need money for school?

Do you have a child that needs money for a specialized school?

Many states have scholarships for children with special needs or families with low income.   I always thought my kids would all go to the same school and that that school would be our zoned public school.  My husband and I both attended public school and have or do work in education.   Now, we are those parents who work (or worked) in education but send their own children to private school.  I am so happy with my school choices and how we have been able to use scholarship money to cover almost all of the cost.

Did you know that private education from K to 8th grade could easily cost you $100,000!

In Florida, we have income based scholarships and special needs scholarship options.

My son has autism, that makes him eligible for the MacKay Scholarship and the Gardiner Scholarship.   The MacKay eligibility comes from having an IEP (Individual Education Plan) and attending public school for at least 1 year.   We did that in pre-k three and four (VPK) and had an IEP.  It is your special education funding that would be allocated for the public school; you are allowed to take those funds to another school.  That could be another public school, charter school or private school.   It gives parents choice as to what learning environment is best or least restrictive.

We were put into a situation where we had a school for autism close in September.  We had to move to a private school in October after the first quarter.   We were so thankful to be able to transfer our McKay (state) funds to the new private school.  Our scholarship is able to cover the tuition.  Our health insurance then covers the cost of his therapy.  The small setting of the private school and their willingness to work with our therapy company allows my son to get the one on one support that he needed to learn.  In the public school, we could not get my son a one on one aid to assist in the classroom.

We will plan to examine moving to the Gardiner scholarship next year as we have to constantly evaluate our insurance coverage.  If we have to change insurances then we could lose coverage or have limits on hours of therapy each week.  We would then need the additional scholarship money from Gardiner to cover that therapy need.

I recommend: first find a school then find out what scholarships they accept.  Start looking into the requirements of those scholarships and apply.

My typical daughter attended private school for kindergarten.  We have made the decision to enroll for next year and will continue to attend the school as long as it meets her needs.

We decided that the public school was not meeting her needs when she was in pre-k. She needed more attention and higher expectations and as we pushed at home; the teacher’s response was

she’ll be fine!

Well, fine wasn’t in the descriptions of what we wanted our daughter to have in her education experience.  We wanted our daughter to be challenged and loved.  Have a teacher that cared but pushed her to learn.

We started searching for private schools that used a different curriculum than the public school and that if she was behind or ahead of the class/ material that she would continue to be challenged.     Once we found a school and did the shadow day, we then started asking about the scholarship options.  We applied for the Step Up for Students scholarship and the AAA Scholarship for our daughter.  We were able to claim our baby which made us a family of five.  That bump from a family of four to five was enough to move us into a different income bracket and we were able to qualify for the scholarship.  The Step Up for Students has a scale…so you can earn a partial scholarship!  I suggest looking into this income based scholarship if you do not have the IEP/504 or medical diagnosis to get a special needs scholarship.

This scholarship money will pay almost all of our tuition.  We then make monthly payments over the year to cover the balance.

This year kindergarten did not end as we would have all wanted but for my daughter she grew and changed with the challenges and love that her teachers gave her.   She read 101 books in 2nd semester.  80 of the books were read while we were in quarantine!   It is truly amazing how much a child can love school when the environment is conducive to growth of the whole child.

Although, my children do not attend the same school; each school is amazing and has it’s own best qualities.  They are both different and offer unique experience for school.

We finally believe that we have found the school for each of our children and we have the scholarship money for both.

I recommend: When it comes to making a big school change and having to find financial support and scholarships; always have an open conversation with your school.  You may be surprised at how and what they can do to help you manage your enrollment and scholarships.

Florida is unique in that we do have multiple scholarship options for families.  However, most states do have alternative funding requests, scholarships or grants that you can look into to help change your school.  Visit your states department of education page and search for scholarships/grants/funding/charter/private school options.   Need help: email me!

Keep Advocating,

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Link to Florida Department of Education Scholarships 

More on scholarships and helping your special needs child find their best learning environment coming next week!

Success with autism during Covid19 home school

While most parents struggle with work and home school, my son with autism has excelled. Here’s how…

We are all in very unprecedented times during the pandemic of corona virus how we adapt and cope can make huge differences for children. I have been working from home since March as a teacher and my three kids and husband have also been home. We thought for awhile that daycare and our sons therapy office would remain open and take 2 of 3 kids out of the house a few hours each day. Well as the days passed, more closures and restrictions made that not possible.

The first two weeks were insanely stressful for me as I tried to find a new work life balance while figuring out how to do what I’ve been doing in a classroom for 15 years to online in 5 days. I had my come to Jesus moment when I had a 3:30 zoom with my intern and her college professor. They were insisting that I turn on my camera; and I refused! I actually refused three times and almost shouted at them but kept my mouth shut.  I cried in bathroom at least three times that day, all before that 3.30 pm call. So, no I was not in any shape to video chat.  

After this I realized I was going to have to get it together not only for myself but for these kids.  I started saying yes. So, as everything closed and options were suggested, I said yes. My biggest yes was for Max (my 8 year old son with autism who just started the 1st grade as a full inclusion student) to have his behavior therapist come to my home everyday. She went to school with him everyday and knew the schedule and the expectations. She has been incredible for my son’s success. Everyday we work on his school work and additional work to help where he is behind developmentally.

He is exceeding expectations! Here’s why I think he is doing so well.

His autism keeps him from socializing appropriately with out coaching and practice. He prefers to play alone or with one person. He loves his friends but often shadows play and does not initiate. So now we cant interact or play. He’s not upset. He plays with siblings and himself, and he is happy. Now, my typical 6 year old daughter in kindergarten is sad and upset about missing school everyday. So his social and emotion health is great.

He is not stressed by school work. He has less work with virtual school and the same level of behavior support. Now he also has access to mom and dad during the day also. His teacher (behavioral specialist) keeps him working for 6 hours with frequent breaks outside. He went from having to leave math lessons at school for causing a disruption to doing math independently on the computer.

Distractions and disruptions. In a familiar home setting there is very little change or disruptions in the environment. It is easier for him to focus when we are each working in a different space, compared to class where fifteen other 1st graders are off task multiple times within a 15 minute lesson.  He has to manage that stimulus and attention while trying to get him to focus and complete the lesson.  

Why I have no shame in being proud. Max has been so far behind his peers for years that it is taking a freaking pandemic to give him a chance to catch up! So while all the other moms throw in the towel, I fight and push to learn more at home. I’m so thankful and appreciate of my therapist (teacher) that has been coming into my home everyday. She really is like part of the family now. I hope that when school starts that we will have made gains while the rest of his peers stayed at the same level. I know that for my typical child, I just want her to maintain her math, reading and writing. I’m not trying to do more lessons and she has already told me I’m not a good kindergarten teacher. But I want my son to get this opportunity to gain academic knowledge and skills because he is probably two years behind his age peers.  

Do what you can, when you can.  And  just to be clear I could not do this without professional support from an amazing teacher because of her my son with autism is having amazing school success during corona virus home school.   

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5 things to never say…

to a parent with a child who has autism

 

As a parent of a child who has autism, let me give everyone a few tips on what not to say.  As parents, we live in a unique world surrounded by really amazing people and our child.  The way we live and the choices we make are often different that many other families way of life.  Different doesn’t mean bad but it is special and unique.  As I have aged as an autism mom, I have started to notice that there are some common misunderstandings or stereotypical responses from people not in our community.  Over this time, I have also realized how amazing other parents within the autism community truly are.  There is nothing like the love, acceptance and helpfulness that comes from my fellow autism parents.  They understand, like really understand, and can put you at ease, make you laugh and give you hope for the future.  We  are all different but we are all part of this special community.  So, if you have the pleasure of meeting an autism mom; here’s what NOT to say.

 

  1. I’m sorry.

  2. He doesn’t look autistic.

  3. Is he high functioning?

  4. What is his gift?

  5. How do you think he got autism?

 

I’m sorry.  This does not convey any true attempt to empathize with what my family has had to accept.  In terms of accepting, my child isn’t dying and he isn’t terminally ill.  This is not a death sentence it is life.  It is a unique and beautiful experience that if you allow a child with autism to love you in their way, he or she will change your life for the better.

He doesn’t look autistic.  I’m not sure what type of compliment you thought you were giving but you really look bad.  Many people with disabilities do not wear them on the outside.  Did you mean to say, oh, well he doesn’t look mentally impaired like in the movies.  Or he doesn’t seem to be doing any of the “autistic” traits like flapping his hands or looking anywhere but at a person.  Just stop before you embarrass yourself!

Is he high functioning?  What is that even meant to infer?  Like does he go to school with typical peers and do age appropriate activities or are you asking if he is some savant? If I say no, he is not high functioning; are you going to have follow up questions?  I have had conversations with people about my son, explaining funny things he does; they have responded back with, OH, so he’s high functioning?!  What? No.  He’s not labelled high functioning, but you got an idea from a video or a show about those gifted Asperger’s people.

What’s his gift?  HA!  no, people he’s no savant.  That is far and few in the world, that’s why people with those gifts are so celebrated and publicized.  I’d say his gift is annoying me with the same set of questions over and over until I put my foot down.

How do you think he got autism?

hmm,Karen.  I don’t know but he didn’t come with a return policy…so, I guess I have to keep him.

Never. ask. this.  There is a huge range of possible answers and depending on your parenting, political, scientific, and religious views you could be stepping in some very deep stuff.  It is best to avoid any conversations around this topic at all times.  I even avoid this conversation with other autism parents!

 

 

  1. you are doing a great job!
  2. I didn’t know your child had autism.  Our daughter has dyslexia (or other learning disability) and it is so tough getting her ___ (insert therapy, education, home chore that you have struggled with) how are you doing?
  3. We’d like to invite you to ___(insert your next party, event, play date) tell me what or where we could go to include you and your family.  Is there anything we could have for food or activities that would help you attend and be able to stay for while?
  4. I’d love to learn and talk more about your situation, we should talk more or just call me when you need a break.
  5. How are you dealing with the struggles?

 

Autism moms and dads can feel alone at times because they can’t do many of the same activities at typical families or parents because they need to accommodate their child’s needs.  When you address the parent/adult and how he or she must be feeling, thinking or coping with their child’s autism; you are helping to connect at a deeper level.  That connections helps him/her not to feel alone.

I hope these tips can help you reach a friend or family member at deeper level.

 

NewRuth

 

 

 

Announcement for The Real Deal of Parenting

I’m so excited to announce that I will be blogging for The Real Deal of Parenting.

I have followed this blog and its author Regan Long for years. She has great articles and parenting perspectives. I love her writing with its honest truth and humor. 

Follow the Real Deal of Parenting on Facebook and IG and enjoy!

Thank you for all the support, 

Ruth

 

To My Son’s Teacher on Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day

I was about to write my son’s teacher a note for Valentine’s day and send it to her.  Then I realized that I have taken on a role in my life to be open about our journey so, I’ve decided to share what I have to say to my son’s teacher with you too.

 

Dear (name removed to respect her privacy),

 

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Thank you so much for all the love you have shown Max over the school year!   This year has brought our family many educational challenges and we are so thankful that we have had your support and communication as we continue to fight for Max’s education.   I wanted to share a few things with you:

Max loves being in your class.  He tells me when you are out sick and asks to come to your class on weekends.    The way he showed me all his favorite things when we came to your class.  He was excited and made us both nervous, but I could see his happiness.

The book of stories you gifted him; he keeps it in his bed at night.  He only does this with gifts from people that he really likes.  There are very few things that I have gifted him that hold such an honor.

He asks to buy you gifts all the time!  I find myself asking him questions about you and your interests, he doesn’t know the answers, but we keep trying.  For example, do you have a pet?  Max thinks that you do!

 

I don’t know how you do what you do every day.  The love you have for your job is incredible.   You can teach and create an environment of love that allows children to feel loved and valued.  My son has never really wanted to come to school, but he wants to come to your class. When I have asked for your help, you didn’t hesitate.   Thank you for your patience, kindness, and most of all your voice of advocacy for the best education and therapy for my son.

 

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Tampa Bay Morning Blend Interview

I had such a great time meeting and talking with the hosts and staff at the Morning Blend. Huge thanks to the amazing publisher, Tara Richter for everything she has done to help me share my message of hope to others.

Morning Blend Ruthfulness clip

My story is published!

Ruthfulness is published and ready for purchase on Amazon.  If you are local, let me know if you want a signed copy.

For those that follow the blog and know our family, the story of what we went through on my son’s journey through early intervention is out in print for all to read.  I’ve written my story to support and inspire other parents who are on their own journey with autism or early intervention.   Parents should know they are not alone.

Our story is a heart wrenching story of what it’s really like to raise a child with autism, the day to day struggles that many parents deal with and how you too can overcome.  We cry, laugh and give hope to everyone on their journey.

If you or someone you know has a child in early intervention or with autism, I recommend the book.  You will also find helpful information and many resources in the back of the book for parents.   Readers will also find information on how we received thousands of dollars to provide for tuition and therapy for our son.

Please consider writing a review to support the book!

Write an Amazon review 

Thank you!

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Ruthfulness released on Amazon

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My published story about how we navigated the early intervention system, suffered hardships, accepted autism and overcame so many struggles. We have become a family that stands for education, access and advocacy.

I want you to know that you are not alone on your journey as a parent with a child on the spectrum.

Amazon link to purchase a copy of Ruthfulness

 

With just a match strike

Your life or someone else’s life can flash forward in your mind. All the dreams, ambitions, joy and laughter gone within aglimpse.

That’s the feeling…

That’s how special needs parents feel everyday. How life can be taken from us with an accident or how we wait for aglimpse into our child’s future. All the questions and all the worry everyday. Putting our trust into so many therapists, doctors, medications and special diets just to hope for a change for the better and just one glimpse at a bright future.

So, with just a match strike tonight, I’m reminded of the feeling. It shook me to my core. My daughter (6 in about a month) found the matches in the kitchen drawer. They are hurricane supplies from Irma, I didnt even think about being available to a child. So, while everyone was asleep this afternoon except me, my child got the box. She took out the match stick and struck it.

I was in my room, adjacent to the kitchen . She came to me and told me she made fire with the match. Then I smelled it. Sure enough it had worked for her! You know, I can like never light a match with one try but this girl did.

I asked her where the stick was…she said,

I put it back in the box.

Sure, enough! It was there.

The match stick and all the feelings all at the same time. Not only do I wrestle with my thoughts but how to control my reactions. All that ABA training comes in, I don’t want anymore of this behavior so…I’m not going to overreact. Stay calm and give clear expectations, remove the matches from the kitchen!

I’ve got this, day by day always growing and learning ,

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