Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Education - One Size Does Not Fit All

School Choice Week is a great time to highlight the connectable Roundtable priority of "Navigating Schools."

Genevieve is one of my best friends and my favorite people! She lights up every room she walks into with her genuine kindness and her love for humor. Throughout these four years, she’s taught me more than I could have ever expected about patience, loyalty, and true friendship. ~Kyra, Best Buddies peer

Connecting with people of varying abilities teaches us that we are more alike than different. Encourage your children to reach out to peers who are differently abled. Exposure at an early age promotes a lifetime of inclusion.

Inclusion in Traditional Schools

Parents of children with Autism, Down syndrome, and other IDD all agree on one thing. They want their children to become their best self and a world that embraces them!

Since parents have different visions of how to best reach this goal, education is not one-size-fits-all. Regardless of the path they choose, many parents report difficulty in understanding how to access private schools through School Choice or navigate the IEP accommodations in public schools for optimal inclusion. This is a nationwide challenge that plays out differently on a local level based on the school district and private school options. This article will touch on both school choice and inclusion in traditional schools.

Inclusion in Traditional School

“I wouldn’t change my child for the world, but I’ll change the world for my child.”

This is one of the answers parents give when asked why they work so hard to make sure their children receives needed accommodations in public education. They desire for their children to receive equal opportunity in public schools, just with necessary lesson accommodations and supports. Parents express wanting typically developing students to have the opportunity to meet and interact with their neurodiverse children. After all, they will be the hiring managers of tomorrow.

It can be difficult advocating for children in public education designed for typically developing students, especially when resources are limited in public schools. Learning the ins and outs of advocacy is essential. Every parent should consider attending Family Café in person or virtually to get the tools needed to be equipped for a life of advocacy. Educational advocates are also available to help families navigate education, including those listed below.

School Choice

Other parents prefer private school environments tailored to prepare children with IDD for the world. Private schools report that students thrive in environments that focus on identifying and developing abilities rather than accommodating disabilities. These schools offer specialized curriculum, onsite therapy, small staff ratios, vocational training, medical support, and other resources tailored to abilities and independence levels. The Family Empowerment Scholarship for Students with Unique Abilities (FES-UA) allows parents to personalize the education of their children with unique abilities by directing money toward a combination of programs and approved providers. These funds can be applied toward private school tuition.

Many parents move across the country and even drive up from Palm Coast and down from Georgia to attend one of the special education schools in our area. Still, some parents don’t know how to access funding to attend these schools at no cost. Early education would help! These are just some of the private schools in Northeast Florida.

In addition to private schools, Duval County Public Schools offers several Exceptional Student Education Centers.

Learn more about important issues impacting our community members with Autism, Down syndrome, and other IDD by reading the Connectable Roundtable Discussion Report.