Skip to Content

Charlene’s Story

Charlene, a high-functioning, verbal student on the autism spectrum, moved to the Bronx during her kindergarten year. Instead of placing her in the specialized kindergarten class that her old school district had said she needed due to her behavioral challenges, her new school illegally placed her in a two-hour, general education pre-K class with no supports or services. For the remainder of that school year and all of the following school year, the school failed to provide mandated services, allowed Charlene to attend school for only two hours each day, and required her mother to stay in the school building while Charlene was present.

Despite her mother’s requests for help, the school said it could not provide any additional support and refused to allow Charlene to attend school for the full day. Eventually, the school recommended that Charlene move to a class for children with severe autism who cannot speak and have very low academic skills. When Charlene’s mother rejected this inappropriate class, the principal of Charlene’s school threatened to send Charlene to the hospital whenever she acted out until Charlene’s mother accepted the placement.

Advocates for Children of New York (AFC) helped Charlene’s mother find a school that specializes in working with high-functioning children with behavioral challenges like Charlene. After AFC filed a request for an impartial hearing, the Department of Education quickly agreed to place Charlene at the specialized school and to provide her with 10 hours per week of a research-based behavioral therapy at home. Charlene is thriving at her new school and has been praised for her improved behavior.