Virtual school helps child with autism feel comfortable in the classroom

Originally aired on KNDO-TV – September 30, 2019

Everyone learns in different ways, and for one child in Yakima, that meant switching schools; not to another school in the district but to a virtual one.

8-year-old Nathaniel Hernandez attends Washington Virtual Academy. After having difficulties learning at a traditional school, Nathaniel’s grandmother, Selene Hernandez, decided it was time for change.

“He has autism and ADHD, so his anxiety level was really high when he was going to the traditional school,” Selene explained. “This is our third year at WAVA Washington Virtual Academy, so he’s able to do school at home.”

And since the move, Nathaniel has been improving.

“His handwriting has gotten much, much better,” said Selene.

Part of the reason for Nathaniel’s improvement is because aside from there being no actual school, WAVA is very hands-on.

“We have certified teachers that are teaching our students and the responsibility is not just solely on the parents, so our certified teachers are teaching, our students are attending classes – live classes – and then they also have a learning coach right there to help them,” said Delbert Heistand, WAVA Middle School Principal.

Selene is Nathaniel’s coach, and by doing this, she’s also able to learn about how Nathaniel learns.

“One of the things I noticed with the virtual school is that they give you like different ways to teach them because every child learns differently,” Selene said.

This is something Heistand understands all too well.

“Everybody has unique learning styles, learning needs… and so we really try to help the families and the students meet their needs so they can be successful,” said Heistand.

And it’s because of that reason Selene has found hope.

“You know when they have autism and ADHD and they are three, four, five years old and they can’t talk, then you have your doubts if they are going to be able to be successful in school,” Selene said. “So for me to hear him read, for me to hear him or watch him do math, that’s what makes me happy.”

Selene says she plans on having Nathaniel attend Washington Virtual Academy until high school.

To learn more about Washington Virtual Academy, visit

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