PROGRAM — Empowerment Scholarship Account

Isaiah is a very sweet ten-year-old boy. He loves other kids, but also likes to be alone. He can get overstimulated easily and prefers to be in dark rooms. He loves listening to stories audibly or watching movies. Isaiah frequently fidgets and seems uncomfortable when he isn’t curled up in a dark room. He comes alive when we talk about science, animals, contraptions, and booby traps. He can watch hours of YouTube videos about Rube Goldberg machines.

Isaiah spent five years in the public school system, three years in developmental preschool, kindergarten and first grades. In the public school system, Isaiah received 20 minutes of therapy two times per week in a small group and was pulled for resource one hour per day. Even though the classroom teacher reported that he stimmed (spun in circles or paced) for at least 45 minutes of every hour, the district refused to place him in an autism program, provide one-on-one or utilize the sensory diet that his OT prepared. Since Isaiah was being underserved in the district school, we decided to apply for ESA, homeschool him, and utilize a private school that offered a homeschool enrichment program two days per week.

Ultimately, Isaiah was triggered much of the day, stimmed for hours, and eventually got to a point that he would sleep through school. He said that he is so “nervous” and doesn’t feel nervous when he is asleep. After trying the program for an entire year, we decided to remove him entirely and homeschool him exclusively. When we began homeschooling, Isaiah could only work independently for one minute at a time. It’s been just over two years and he is working independently for 20 minutes at a time. Isaiah receives three hours of OT, one hour of speech therapy, skills training, habilitation, and CBT, in addition to private tutoring and paraprofessional support.

Isaiah is like a different child. He is engaged, vocally expresses himself, and is engaged in his studies. He also gets to play outside with all the neighbor kids after school hours. We don’t have to drag him to therapies after school because we are able to do it all at home during school hours and he can play like every other “typical” kid!

Because we can choose the therapists, the interventions, and tailor the curriculum to his unique abilities and interests, Isaiah is engaged in learning. He has improved socially, verbally, engagement, with motivation, self-regulation, and as gained the ability to work independently. His confidence has been remarkable. He is like a different child.

“School choice has given our family hope, hope that our son can learn and progress and gain the education, self-help and life skills that he will need to be a productive member of society.”

We can choose STEAM curriculum and add literature, art, math, and spelling that all relate to his narrow interests. He is excited about learning! His therapies are intensive and he is making huge progress. He has had the same therapists for years. There is no turnover of staff, no substitutes, and almost no missed sessions. Isaiah knows what to expect every time and his therapists don’t let him skate by. They know him and his abilities. He has consistency and predictability that he never had in the public school setting.

If your child has needs that are not being met by the district, there are other options available. It can be overwhelming and frightening to take on managing our special-needs children’s educational needs, but it is so rewarding to see the growth and progress. First, we saw emotional strength return, then social interactions began to improve, academics started to come more easily and communication improved and now he is starting to identify and manage his sensory needs. It’s amazing what a well-rounded education can do, it is so much more than math and reading, we get to meet the needs of the whole child, not just academics. It’s a beautiful opportunity!

School choice has given our family hope, hope that our son can learn and progress and gain the education, self-help, and life skills that he will need to be a productive member of society. We are grateful for this program and everything it allows us to provide for our son.

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