PROGRAM — Empowerment Scholarship Accounts Program

By Lilly’s, Logan’s, and Laci’s mom, Emily:

I have three special needs children that are on the Empowerment Scholarship Account. In 2015-2017, I was sending my children to public school. I have one daughter that has severe needs. I was going to IEP meetings and leaving them crying. All I wanted was my daughter to get the help that she needs, but I felt like I was always getting a major push back. I felt like the school wanted to give her the bare minimum.

When I did fight back, I got retaliated against. I went to an IEP meeting, being promised a one-on-one aide for her. Then, as I was enrolling her, the nurse aide said “we decided to wait and see about the one-on-one aide.” That is not what we agreed to in the meeting. So I asked for another IEP immediately, and they provided it, but it came with a cost.

My daughter has dystonia cerebral palsy, which means she has uncontrollable movements. When she kicks, her legs hit the side of her wheelchair and cause bruises. We try to pad the wheelchair, but she kicks them off. The principal started calling DCS on me for her bruises. I brought in a letter from the neurologist explaining the reason. It did not stop the principal. He told me in front of DCS that for every bruise she gets, even if he knows why and how she gets them, he will call DCS on me. He flat out told me that we can not work as a team for my daughter. Luckily, DCS heard that and flagged the school. I no longer got investigated for the calls. But I did not feel comfortable at that school either.

We moved and went to another public school. My daughter needs a lot of therapy. Sitting in her wheelchair all day is not in her best interest. The school only wanted to provide her with 1.5 hours of therapy per week. I then tried to get developmental disabilities services to come in and do therapy with her during school hours. Where we live, that is the only option. The public school would not let an outside agency do therapy with her at school. That meant I would be losing six hours of therapy per week.

My son was at another school. He has serious mental health issues. He had to be hospitalized for suicidal idealization. He also had to be pulled out for speech, resource, therapy appointments, med checks, etc. By the end of first grade, he still didn’t know how to read, and was very behind in school.

We found out about the ESA (Education Savings Account), and we have been so blessed for it. I am so thankful for ESA. We have decided to hire tutors, paraprofessionals, and therapist with the ESA. My daughter with cerebral palsy, now gets over eight hours of therapy per week, instead of 1.5 hours. We have a one-on-one paraprofessional that works with her everyday.

My son struggled a lot this last year with his mental health. But whenever he was in the hospital, or has appointments, we are able to start up where we left off. He does not have a classroom that kept going on without him. He has now caught up and is on grade level. We have learned that he also has dyslexia, learning processing disorders and ADHD. But I am able to work one on one with him. I have him in sports, karate, and swimming to help him, thanks to the ESA program.

Lastly, I have a younger daughter who has been diagnosed with autism. She is incredibly smart, but likes to do things her own way. She is above grade level, thanks to ESA. A classroom would just hold her back. I am able to pay for a tutor that can work with her, as she is able to go at her own speed. She is in first grade but doing third grade work. She loves to learn! And I am able to put her in dance, swimming and art classes, so she can learn to socialize without risk of being bullied for her differences.

I am so thankful for ESA. It is life-changing for my family.

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