When my child started kindergarten, I noticed there were some things that my child did differently than his other classmates. For example, he hid under desks and no one could get him out, and he didn’t like to communicate. The school and my family had an IEP meeting and were able to provide him services (such as resource room and OT), but these services still weren’t enough. The school told me that he wasn’t “severe” enough to put him in a special education classroom and that we would continue with him being in a general education classroom with pull-out services.

By the end of kindergarten, we got him evaluated and he was diagnosed with autism. I got a second opinion and the provider diagnosed him with autism as well. They both informed me about the ESA program, which I didn’t know anything about. His IEP team and I decided to update his IEP primary category of disability to Autism (since it was also affecting him at school). I decided to give him some time to see if things got better.

“At that point, I didn’t care and just wanted the best for my child. I felt that they weren’t meeting the needs of my child and he was going to fall through the cracks.”

Near the end of first grade, I decided let’s apply for ESA and we got approved about three months later. I informed the school that we were going to put him in a private autism school. Most of them were supportive, some were not. At that point, I didn’t care and just wanted the best for my child. I felt that they weren’t meeting the needs of my child and he was going to fall through the cracks. The private autism school worked well for him throughout the first year. He was gaining communication skills and social skills. However, the second year I noticed they weren’t meeting his educational needs.

During the pandemic, we decided to put in an online private school, which offered tutoring, music, parkour, basketball, and other services. He has made tremendous strides in both his physical ability (such as running and climbing) and educational ability. It has been amazing to have the opportunity to choose what is best for my child and change it up when it is not working for us. That is why school choice is so important because the parent or guardian can make informed decisions versus just staying at the same school (there are not very many options besides a public school). I try to spread the word with other parents and help them with questions and the processes. It is the least I can do since ESA has helped my child so much!

All families, regardless of income, should be able to choose the right school for their children. Every child is so different, so each child learns and functions differently. Each child must have success both academically and socially in school. This is why our family chooses to use an ESA, so we can customize our child’s education. I am so blessed that we have school choice!

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