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#AutismAwareness: How One State Opened New Doors for Students

• ExcelinEd

Gregory Swingle_image

Gregory Swingle, age 8

Katie Swingle is a Florida mom with an autistic son named Gregory. When Gregory was young, his parents were told he would never speak. And later, they were told he would never write.

Katie and her husband feared their son would be dependent on others the rest of his life. They even discussed long-term care and who he would live with after they were gone.

When it came time for kindergarten, Katie sent Gregory to a public school. But the school couldn’t meet his needs. Katie says that it wasn’t the school’s fault. “He just wasn’t ready for a mainstream classroom,” she explained. “He needed so much help.”

The family finally found a small private school that specialized in teaching children with learning challenges—a place that could help Gregory. There was just one catch: the price was prohibitive.

Then Florida passed the Gardiner Scholarship (PLSA) program (Florida’s version of an Education Savings Account) for students with disabilities. The program allowed Katie and her husband to access some of the state funds that would have been spent on Gregory’s education in a public school and spend them at the private school instead.

The new learning environment has transformed Gregory, defying previous diagnoses and predictions. Watch the video below to see the change.

Watch Katie’s full story here.

Gregory’s story is not unique, and students across the nation could benefit greatly from programs like Florida’s Gardiner Scholarship.

“You have Gregory in your state,” Katie reminded America’s education leaders at ExcelinEd’s annual conference last fall. “I hope you will think of him and say, ‘I could possibly make a big difference in his life.’”

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