“I don’t think I could have done it by myself,” says founder & executive director of the Madrone School, Lindsey McGrew. In fact, when she talks about starting the Madrone School -an affordable, specialized alternative to public school for children with autism. Lindsey uses the word “we” a lot, about her team, her family, and her advisors.
It all started with her and husband Kris’s oldest son, Grady, a thriving 10 year old student of the school. When he was two years old, Lindsey mentioned her worry around autism to her pediatrician, who disagreed with Lindsey’s queries. One year later, Lindsey insisted to her doctor that Grady was showing signs of autism, but her doctor again disagreed. The family started having to fight to get support for their son, including a diagnosis that would help him receive services. When Grady became school-aged, they applied to private schools, but didn’t get accepted based on their health insurance. Grady was enrolled in public school, where he was unable to meet goals due to lack of support. They tried changing school districts, but to no avail. So Lindsey took action: she started an advisory board to explore building a school where children with autism could get the assistance that they needed.
Lindsey opened The Madrone School on January 3rd, 2017 offering therapeutic and educational services, utilizing “ABA therapy” focusing on positive behaviors, that has allowed students to thrive through behavior therapy, speech therapy and academics. “We researched intensive ABA therapy – and what a difference that makes in having jobs, friends…it makes a huge impact on these kids as adults. I personally see such a big difference in these kids.” Focusing on 1-on-1 support and transition to independence seems to really work. “It’s a challenge to find the services our kids deserve” says Lindsey. So she became part of the solution.
Lindsey is learning how to navigate owning a nonprofit school, but doesn’t go it alone: she does it all with the support of her family, her advisory board, Business Impact NW, her current Masters in Business Administration work at Seattle University, and even finding resources like 501 Commons for questions that arise. “We were the first nonprofit to win [Seattle University’s] business competition in a very long time,” she shares. That was a huge experience for her; not just winning, but competing for recognition for her business plan. “Talking in front of people helped me grow and be well rounded.” It helped the school, too. That’s where she met a lot of supportive people, and built the relationships that served as a vital piece of her success. Since she started exploring starting her own school, she has never been alone in the journey. From mentors to advisors to professors and community connections, the public has supported The Madrone School in a huge way. Today, Lindsey keeps a full time and growing staff of ten employees, and a goal of serving 15 students by the fall.
To read more, volunteer or support The Madrone School and its programs, please visit their website at www.themadroneschool.org