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Jayce’s Story

Jayce, an imaginative 5-year-old with Autism, needed a spot in Learning Bridges, NYC’s program to provide childcare during days of remote instruction. His kindergarten was only offering remote learning, but Jayce had a hard time focusing at home and wasn’t receiving any of his occupational therapy services. After months on a waitlist Jayce finally got a Learning Bridges spot, but when his mother, Karen, arrived to drop him off, the staff warned her that they would not be able to care for him due to his disability.

Karen knew she didn’t have to let that be the final word; two years earlier, Advocates for Children had helped Karen successfully advocate for an appropriate preschool placement and related services for her son. When the Learning Bridges staff told her they couldn’t support Jayce, Karen used the same advocacy skills she’d gained from that experience to try and lobby the DOE for another school or Learning Bridges placement that could better suit Jayce’s educational needs. But, after several weeks with no response and realizing she wasn’t getting any closer to a solution, Karen got back in touch with AFC.

When Karen emailed AFC to ask for support, we knew this was not an isolated incident; although the DOE had given students with disabilities priority in admissions to Learning Bridges programs, Jayce’s case was not the first time we had heard from families who were being turned away because programs said they didn’t have the expertise or capacity to serve children with disabilities.

Our education advocates quickly reached out to the DOE to make sure they were aware of Jayce’s situation and worked with Karen to help her make her case for Jayce to return to full-time, in-person learning. At the same time, we began advocating for systemic changes, arguing successfully that all Learning Bridges programs should be able to support students with disabilities, as promised by the City, and that parents should have a pathway to request services and accommodations to meet their children’s needs.

Within two weeks, Karen and AFC had persuaded the DOE to find a District 75 school for Jayce that offered in-person learning 5 days a week, one that could provide the highly specialized instructional support he needs to succeed. Jayce and Karen are both thrilled at the new school, where Jayce has been thriving, and Karen feels confident in her ability to advocate for her son’s needs: in elementary school, middle school, high school, and beyond.

Now I feel confident to advocate for Jayce because I know the hard work and stress it takes to make the Department of Education hear you. You guys gave me the strength I needed to keep fighting for Jayce. Thank you again!”

Karen, Jayce's mother