My 10-year-old son, Simon, is smart. I know…not surprising for a mom to say, but it is true. Simon is bright and excited to learn. But his education has not been easy or traditional.
Simon was born with a genetic metabolic disorder known as Glutaric Acidemia Type 1 (GA1). My husband and I were not aware something was wrong when he was born, but at six months old, Simon suffered severe brain damage impacting all of his gross motor skills. The neurological crisis was triggered by a simple ear infection and fever. Simon is now bound to a wheelchair and fed through a feeding tube. He is not able to speak or even sit up by himself. But he is healthy, stable and happy. We could not love him more or be more thankful he is our son.
Starting when he was five, our family tried sending Simon to a school for special needs children. It did not go well – it just wasn’t a good fit. He cried every day and got extremely upset when I left him at school. For two years, the reports were almost always the same: “Simon was upset most of the day, he got sick, and we could not do much with him.” He was angry and frustrated. After giving it a good try, we decided it was time for a change and began homeschooling.
At home, I have done my best to provide a wide array of teaching techniques for Simon to work with his communication challenges, and since he has a high level of dystonia and spasticity making it very difficult to position him. I am not a teacher by trade, nor am I trained in teaching special needs children. I do the best I can and want the best for Simon. So when several of my friends told me about Florida’s new Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts (PLSAs), I applied immediately.
Simon’s PLSA has drastically changed his educational experiences. Through the program, we have been able to access a computer, an iPad, a large amount of books, video-based curriculums, a therapy mat, and various other items needed to provide a customized education for Simon in our home. We are also in the process of hiring a behavioral therapist who we hope and pray will be able to guide us in helping Simon communicate with us.
Before the PLSA program, I felt extremely limited in the resources I could offer my child. We are a one-income family and there is not much left to go around for books and expensive curriculum, not to mention a computer or an iPad. Now, with the flexibility a PLSA allows, I am so hopeful for Simon’s future.
We would love to be able to better communicate with Simon and want to provide whatever he may need to achieve even a small level of independence. My son is now receiving the educational resources he needs and our family feels so fortunate to have had the opportunity to customize Simon’s education. Our PLSA set us free to choose the right tools to meet our son’s unique needs.
I hope more families gain hope and new levels of success for their children through this program as we did.
Eva Martinez is mother to fifth-grader Simon, who has cerebral palsy, in Cutler Bay, Fla.