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Emely’s Story

Sixteen-year-old Emely just made the honor roll at school, and we are so proud of her hard work and how far she has come! Emely has a significant language disorder and a learning disability, and when her mother first called AFC’s Helpline about two years ago, Emely was almost 14 years old and in fifth grade for the second time. Emely had long struggled academically—she was held back twice in early elementary school—but was not identified as a student with a disability until her first time in fifth grade, when her mother learned of her right to request a special education evaluation.

The first time Emely’s mom tried to meet with the Department of Education (DOE) to discuss special education, she was told to come back in two months because she speaks Spanish and there was no interpreter available. By the time the DOE evaluated Emely, created an Individualized Education Program (IEP), and started giving her services, it was nearly the end of the school year. Even then, Emely received less than half of what her IEP required. During her second year as a fifth grader, Emely was reading on only a second grade level, and she continued to struggle in a class that did not have the right supports. Emely’s mother knew that her daughter was not making progress, but she did not know the extent of Emely’s disability or what services might be useful, because the DOE did not translate any of Emely’s special education documents into Spanish or provide interpretation at meetings, in violation of state and federal civil rights laws.

After Emely’s mom reached out to Advocates for Children, we helped get a thorough evaluation to determine Emely’s needs. The evaluation showed that Emely had severe language deficits and was performing far below her intellectual abilities as a result. When the DOE still did not offer Emely the help she needed, AFC filed an impartial hearing request to secure placement for Emely in a specialized school for students with learning disabilities, as well as intensive speech therapy and one-on-one tutoring in reading and writing outside of school. The case settled before hearing, and Emely has made huge strides with the right instruction. In her first year of make-up services, she jumped four grade levels in reading! We have continued to represent Emely to make sure she can stay at her new school, where she has been thriving. She is very excited to finally start high school this coming fall! Emely’s mom shared her recent report card and honor roll certificate with us, saying, “I owe you a million thanks for the happiness I have in my heart.”