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How the Lack of Collaboration for Autism Support Helped Create Bridgeway

Client Highlight

Two female entrepreneurs created a comprehensive organization to resolve the difficulties of managing multiple support systems

Children are often pulled between the philosophies and practices of their schools, home therapists, and clinic-based consultants. Families often drive around town several times per week to access services for their children with disabilities and special needs. Some families could not afford the much-needed therapies and educational support that their child required to be successful.

The Epiphany

That is when Bridgeway Co-founders Erin Nealy and Abby David had an epiphany. They realized they were working with the same clients and experiencing the same issues. What began as a "what if" conversation, quickly morphed into reality after funding sources for their respective therapies were threatened in early 2005. They first opened the doors of "Helping Hands Center for Special Needs" in the fall of 2005, offering therapies and preschool and kindergarten classrooms.

Then and Now

Since then, they have changed the name to Bridgeway Academy, added a second 501(c)(3) organization (Bridgeway Therapy Center), and grown to a $17 Million nonprofit organization that now serves more than 400 families each week. Next year, they celebrate their 20 Year Anniversary!

“If not for Bridgeway Academy scholarship dollars, our twin girls in the 11th grade at Bridgeway would have been homebound or moved to residential treatment due to their significant behavior needs that impede them from learning in a traditional school environment. With the help of scholarship dollars and crisis care from Bridgeway, their single mom can send them to Bridgeway Academy where they are thriving in school, therapies, and the community,” said Bridgeway Co-Founder and Co-CEO Erin Nealy.

Bridgeway now serve students and clients from 10 different counties in Central Ohio and 30 unique school districts from preschool through twelfth grade. Students can remain in the BRIDGE to Adulthood program until the age of 23. The hope when starting Bridgeway was to ensure that their services were accessible to all students and families, regardless of their socioeconomic status. They have worked diligently each year to provide between $75,000 and $100,000 in financial aid to students who would otherwise not be able to attend Bridgeway Academy. 


Bridgeway partners with many organizations around the Central Ohio area, including other local school districts, Autism Speaks, OCALI, The Human Service Chamber, and many corporations who help to provide internships and workforce development opportunities for our students and young adults. Through their partnerships, they offer therapies, mental health services, and childcare that transitions to Bridgeway’s preschool. 

SGO Contributions

Ohio state taxpayers can support the students of Bridgeway Academy, which recently became a member of an organization called Every Child Every Family – a special type of nonprofit called a Scholarship Granting Organization (SGO). According to Erin from Bridgeway, When you contribute to the SGO, you can designate your dollars to be distributed to Bridgeway Academy by selecting them from the drop-down menu. All funds will support scholarships for their students in need. Contributions of any size will make a big difference and most taxpayers will receive up to $1500 back in the state tax credit. This is part of the Ohio Revised Code so will be available every year. Individuals can still access the credit for their 2023 taxes by contributing to the SGO up until April 15, and they will be able to do the same next year for their 2024 taxes. If you have any questions, the SGO website includes this helpful FAQ or contact Janelle Maur, Director of Advancement at Find out more about Bridgeway Academy here