Autism education institution provides opportunity for underserved students in Huntsville

Foster Academy launches its second year as the only school in Huntsville exclusively providing individualized spectrum-based education to students with high-functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Foster Academy was founded in 2017 to serve a population of students whose needs have not been fully met in other school environments in the area.  Foster Academy is located adjacent to University Baptist Church on Jordan Lane and is a ministry of the church. Foster Academy will have an official opening ceremony and celebration on August 22 at 10 a.m. at Foster Academy at 809 Jordan Ln NW, Huntsville, AL 35816.


In June 2108 Foster Academy hired veteran educator Diane Leisher as Executive Director and the energy she brings to this small school with a big heart is driving exciting growth. The certified teaching staff serves students in grades 5 through 12. Courses are based on the Alabama Course of Study using a variety of resources in the classroom, both textbook and online. Small class sizes enable Foster educators to pursue a solid philosophy supporting a least restrictive environment (LRE) model. Foster Academy emphasizes LRE to serve the unique differences of children and teens with high functioning ASD and related symptoms. Foster Academy is important to the community as it addresses a very specific need in the Huntsville area: An individualized learning environment for high-functioning students on the autistic spectrum.


Dr. Megan Crisler of Silver Linings Neurodevelopment will speak at the ceremony on the importance of Foster Academy to the community. She is also a member of Foster Academy's Board of Directors. The faculty, staff and students are delighted to meet the community at the opening ceremony on August 22. The energy at the school among the staff is infectious. According to Ms. Leisher, “I am most excited about our students, who are each unique individuals, and the opportunities we can provide them. We have an excellent and excited faculty/staff in place; we are a mission of a highly-supportive church, University Baptist Church; and our parents are committed to obtaining the best education possible for their child.”


About Megan Crisler

Dr. Megan Crisler is a licensed Clinical Psychologist, with specific interests in developmental functioning across the lifespan. She earned her B.S. in Psychology, along with an additional B.S. in Biology, from the University of Alabama, followed by her M.A. and Ph.D. in Clinical Child Psychology, also from UA. She completed her pre-doctoral internship at the University of Miami Mailman Center for Child Development, with a specific training emphasis on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Prior to earning her Ph.D., Dr. Crisler also worked as a Family Resource Coordinator at Florida State University, assisting in the coordination and execution of early screening, assessment, and intervention for toddlers with ASD across the Florida panhandle.

While trained specifically in ASD assessment and treatment, her graduate training emphasized a “generalist” approach, meaning that she possesses the skills necessary to assess and treat a wide range of other disorders. The term “treatment” is used broadly, and may include traditional psychotherapy, skills training, or consultation, based on the patient’s individual needs.

Her clinical expertise is heavily focused toward developmental disability assessment and treatment, with specific emphasis on ASD. Dr. Crisler is also trained in other behavioral and mental health disorders in children and adults, including oppositional behaviors, mood disorders, and family functioning. With regards to ASD, she specifically enjoys working with families and individuals through education and treatment planning, along with facilitating social skills groups for children, adolescents, and young adults.


About Foster Academy

Foster Academy was founded in 2017 and is a mission of University Baptist Church. Foster Academy serves students in grades 5 through 12 and provides an inclusive and supportive environment to help students with high functioning Autism, Asperger's Syndrome and other learning differences achieve success.

Diane Leisher hired as Director of Foster Academy


Foster Academy announces that Diane Leisher has accepted the role of school director. Ms. Leisher has served as a part-time mathematics instructor at the school during its inaugural year and the Board of Directors is delighted for her to move into this new position. Ms. Leisher’s duties will include managing staff, curriculum, and operations at Foster Academy. She will also continue to serve as a mathematics instructor. Foster Academy serves students in grades 5 through 12 with high-functioning autism, Asperger’s Syndrome and other learning differences. Foster Academy is located at 809 Jordan Ln NW in Huntsville, AL and is a mission of University Baptist Church. Ms. Leisher has taken on her new job as Director officially as of July 1, 2018. Registration is currently open at Foster Academy for new students.

Ms. Leisher has spent time in both the corporate and academic worlds throughout her career. After teaching mathematics in public schools and earning her Master of Science degree in Mathematics from Texas A&M University, Ms. Leisher left academia and worked in a variety of industries. In January 2002 she returned to academia and took a position at Alabama A&M University (AAMU) as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mathematics. In addition to her teaching responsibilities, she served as an academic advisor for Mathematics majors and on numerous Department and University committees. After retiring from AAMU in July 2015, she continued teaching as an Adjunct Instructor at Oakwood University and AAMU.

Regarding her new position at Foster Academy, Ms. Leisher states, “I am thrilled to have this opportunity to grow the school, as we continue our mission to provide an inclusive and supportive environment to help students with high functioning Autism, Asperger's Syndrome and other learning differences achieve success through individualized instruction.”

Ms. Leisher is also a Certified Laughter Leader and firmly believes in the health and mental benefits of laughter. She conducts laughter programs throughout the Huntsville area.

Foster Academy leadership is excited for this new phase in the school’s development and is delighted to have Ms. Leisher lead the way.  According to board representatives, “We are confident that Ms. Leisher’s experience, knowledge, and integrity are a great fit for the teachers, students and families of Foster Academy. Together with the staff and the Board of Directors, we will continue to advance our mission by empowering our students to reach their highest potential."

Foster Academy is also actively seeking to grow its teaching staff. More information can be found at the Join our Team tab.


Trip to Wheeler Wildlife Refuge and Festival of the Cranes

On Tuesday, January 30th the middle and high school students of Foster Academy took a field trip to Wheeler Wildlife Refuge. The students in both classes finished a semester-long study of the earth's ecosystems, biomes, and wildlife science, so we were grateful to experience the study of earth science close to home at such a perfect time. 

There were several science lessons we had been working on in class that the students were able to finish after their data collection at the refuge. Students have been learning about the science of migration, how to identify different types of birds and, of course, learning about the sandhill cranes and other migratory birds. There were over 1000 sandhill cranes on the refuge during our visit and the students were lucky enough to catch glimpse of a rare whooping crane. After we returned to our classrooms students recorded their data and wrote about cranes and birds of prey. 

We will continue to learn more about how the crane and other birds are able to make this journey every year. This was a fantastic opportunity for our students, as they were able to put their education to work and find out more about science in the world around them. 

Back to work...

It was a restful Fall Break and we are glad to be back in the classrooms again. The year has been an exciting one and our students are progressing wonderfully. Here are just a few high-lights from the week before our break. 

The Middle School Students gave presentations on Native American tribes.


Our high school students worked outside of the classroom in our cafeteria/kitchen area on Essential Skills like food prep. 

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Another great week at Foster Academy

Last week the middle school had their Friday celebration for reading and math progress scores. In science they have been studying weather and climate, so they watched a 20-minute episode of the Discovery Channel's Craziest Weather. Finally, we handed out report cards after the High School essential skills class made fruit smoothies for the middle school!  Another great week!


The Effect Hurricane Harvey Has Had on Individuals with Special Needs

Hurricane Harvey has wrecked havoc on Houston, Texas. This category 4 storm has resulted in deaths, major flooding, and displaced people whose homes are either destroyed or unsafe to live in. The effects of the storm have undoubtedly been difficult for the many people living in its path, but for those with special needs like autism, the disaster can be particularly devastating. 

It makes sense as to why this would be the case. Those with autism tend to struggle with change, and the disaster brought by the hurricane obviously leads to some pretty major changes. Families may need to be rescued from their homes and evacuated to safe shelters.

 Houston, TX  Via Business Insider

That’s traumatic enough, but it’s even worse when you consider that these shelters can be brightly lit and can get pretty crowded and noisy, leading to threats of overstimulation at every turn. And as wonderful as it is that these shelters are providing food for displaced families, many with autism have restricted diets due to sensory sensitivities.

Luckily, there are caring souls who are jumping in to help the special needs victims of Hurricane Harvey. The Autism Society of Texas, for example, is offering resources and support. They are working to provide these families with tools like weighted blankets, stuffed animals, fidget toys, and noise canceling headphones. To help with dietary issues, they are distributing grocery store gift cards so families can buy foods their loved ones will eat.

But the Autism Society isn’t the only organization helping victims of the storm. is also stepping up to the plate by working with partners who provide search and rescue services, shelter, and medical assistance. We are also working to provide families with helpful tools like toys and books—providing a bit of stress relief and respite during this difficult time.

Our Dream Team

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"Alone, we can do so little; together we can do so much."

Helen Keller

Foster Academy is a dream made possible by the support and hard work of a few dedicated individuals. We would be remiss if we didn’t recognize the team that has brought us this far. Our teachers show up every morning and engage our students, embrace their learning differences, help them overcome challenges, and build their strengths. Our founders and our church home worked together to make a place for Foster Academy. University Baptist Church has made room for us to pursue our mission and build a school with great facilities. Our board members give their time to guide us and help us grow. The experts who train our faculty in the latest and best practices are vital to what we do.

Finally, thank you to the parents who have placed your students in our care. We are grateful for your trust and support.

It’s been a great start to the school year and we are energized by what is ahead of us.  Please explore our site to learn more about our faculty, board members and our curriculum.

Orientation Day

Today we held orientation for the 2017-18 school year. It was great to meet the families and students, talk about expectations, show off our space at University Baptist Church and have a little fun.

it was great to see you all! Come ready to work Monday! We will!


2017-18 School Supply List Grades 5 - 8


  • 1 Pack of White Copy Paper
  • 1 Pack of Color copy paper
  • 1 package of graph paper
  • 2 packs of lined notebook paper

Writing utensils

  • 2 packages of #2 pencils
  • 1 package of red ink ball point pens
  • 1 package of blue ink ball point pens
  • large package of colored pencils
  • 4- Colors of highlighters
  • 1-4 Count (or more) Expo Markers
  • 1 package of skinny magic markers
  • 1 black sharpie

index cards

  • 2 package of 3x5 lined
  • 2 package of 3x5 no lines


  • 3-1 inch 3 ring binders
  • 2-1/2 inch 3 ring binders
  • 1package of binder dividers 5 or more in package


  • 6 basic folders different color with pockets and prongs for paper
  • 3 folders with pockets only


  • 2 large glue sticks
  • 1 bottle regular Elmers glue all
  • 2 pencil boxes
  • 1 protractor (ruler)
  • 1 ruler with metric and inches
  • Calculator
    • 5th and 6th grade basic calculator
    • 7th and 8th grade
      • 1 scientific calculator similar to-Staples- Texas Instruments® TI-30XIIS Scientific Calculator, Blue Texas Instruments® TI-34 MultiView™ Scientific Calculator,Walmart-Casio FX-300ESPLUS Scientific Calculator