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Scott and Robin Price, parents of 15 year-old Anna and 11 year-old Jay, have what they call a “not normal, normal life.” In some ways, their lives are no different than any other family: shopping for dresses for the school dance, going to church, and spending time together. The only difference is their children, Anna and Jay, both have special needs.
Anna lost most of her vision due to a tumor under her brain, at the junction of her optic nerve, and Jay has a Cochlear implant after having been born with moderate hearing loss. Challenges such as these of course can add to the already difficult task of choosing a school that fits a child's needs. Fortunately, for the Price family, they have many options where they live.
Anna originally started school at the local elementary school, which happened to be a science and technology magnet. She was then chosen for a different, smaller school, and transferred. When Anna was diagnosed with a brain tumor in the 4th grade, she lost most of her vision and was undergoing chemotherapy, but was determined to keep attending school. She was able to complete her school year and stayed through the 5th grade. For middle school, Anna qualified for every academic program in the school district, but selected a single-gender school. With chemotherapy behind her, Anna is now at exactly the high school for which she had hoped. As a sophomore, she is enrolled in an academic magnet school; a rigorous program for the most academically talented students, and also attends a second magnet school within the same school for students who are gifted in the arts.
Jay’s journey was a little different. From the age of 3 through Kindergarten, he attended a hearing disabilities preparatory program before attending the same school as Anna beginning in first grade. He interviewed at all of the middle school magnets and, now a sixth grader, he also attends a magnet school. He chose one which attracts students who are highly motivated high-achievers and teaches through integrating disciplines. With a lot of great options in their area, the Price family lets their kids choose their current schools. For them, magnet schools within the public school district were the best option. Both of the Price children were selected based on academics, standardized testing, and community service.
The parents of special needs children are sometimes concerned about “mainstreaming,” sending their children to schools that are not focused on special-needs learning. The Price family doesn’t need to worry about their kids, though. “The biggest surprise to us,” said Scott “has been the accommodations Richland 2 has made for both of our special needs kids. We begin each school year meeting with teachers in Individualized Education Plan meetings and explain the obstacles our kids face in their day-to-day lives. We have subsequent IEPs when needed to make adjustments; the teachers and administration have uniformly been helpful and innovative.”
The most important question, though, is: how are Anna and Jay? “Our children are high achievers despite their physical limitations,” said Scott “so they academically fit well and both children are very sociable and both love their current situations.” Don’t you just love a school choice happy ending?