism.  He doesn’t choose to be distracted and overwhelmed.
He isn’t giving you a hard time; he is Having a hard time.
My son was seen as a hindrance to the learning of others,  a distraction.  After years of trying to educate  about Autism and advocate for my son,  I knew there simply had to be more out there for him. He deserved more. I was weary of dropping him off every day and crying because I knew he wasn’t understood and that he likely knew that he was in the way. I felt like the school had stopped trying to reach him.  When in reality, the school was just not equipped to handle my son’s needs.  As a mother of a child with Autism,   it’s not an option to stop fighting for what my son needs.
Appalachian Banner Academy is the result of the flame that was sparked inside of me when I realized my son deserved more. It’s a result of the passion of a mother who will never give up on her child, a mother who realizes she isn’t the only one feeling desperate for her child to find their place in this world.
Appalachian Banner Academy will see behaviors for what they are, an effort to communicate and connect.   Children with Autism have a much tougher time figuring out how to navigate the world.
They are not a distraction from important work, they ARE THE important work!
My son and others can learn to navigate this world more appropriately with the proper approach and intervention.
That is the important work we are doing at Appalachian Banner Academy!


Education happens within the context of a larger community. Our approach extends beyond the school to help ensure students have the necessary support to do their best learning.

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