Meet the Smith Family – Empowerment Scholarship Account program (ESA)

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Please share your current model of schooling and some of the reasons why you chose this option for your family.

Lilly has quadriplegic cerebral palsy, is nonverbal with a cortical visual impairment, a feeding tube, etc. Schooling at home with the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA), I allow DDD to come into my home and because of ESA, I am able to get Lilly 8-10 hours of therapy per week. I am able to get her a one – on – one paraprofessional that helps educate her through my direction.

Logan has behavioral health issues. By schooling at home he can get his behavioral health needs met and if he is struggling or gets hospitalized, we can just pick up where we left off without fear of him getting behind from his class. I get him a tutor to help with his needs. I have been able to get him caught up to his grade level since we started schooling at home.

Laci has autism. She is super smart. She is supposed to be in Kindergarten, however she is doing 1st and 2nd grade work. She is self -motivated to learn. We have a tutor that works with her, then we give her tools so she can keep learning and growing.

Why do you feel this model of schooling best meets the needs of your children? How have you seen them grow and thrive in these environments?

For Lilly, with an ESA we can do what truly works for her. She hates her wheelchair, but loves her padded floor and room. We can get onto her level, and let her be happy and learn where she is comfortable. We don’t have to strap her in her wheelchair to learn
colors or counting, we get down on the floor with her and let her learn in a way that makes her happy.

Logan went from being educationally below his grade level and the class going on without him as he struggled, to him being at grade level! We school our kids year round, so if he has a bad day, it will be made up. We go at his pace. His reading level has
dramatically increased. He is excelling in math. We are able to get his mental health concerns addressed without interrupting his schooling. This is one reason why having a variety of school options has been so beneficial to us. Laci, she is learning at a fast
pace and not being held back, not waiting for others to catch up to her.

How do you feel that living in Arizona and the school options you have in Arizona have helped your children in their academic and life pursuits?

ESA has been a huge blessing for our family. All of my kids are getting their needs met and their education is being tailored to them at 3 different levels. Laci is ahead, Logan just got caught up due to ESA, and Lilly will always be behind, but getting her needs met in a way that makes her happy to learn. All three have special needs that do not work in a regular classroom. Arizona has made it possible for my kids get what they need!

What do you love the best about your current school environment for your kids? What advice do you have for other families considering this option?

I love that we go at their pace, no matter what that pace is. That we don’t have to worry if we have an appointment or a therapy. Going to a speech therapy appointment will not interrupt their schooling and the rest of the class goes on without them. We just pick up from where we left off. This flexibility has been so important for our family since on a daily basis we are working through a variety of medical and other challenges. Being able to use an ESA to help my special needs kiddos is something I wish every family could have.