Educating and Inspiring students with Autism

to defy barriers


Who We Are

Founded in 2008, The Independence Academy is a nonprofit 501c3, state-accredited private school in Indianapolis, Indiana, dedicated to serving families with students in grades 4 to 12 seeking a more personalized approach to education to meet the specific needs of adolescents with high-functioning autism. Students graduate with a fully-accredited high school diploma.


Who We Serve

Our students are intelligent and capable fourth through twelfth graders with high-functioning autism from around central Indiana who often come to us frustrated and struggling academically and socially. The Independence Academy provides a safe, positive environment in which students begin to feel accepted for who they are.


Our History

IA was founded by two Indianapolis families who recognized a need for a school that would serve their sons and other adolescents with high-functioning autism (HFA). Co-founders Susan Le Vay and Ruth Padgett met in 2005 and soon began sharing their vision for a unique school with specially-designed academic support, and daily life and social skills courses, where students had an opportunity to earn an accredited high school diploma.

With key support from Dan Le Vay, Greg Padgett and Jill Phillips, Susan and Ruth opened IA’s doors in August 2008 at their first location near Butler University. This was the same site where both The Orchard School and Sycamore School started years before. Welcoming 18 students in its inaugural year, Susan and Ruth served as director and administrator, respectively, along with a team of gifted faculty and wonderful volunteers.

IA moved to a larger building in the Meridian-Kessler neighborhood in 2012 where it has continued to grow and serve students in fourth through twelfth grade, who come from and beyond the greater Indianapolis area.

In 2014, Susan and Ruth confidently handed the reigns to IA's current director, Marisa Gill, who embraces the school's mission and is committed to leading with compassion, skill and professionalism.

The co-founders have maintained their involvement in The Independence Academy as it has evolved, and take delight in seeing the school serve so many students who have needed a place to belong and succeed. Ruth regularly consults with Marisa and the Board of Directors, while Susan remains active in consulting, mentoring and delivering quality social skills programs to IA. In November 2014, Susan became certified in PEERS, the only evidence-based social skills program for teens with HFA, and offers participation in the program to students and their families. 

Susan and Ruth, whose sons graduated from IA, are now working with parents of other young adults to create opportunities for more successful transition into the larger community.