Editor’s note: Each Saturday in September, redefinED is dipping into the archives to revisit a compelling story written from the perspective of a parent advocate. Today’s post features a mom who utilized a Gardiner Scholarship to provide her special needs son with educational resources he would not have received otherwise.
We had become parents a second time. This time it was a boy.
Kevin was a vivacious, wonderful baby full of laughter and joy. His development took the usual course. He was a bit behind in language, but we were told it was of no concern yet. A littler later, however, we noticed Kevin had repetitive behaviors, was lining his toys up and, well, had a very strong “personality.”
When we sought the assistance of a speech therapist, she referred us to Early Steps, an organization to screen autism.
The day we were told our son was autistic, my husband and I were shocked by the words, but at the same time we knew.
We immediately began therapies to help his speech and decided to place him in a public school program for pre-schoolers with autism.
At the time, we were completely satisfied with his progress. We found that he adapted well to the learning environment.
However, with our move, we had to change schools. Furthermore, once he exited the pre-kinder autistic class, where there were only five children and two instructors, he was assigned to an inclusion class with 25 students and only one instructor and a “floating” inclusion teacher.
Kevin was left soiled, was not fed for over a month, and continuously eloped to the parking lot.
We finally decided to place Kevin in an ABA center to help him with his behaviors, which were seriously impeding daily life.
Since the ABA was six hours a day, we decided to register him in homeschool. At first, this was very difficult, but when I learned the Gardiner Scholarship helped families like us, we were immediately alleviated.
The Gardiner Scholarship is an education savings account for students with special needs such as autism and Down syndrome. It has been a Godsend to our family. Not only do I have the ability to choose homeschool for my son, I have resources that I would not have been able to afford to give him otherwise.
The public sector is not a good fit for Kevin, who is now 9 years old, as his needs extend beyond what it can provide.
Now I have the tools and resources to provide my son with diverse curricula, private tutors, sensory and physical materials, and technological devices.
I attribute the great strides Kevin has made in his development to the Gardiner Scholarship. It enabled us to help him not only become verbal, but fluent.
I cannot imagine a world without Gardiner.
Ana Garcia is a mother in Homestead, Fla.