Autistic Local Excels at Arkansas Virtual Academy

Jayden Masters Edited

Originally published in The Sheridan Headlight – February 28, 2018

After struggling in a brick and mortar school, Poyen youngster Jayden Masters is now succeeding in his online schooling. Masters, 9, has high-functioning autism. Due to his autism, Masters struggled when he was enrolled at Poyen Elementary School. Deciding that her son needed more one-on-one teaching, Masters’ mother Tina enrolled him in the Arkansas Virtual Academy (ARVA).

ARVA is a K12 Inc-powered online public school. Students at this school work from home on computers. This is not homeschooling and Tina isn’t his teacher. For his classes, Masters has to sign into an online class where he can interact with his teacher and the other students. This is a regular school, meaning Masters and the other students have to get six hours of schooling a day. However, not all of the school day is done with the teacher online. Quite a bit of it is done offline with the parents, or “learning coaches” as Tina called them.

Also helping Tina decide to take Masters out of PES was that Masters has trouble with smells and loud noises. During lunch time, Masters would have to cover both his nose and ears while in the cafeteria. Tina said that her son’s grades have dramatically improved since he moved over to ARVA. Tina and her husband Josh were so impressed with ARVA that they decided to enroll their son Jack, 11, after Masters had been in the program for only one year.

This school isn’t just for people with disabilities. All students are able to enroll. As Masters put it, “Some kids look like me, some don’t.” Like his younger brother, Jack has also seen an increase in his grades since he transferred to ARVA. If you ask Masters what he thinks about his school, he says that he likes it. Part of the reason that he likes the school is because he has made more friends there. Masters has also discovered that he likes two subjects – computer technologies and zoological studies. On why he likes computers, Masters said he likes being able to do research.“You can look up stuff that you are stuck on,” Masters said. With zoological studies, Masters is interested in entomology, or the study of insects. Masters likes bugs and has carried his fascination over to 4-H.

In 4-H, Masters competes in a presentation-giving contest. Last year his presentation was on the monarch butterfly. This year, he will give one on the green stink bug. He chose the green stink bug, saying, “I like stink bugs because they stink up the entire garden.” His schooling at ARVA has helped him be able to compete in 4-H competitions. Tina said watching Masters give the butterfly presentation last year was a proud moment. Masters was nonverbal for the first five years of his life. In addition to the presentation competition, Masters, as well as his brother, also compete in livestock shows with chickens and rabbits, and both have competed in 4-H BBQ cook-offs. “4-H has been great for the kids,” said Tina, who also has an older son, Jeffrey, who was a 4-H’er.

When Masters joined the school, he was in both physical and occupational therapy. In these lessons he would work on his motor skills. After enrolling at ARVA, Tina said Masters’ “skills increased so much they felt he didn’t need to do it any more.” Like any other school, the youngsters at ARVA are able to join clubs. The Masters brothers are in the Lego, cooking and Minecraft clubs. Tina said that what makes these clubs so interesting is that they are not just for Arkansas students. The members are from all over the country, as are the club leaders. The teacher who leads the Minecraft club lives in North Carolina. In all, Tina said that the change in schools has greatly helped both her sons.

To learn more about Arkansas Virtual Academy, visit


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