A parent’s story: Oklahoma scholarship program helped my child see how special she is

Special Care in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, serves children with and without special needs, offering a 4-to-1 student-teacher ratio and 12 therapists as well as onsite occupational, physical, speech and behavioral therapies divided into three components: Early Childhood Education, Specialized Care, and Onsite Therapeutic Services.

Editor’s note: This first-person essay from Oklahoma mother Kelli Bruemmer was adapted from the American Federation for Children’s Voices for Choice website.

Kelli Bruemmer and her daughter, Maevyn

From a very young age, our daughter, Maevyn, struggled to communicate with others and had a difficult time understanding and processing the messages and information she received from them. When she was ready for preschool, we enrolled her in Special Care, an accredited daycare in Oklahoma City that serves children with special needs as well as children who are considered “typically developing.”

We fell in love with Special Care right away. We were impressed that Special Care’s program is accredited by the National Association for Education of Young Children. Each classroom has a lead teacher who holds at least a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education or special education, as well as two assistant teachers. The average student-teacher ratio is 4-1, so we knew Maevyn would get plenty of attention.

Maybe even more important was that at Special Care, Maevyn could see that it was okay to have a friend in a wheelchair, one in leg braces, and one like her who didn’t talk a lot. She learned that every student was special even though they were different from each other.

Then, when Maevyn was 4, she was diagnosed with autism and expressive/receptive language disorder.

We had been paying for her tuition out of pocket, which was tough, but we made it work. After her diagnosis, we became eligible for a Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship, a state-backed program for parents of children with special needs.

Our state’s Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship Act authorizes the parent or guardian of a public school student with a disability who is served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and who spent the prior school year enrolled in an Oklahoma public school to exercise his or her parental option and request to have an LNH Scholarship awarded for a child to attend a participating private school approved by the State Board of Education.

The average scholarship amount is approximately $6,900. Approximately 125,000 Oklahoma children are eligible to apply. As of September 2022, 83 private schools were accepting Henry scholarships to help pay for tuition.

The financial support the scholarship provided was a big deal because we had a lot of additional costs for therapy and medication related to autism treatment.

Maevyn is 9 years old now, and the best fit we’ve been able to find for her is a public school in Oklahoma City that is not our zoned school. Once again, we are thankful to education choice policies that allow us to send her there because of the state’s open transfer laws.

Looking ahead, my husband and I are hopeful that we will find a private school option for middle and high school that will address Maevyn’s unique learning style. It’s a blessing to know that the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship program will be part of that equation, enabling us to find the right school without worrying about the financial aspect.

Our ability to find the right educational environment for our daughter has been greatly enhanced by Oklahoma’s education choice policies and opportunities. It is our hope that our state – and others – will continue to put children first and provide families with the resources they need to do what they know is best.

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BY reimaginED staff