South Walton Academy “Dreaming Big”

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By Rita L. Sherwood

Walton County is one of the fastest growing counties in the state of Florida, and the demand for an alternative learning environment is here. Enter South Walton Academy, (SWA) the only school of its kind within a three hour drive on the Emerald Coast. And what makes this school different? Since 2016, SWA has provided individual instruction depending on the child’s needs which range from educational to therapeutic opportunities. They provide guided instruction for behavior, social skills and communication in order to maximize potential for children under the age of 18. On site licensed therapists and certified teachers work together to achieve curriculums for gifted students, special needs students, and neuro-typical students. SWA’s low student to teacher ratio allows one-on-one instruction as well as socialization and group work in each classroom.

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Currently, 50 students age 3-13 are enrolled in their academic program, and they also are working with 80 pediatric therapy children. Public programs are available and include aftercare, playgroups, a summer program and a therapy clinic. Art programs for adults and children, as well as parent trainings and a kids night out round out the extra curricular activities.

Speech, Developmental, Occupational and Behaviorial Therapy are used here, as well as tutoring. Groundbreaking new therapies such as the iLS Program, Safe and Sound protocol and Integrative Relex therapy also are practiced here.

And what’s the most rewarding part of being involved with SWA? Founder Callie Middlebrook says, “Celebrating a non-verbal child speaking for the first time, or watching a student surpass their grade level.” She also shares that learning, growth and development in a child starts with movement and sensory exploration. “We take this knowledge and provide targeted movement activities throughout the day for each class which improves motor skills, sensory detection and processing in order to achieve academic success.”

In their third year of operation, SWA has grown more than 300 percent, so the need for a new facility is paramount. On January 1, 2020, SWA will be moving to their new campus on Mack Bayou. SWA is a private, non-profit school that collects tuition and is highly dependent on fundraisers. Please consider donating to their “Dream Big” capital campaign at www.mightycause/story/Southwaltonacademy or by calling (850) 213-4595, emailing, or visiting online at, or on Facebook and Instagram. SWA also accepts most insurance carriers, as well as private and state funded scholarships such as Gardiner, McKay, Hope, Florida Tax Credit and more.

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