CharterFolk Chat: Diana Diaz-Harrison of the 2022 Yass Prize Winner, Arizona Autism Charter Schools

Good morning, CharterFolk.

Today we bring you a CharterFolk Chat with Diana Diaz-Harrison, Founder & Executive Director of Arizona Autism Charter Schools.

You may access Diana’s bio here.

In 2012, Diana worked with parents and grandparents of children with autism and professionals to create Arizona’s first autism-focused charter school, which was the top million dollar winner of the Yass Prize.  Here are the highlights of our conversation:

  • At the 1:47 mark, Diana shares her thoughts regarding the increase in numbers of students being diagnosed with autism.
  • At the 3:35 mark, Diana discusses the benefits of early identification and intervention during 2-5 years of age versus the consequences of identification later in life.
  • At the 6:14 mark, Diana assesses our overall public education K-12 readiness for identification and support, the big problems that remain, and where the charter world could provide critically needed leadership in terms of improving autism support across the entire K-12 establishment.
  • At the 10:42 mark, Diana talks about her inspiration and journey to create Arizona’s first autism-focused charter school. 
  • At the 14:53 mark, Diana provides a “backstage pass” regarding how Arizona Autism Charter Schools’ programs really work.
  • At the 18:23 mark, Diana describes what was the most exciting moment of being a Yass Prize recipient and what it means generally for Arizona Autism Charter Schools.
  • At the 21:26 mark, Diana details her vision for using the Yass Prize resources to catalyze even more impact in Arizona and across the country.
  • At the 23:25 mark, Diana identifies priority states for the National Autism Accelerator Program.
  • At the 27:01 mark, Diana gives some suggestions for how charter advocates should think about their states’ environment and support for autism charter schools.
  • At the 31:24 mark, Diana offers a “rule of thumb” for educators to serve students with autism, and their families, more effectively. 

It was a very fun conversation. I hope you all find time to enjoy it in its entirety or perhaps skip to the parts in which you are most interested. As always, you can access the chat at YouTube and/or listen to the chat through CharterFolk, Spotify, and Apple PodcastsClick here to read a full transcript of our chat with Diana

A last thanks to Diana for being part of this interview and for being such an inspiring leader who is advancing an awareness for students with unique needs, changing the discussion nationally, and increasing the number of students who will be served more effectively for decades to come.