Chef helps start school for children with autism

ATLANTA -- It's one of the biggest shifts in our adult lives -- the transition from us to us as parents.

We fold our children into our lives, and sometimes for our kids, the payoff is tangible -- even edible.

But sometimes, it's because Dad thinks it will be just great.

"It was important for me to have him experience the upbringing that I had," Shaun Doty said.

Dante, 11, is not enamored with his father's rural attempt inserted into his citified life.

"I was born in the city. I just don't enjoy taking care of chickens," he said.

Chef Shaun Doty, the man behind a string of successful Atlanta restaurants including Bantam+Biddy and Chick-a-Biddy, is Dante's dad.

"We knew there was something going on, but we really couldn't articulate it," Doty said of Dante.

It was autism. After years of intensive treatment at the Marcus Autism Center, Dante aged out of the early intervention program.

"I went to some public schools, some private schools," Doty said.

He didn't know where to go. But in his line of work, risk and failure are guaranteed, and success can't happen without them. So Doty helped found a new autism school for his son and other kids like him.

The Piedmont School of Atlanta currently has 11 students, with the goal of eventually having eight children in every class from kindergarten to high school. Dr. Catherine Trapani ran the early intervention program at Marcus. She left to help found the school. The curriculum is strenuous.

"We're not minimizing our expectations, where nothing is watered down, but the way in which it's delivered is sensitive to the challenges that they have," Trapani said.

Dante is thriving in his school.

"I had modest expectations for where he would be at this point, and I didn't expect this," Doty said.

He also didn't expect the joy he'd feel when his son learned to complain about caring for the chickens.

"When he gives you a hard time, you're going to say to yourself, that's the best," Doty said.

See more Atlanta Alive moments here.


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