Faces of Freedom - Isabella

I am an educator by trade, so seeing my daughter, Isabella, struggle in school hurt my heart. When she started the third grade, we transferred her from an academically advanced public charter school to my home school, a public elementary school. I was SURE she would receive the help she needed there, because my school was fantastic at remediating and providing interventions.

However, while the assessments and data proved she was struggling … she wasn’t “low enough” for many resources in our public school setting. I was frustrated. I was livid. I was her parent AND a teacher at this fantastic school, but could not get my child the help she needed. I could not even get her tested for dyslexia by the district, even though SO many markers were there. I felt defeated, like we wasted yet another year … and here she was about to go into the fourth grade and still could not read.

Since the public school district denied our request to test Isabella for dyslexia, we hired one of the few certified and approved test examiners we could find locally. This was NOT cheap, and took several days. The findings broke my heart. Not only did Isabella have profound dyslexia, she also had dysgraphia (no wonder she could not tie her shoes and wrote in the center of a line on paper) and dyscalculia.

We had several meetings with the examiner, public school staff, and even her future principal/teacher for 4th grade on what the best accommodations were for her, and set up a Barton tutor (again, out of pocket, because all the school was able to offer at that time was a PE teacher that had only seen a training video. That did not leave me confident enough that my child could get caught up AT ALL—we were wasting time!!

During her 4th grade year, we tried so hard to make the best of what public school had to offer. We tried oral testing, we tried every kind of math fluency game I could find (and I had great resources as a fellow teacher in the district!). But we kept being hit with assessment data that was not improving like it needed to be.

Isabella started to believe she couldn’t do it and that she was stupid. She had one year left before being sent to the public middle school. She could NOT be fed to the wolves reading at a 2nd grade level! She struggled socially, and her behavior at home became more than we could manage. We knew we had to make big changes for her AND for our entire family.

During that time, I had come to hear of a school named ACCESS. Its curriculum was based on the Dubard Association Method, similar to the Barton method she had started in public school, but instead of it being 2-3 times a week for 30 minutes, it was used for many academic areas and for HOURS every day. After meeting with them, touring the school, and letting Isabella shadow for one day, we made the hard decision to pull her from public school and put her in a school that could finally meet her needs.

This decision was VERY taxing on our family of 7. We had to pull Isabella and her older sister out of competitive dance, and cut back in many other areas in order to afford the tuition. Her dad began a second job. We were DETERMINED to do what we needed to make this work for her. However, we did not know how long we would be able to keep that kind of financial strain up, seeing as her older sister was in high school and would be thinking of college soon.

ACCESS was a wonderful fit for Isabella. She qualified for other therapies, which she could not have in a public school setting. She was getting individualized physical therapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy. Her grade equivalency went from a beginning 3rd grade reading level to an end of year 4th grade reading level!!! That is almost TWO WHOLE YEARS worth of growth in 12 months!!!!! I literally cried when she brought home her first chapter book. That year at ACCESS was the year she learned to tie her shoe. It was the year she read her first chapter book AND ENJOYED IT. She joined Special Olympics and found her niche in swimming. The child had an incredible backstroke! We were so proud of her progress, and pleased with the institution that was helping make her feel successful! With so much progress, the conversation at home was often “how much longer can we afford to let her stay when she is doing SO well??”

The following year, we heard that ACCESS was beginning an accreditation process and was accepting the Succeed Scholarship. Once I looked into it, I realized it was the money from special services already allotted to my child in that school district — only she was not attending public school. So, it made sense to me that the money should follow her to a school that fit her needs, when public school could not. This was a complete Godsend to us!!! It did not cover tuition completely, but it paid a large portion of it. This meant that Isabella could stay at ACCESS and continue to thrive!

Isabella is beginning her 5th year at ACCESS. She has been able to test out of therapy, and in her 9th grade year, is starting to do 6th/7th grade math. She is reading and writing at levels we were not sure we would ever see out of her if she had stayed in public school. Isabella’s self esteem is high. She is happy. SHE HAS FRIENDS!!! She is learning how do things that most teenagers are doing (like studying the driver’s manual for her permit). We fully expect her to be able to get her GED and go onto a technical school in a few years. None of this would be possible without ACCESS. And without the Succeed Scholarship, Isabella would be without ACCESS.

– Lauren, parent

Click here to learn more about the Succeed Scholarship!