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PROGRAM — Special Needs Scholarship Program

We started seeing signs of dyslexia in my daughter when she was in kindergarten, so we tried to get her into a private Christian school and they suggested us having her tested with Ava White, and that was in first grade. We homeschooled her for a couple years and we saw the signs of dyslexia. We did a private test. The waiting time for Hawk County was anywhere from 12 to 24 months to be accessed. So, out of our pocket, we had her accessed privately and found that she had dyslexia, post-traumatic stress disorder, ADHD, a lot of emotional problems that she was dealing with. She had lost her sister, which triggered it all.

We could tell that no matter what technique we used to teacher her, we couldn’t get her to read. We wanted to get a scholarship to come to Ava White’s Academy of Innovations first, but the scholarship just wasn’t big enough. We had to go through and get an IEP and to do that, you have to go through the public school. That school talked us into staying there, saying that they could teacher her, but they couldn’t. We stayed there almost four years. They suggested to hold her back, which we agreed to because she wasn’t ready to move up. So she repeated second grade, homeschool one year, the second through the Hawk County system. It didn’t help. Three and a half years there. They just didn’t take the time. She was a well behaved child. She wasn’t hyper, she would just lose focus a little bit. It wasn’t extreme though. The teachers would focus their time on the kids who were extreme, so they would just throw her on the computer. She was being left behind.

By fifth grade, she was facing middle school and reading at a first grade level. There’s no way she could go to public middle school without being able to read. She was struggling in math too. We asked them to put her in small group math and they said no. They put her in regular math class and then halfway through the year, pulled her out. With her disabilities, she can’t handle change well, so every year, this disruption would set her back. There wasn’t enough structure to make sure she had a schedule that didn’t change. Everything was setting her back.

We came back to Ava, had her tested again, and that’s how we found out what grade levels she was on. The public school said she was fine, but we didn’t think she was fine. She was on a first grade reading level and a second grade math level, when she was in fifth grade. She was missing math questions that she should have learned in third grade. We had to start tutoring. Math tutoring at first so she wasn’t overwhelmed. In the summer, we started her in the program with Ava and immediately we could see changes in her. Just having that one-on-one attention, having someone sit down with her and teaching her how to read with her dyslexia. We felt like in the summer’s time, she had done more than she had done in the public school system for four years.

“We felt like in the summer’s time, she had done more than she had done in the public school system for four years.”

We decided to fight and get her into Ava’s school. It was a long battle. It was hard, emotional, physically exhausting, mentally exhausting, just to fight to get her here. Ava worked with us and was holding off on fees until we got the settlement. Now the school is paid, we can breathe, and our daughter is happy. She is reading. Not quite yet on middle school level, but she’s reading. Before, she wasn’t at all.

Our daughter is so happy now. She was having mental breakdowns at one point. We had to start counseling with her because of the things she was going through with the public school. She was just being left behind. The class sizes were 32 and she was embarrassed to ask for help. She could see the other kids moving along while she did not. So, they suggested for the teachers to stop putting grades on the paper and use a calculator for math. So it wasn’t fixing the problem, you’re putting a band aid over it and that’s not going to fix it. She needs to learn.

“Her whole personality has changed. I pick her up in the afternoons and she’s happy.”

Now, we can see that she’s in an environment where she is focused. She knows she can do it. She feels confident. The insecurities are almost completely gone. Her whole personality has changed. I pick her up in the afternoons and she’s happy. When I was picking her up in public school, she was in tears. I’d take her to school in the mornings and she would sit in the car and beg me not to go. Here, she never says I don’t want to go in, or my stomach hurts. That was the other thing, she was mentally making herself physically ill. You see your child suffering, but she has to go to school. We had a couple days where I would say, Olivia is going to the counselor and not going to school today, because she mentally couldn’t handle it. We would have to take mental days off, which no child should have to do. The only time she’s missed school now is because she had a fever. In public school, she was sick all the time.

This is her first year at Academy of Innovation. She started tutoring a year ago, in January. We had the summer school with them and the school year started in August.

We read at night and in the morning, she writes sentences. She gets her pencil out and starts writing. She’s an easy kid. She doesn’t want to be late to school. It’s just crazy how her whole attitude about school has changed. She loves the teachers at her new school. She loved teachers in the public school, which was emotionally hard because she loved the person, but the actions weren’t there. She didn’t have a voice there. At her new school, she can talk to the teachers. If there’s a problem, we just talk it out. If I would call Ms. Ava about something, she just takes care of it. It’s done. The public school said they would do something, but would never do anything.

It’s just a whole different world. For the mental health of Olivia, it’s just been so positive to come here and we don’t worry. We drop her off and we know she’s in good hands. Before, I would have to go to school every day and have lunch with her, otherwise she wouldn’t make it through the day. Now, she’s more independent. She wants to do things on her own. Our whole family dynamic has changed just from the few months she’s been at Academy of Innovation.

O”ur whole family dynamic has changed just from the few months she’s been at Academy of Innovation.”

The teachers make the school so special. The people who work here, they love the kids. They don’t just love teaching. It’s structured, but they have fun. On holidays, Ms. Ava is dressed up just like the teachers. She’s had pies in her face. They enjoy their jobs and the kids. Sometimes in public school, the people who work there you can tell aren’t happy and the children can see that. I think Ava has a great group of people working with her and that makes a difference.

This school also specializes in dyslexic children, so they know how to teach a child who has dyslexia. When Olivia writes a paper and she doesn’t spell everything correctly, it’s okay. She probably won’t ever get to the point where she spells everything correctly. So they are like, that’s fine, as long as she’s getting it in, as long as she’s reading. They encourage her. It’s not the constant, you didn’t do this right. It’s more of, you did this right, let’s encourage that. I felt like in public school, they focused on what she didn’t do, reprimanding her. It made her feel like she can’t do anything. Here, it’s the opposite. They are encouraging the kids, positively.

I feel like, as long as we pay taxes to educate our children, we pay the money and it should be there for our children. We should not have to file lawsuits for our child to be educated the way we need them to be educated. Especially a child with a learning disability. I think all children should have a choice. Every child is different and should be able to be taught differently. There are science, math schools, and those kids, whatever their edge is, that’s where they need to go. When you put them in a room and everyone’s been taught the same way, not every child is going to learn the same way. So when we are paying our taxes, that money should go to the child, not the school. That child should be able to get educated where they want to get educated. It seems it should be common sense that each child gets their own money and can go to where their needs are met.


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