YOU ARE HERE: Glendale HomeCollectionsAutism

In The Spotlight: Tobin's world is expanding

School serving autistic kids has grown to 300 students and a staff of 250.

June 21, 2010|By Michael J. Arvizu

In 1974, Judy Weber's son, Tobin, was dealing with autism so severe that it would manifest itself as destructive behavior.

"He faced state hospitalization," she said.

At the time, Weber was serving on a committee serving autistic children within the Los Angeles Unified School District. Tobin was living at UCLA, where researchers were using him as a subject for early autism research.

When UCLA was close to completing their research, Weber became frustrated when she found that no school would take Tobin due to the severity of his autism. So she decided to start a school on her own that would accommodate Tobin and three other autistic kids — most of whom needed 24-hour care.


"If I didn't start a program for my son, nobody would," said Weber, 75.

When Weber approached officials at Los Angeles Unified, they made a deal with her. They would provide the money to run her school if Weber provided the staff necessary to run it.

Weber agreed, and began to hire her staff. However, Weber had no training in running a school. So with the help of other parents, Weber opened Tobinworld school in 1977 in a rented house in Van Nuys that provided 24-hour care for its students. Donations from her friends in the Jewish community provided seed money for the school.

"We weren't about to rent a store," Weber said of the first school. "So we rented and we had our offices upstairs."

Weber's next efforts concentrated on paving the way for legislation that would set a fair compensatory rate for 24-hour residential care and educational expenses for mentally disabled students. Weber's efforts took her all the way to then-Gov. Jerry Brown, who agreed to listen to the former housewife plead her case after many months of lobbying.

"I was just a mother knocking on doors," Weber said.

Today, Tobinworld, a five-building complex at 920 E. Broadway, is a day school, with a student population of 300 and a staff of 250. The complex also houses the Brill School of Autism, funded by the county.

The school is supported by 20 school districts that fund each student's education, meaning parents or guardians pay nothing. About 70% of Tobinworld's students come from Los Angeles Unified.

Glendale News-Press Articles Glendale News-Press Articles