My name is Megan Gall and my daughter, Kylie, is twelve years old and is in the sixth grade. She was diagnosed with autism when she was three years old. We noticed some unexpected things with her development. We talked to the pediatrician and he thought she was just too social, too vocal and too verbal. Autism in girls presents itself differently sometimes than with boys.
I’ve been homeschooling my daughter’s education on and off her entire school career. We’ve been involved with the Arizona school system for the last couple of years. It’s always been a struggle trying to find the right fit for Kylie in the public school system, but alternatively, homeschooling is a real challenge unless you’re independently wealthy, and especially if there are other needs involved like speech therapy, or occupational therapy, things like that.
This is our first year with the ESA. I found out about it when we started doing a co-op with other families who were already involved with ESA, so they were the ones that really told me the ins and outs and what would work best for us. We started with a program that had started the previous year and hopped on the best we could to just get involved with them socially and form friendships.
“We’re doing a lot of really wonderful things like jiu-jitsu, which is something I never imagined Kylie doing but she’s doing really well with it. It’s addressing motor skills and different things that she needs extra help with.”
During that time, we were actually waiting to be eligible for ESA because we were new to the school system. We started with that group and were able to hire a special education teacher to work on grade appropriate material with the kids. We did an online school in the meantime, which was still a public school and still a struggle for us. This year was our first year officially with ESA and we are involved full steam ahead. We’re doing a lot of really wonderful things like jiu-jitsu, which is something I never imagined Kylie doing but she’s doing really well with it. It’s addressing motor skills and different things that she needs extra help with. We’re also doing some really great equine therapy and equine assisted counseling. If you remember what it’s like to be a middle-school aged girl, it’s not the easiest time in life so it’s been huge to us having those resources.
School Choice is really why I’m in Arizona. It’s the most important thing in my life right now. We are a one income family; my husband is bringing the paycheck home and my job is to take care of Kylie and make sure she is getting the most appropriate education and help. This is why we’re here in Arizona. No other state, as far as I know, has this program for her and it’s so important for us because it’s been such a challenge to find the right fit for her in a public school system. A lot of times she would get frustrated having to go from the general classroom to more of a special education setting that really didn’t fit her needs, it didn’t fit her developmentally or her abilities.
“School Choice is really why I’m in Arizona. It’s the most important thing in my life right now.”
Now that we have the choice, we were able to tailor her education to the small groups. She’s in a co-op with six other high-functioning autistic kids. A lot of them are twice exceptional, so they have a dual diagnosis or they’re considered gifted as well. To be able to tailor these small groups to what they need is just huge. It allows her to be around peers that are so similar to her, that have similar struggles. Everybody is very understanding and compassionate if somebody is having a hard day. That’s been huge. As a parent, it’s hard to drop your child off somewhere for eight hours knowing that they’re not in a situation that is right for them. Sensory sensitivities in a classroom of 25 plus other children is literally painful for my child. She uses the word painful. When she tells me that certain stimuli or noises are painful, it breaks my heart. Even in situations that were good and she had really nice, wonderful loving educators who did their best with her in a public school system, it just wasn’t ever the right fit. I think everybody wants so badly for these kids to flourish and do well in the public school system and the educators want it just as bad. Unfortunately, it’s not a one fit for everybody situation.