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It Takes A Village

A mother shares her story of triumph over adversity with the love and support of Hope For Three and her community in hopes of reaching other parent’s in need of navigating the public-school system. 

My family and I have been fans and supporters of Hope For Three for years enjoying their events such as the Skeeters’ games, the puzzle contest, and their support of our girls in the Miss Amazing pageant. We have made meaningful connections at every event. We were always told that Hope For Three was there for ALL families affected by autism despite financial resources, and that we had a place to turn if we ever had a need beyond what we could handle.  I never imagined having such a need until my daughter’s high school did a tri-annual evaluation and recommended to have all her supports of special education and counseling removed.  My daughter’s diagnosis of autism, dyslexia, sensory disorder, and multiple specific learning disorders are well documented throughout her education and she’s a top student in advanced classes.  It was recommended that she exit advanced classes despite practically straight A’s in high school, exit special education, lose her Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) rights, and lose her counseling.  At her last evaluation, everything we built for programming that worked was at risk.

We go to great lengths to have her included and for her to be able to have an education that is at her level despite disability. My teen consistently hits top percentiles in knowledge and math with advanced STAAR testing. But, in many areas she hits bottom percentiles because of visual disorders and dyslexia that she works so hard to mask.  Autism and sensory disorder are key issues we deal with on a daily basis. She’s a trooper but the stresses are real. We have spent a fortune getting her to the right testing, therapies, interventions, and remediation.  I thought we were out of the maze.  I thought we were done with the costs.  We have a very successful child who has done the VERY hard work to get to where she is, but because she can mask her autism – they can’t see it.  It’s grueling what she has to go through to work around her visual disorders to be a high achiever, but she insists that she has a right to be in those classrooms and have the privacy of not being singled out whenever possible. She knows her rights to accommodations and uses them well.  It’s not OK for her education for teachers to be told to disregard her autism.

We had the fortune of attending the Strike Out Autism event where my daughter was overheard saying, “Oh, I used to have autism, but I guess I’m cured.”  I remember Darla Farmer from Hope For Three giving us a big hug and telling us that there is help lined up for us.  Hope For Three connected us to the Fort Bend County Arc director who not only offered to sit in on ARD school team meetings but also answered all my questions on how to keep the great relationship I have with the school and administrators while not allowing my daughter to lose her protections under the IDEA.  I was guided on all of the steps of the process of politely disagreeing and how she can keep her rights. I was helped in getting an independent evaluation which showed all the former diagnosis including autism. My daughter now has a report that undeniably confirms her autism, her specific learning disorders, and her dyslexia. So, 4 out 5 times she’s been tested, the conclusion was high functioning autism which she masks by interventions.

We are still in the process of going back to the school to review the independent evaluation they agreed to, due to the help of the Arc and her educational mentors.  The Arc is giving us information that could help prevent escalation to mediation.  I believe we are at a tipping point of helping our special education families not have to repeatedly go through this and just get help.

My daughter and I are now doing advocacy work in an effort to pay forward all of the love and support we have received. In the support groups we are trying to guide parents to the right testing to identify their child’s special needs and disorders. We’ve helped dozens realize they were dealing with autism and countless others on getting their child the necessary help. When my daughter won the Night of Superstars Award we met many mentors that said they would stand with her.  So, she learned that the crown and sash was just a platform and people would listen.  She would not disclose her disorders before that award.  Now, she’s learning to speak out and it’s slow but, every event, and every mentor matters. Volunteering has been amazing. Personally knowing how the outreach works blows me away.

Thank you Hope For Three for the vision that it takes all our kids and families being supported and connected. Thank you for bringing us into your village and helping us have a voice. I’m beyond proud of the community for standing up for my daughter. We are grateful that we connected to such strong support groups working together. My daughter is determined to be a leader and spokesperson for special needs because of the mentors she has met, the groups she has watching connecting and working together, and the love and support she has received.