Using the Arizona Empowerment Scholarship Account to educate your Autistic Child
Since 2011 Arizona governors and state legislators saw a need to give parents more control over their child’s education and educational options available to them. Prior to the year 2011, parents were confined to send their child to district schools within their neighbourhood according to government regulations even if the schools were not the best fit for their child. As of late, all of that has changed for children who fit several categories as we will discuss below. Parents now have greater freedom and flexibility to get the therapy and educational environment their child needs through public state funding, through the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA). This option now will guarantee countless children receiving the best possible care and education if they live in the state of Arizona. So, how do you know if your child qualifies? Below we discuss the eligibility requirements and then the great benefits children on the autism spectrum particularly may receive through this initiative.
To be qualified for the Arizona Empowerment Scholarship Account, a child must/ be:
Diagnosed with special needs
Have a parent who serves in the military line of duty
Have a parent who died in military line of duty
Attend a school in their district rate D through F
Have a sibling already on the Arizona Empowerment Scholarship Account programme
Living on Tribal Lands or Native America
A foster care recipient, past or present
Has an IEP or 504 from a public school
What does this mean for a child diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum?
Many children on the autism spectrum are moderately and severely affected, making it difficult for them to thrive in a public, mainstream classroom environment. However, this does not mean that with the right environment they won’t thrive. Home schooling is an option given to parents who enrol their ASD child on the Empowerment Scholarship Account program. With this option, children on the spectrum may receive the one to one attention they need. Autistic children who are able to pursue academics may enjoy and benefit from access to a tailored curriculum which emphasizes key subjects which they may need help with, along with therapies such as play therapy, art therapy and music therapy. Some subjects that parents may want to consider asking their child’s home-school teacher to focus on include language and reading, as well as any subjects that particularly interest the child or where they show giftedness in. For more severe autistic children, a home school environment funded by the Empowerment Scholarship Account may provide safety from unwanted stigmatization, bullying and discrimination which may be rampant in public schools.
Home schooling, however is not the only educational option which parents who use the Empowerment Scholarship Account for their child can access. Another great option for autistic children is a private special needs school or therapy centre. Many remedial centres carry a wide range of in-house therapists ranging from occupational therapists, speech-language therapists and behaviour therapists. Some centres also offer sensory therapy and a day-school with specially trained special education teachers who are versed in caring for and educating autists, according to their needs and abilities.
The Empowerment Scholarship Account also provides for Individual therapies with a budget of up to $14,000.00. This can be of great value to parents who need several therapists for their child who is on the spectrum. Many of these therapies are expensive and not available in public school settings, as they cater to neurotypicals, leaving neuro-divergents behind. Sometimes several therapies are needed by an autist, along with the need for a shadow and/or medications. Getting the funding for these, especially for low-income families who are already emotionally strained by the child’s diagnosis, is a game-changer in the fight to give the child the very best future he or she can have despite their condition.
Many parents have already pulled their child from the public system and taken advantage of the Empowerment Scholarship Account. While you are on the program, you will not be penalized if you find that switching therapists or options available may result in better results for your child, as you navigate the wider variety of arrangements this fund can now provide. It may take a while to find the best fit for your child in terms of therapies, shadows and even medications. The funds allotted to your use will easily cover the period of adjustments and tweaking of your child’s treatment plan. Provided for also in the fund are books and assistive technology which may benefit your child. This may be worth exploration by families of autists as many children on the spectrum may need PECS devices, specialized iPads, weighted blankets, schedules, prompts, fidget toys, chewies, supplements and other specialized items geared towards autism care.
We would like to advise families who find themselves going through emotional strain due to their child’s ongoing demands and challenges, that the Empowerment Scholarship Fund also covers respite therapy which is an excellent therapy which greatly impacts the family’s mental and emotional wellbeing while on the autism journey. Respite therapy relieves parents of caretaking duties for an hour or two while they attend to a date or errands, while their child is immersed in enriching activities with well trained caregivers who attend to their development and upliftment by taking them on an outing or involving them in well enjoyed activities with other children on the spectrum.
In closing, we would like to tell you to consider all the benefits and possibilities available to you through the ESA and know that there is help for you to give the best possible care to your autistic child. Don’t hesitate to reach out to our team who will be glad to forward more information on the ESA to you.
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