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Julian’s Story

Julian, a three-year-old boy in an EarlyLearn preschool program in the Bronx, exhibited difficulty understanding language and expressing himself. His mother knew how important it is to address delays during the early years of a child’s life, so she referred Julian for a preschool special education evaluation. The evaluation found that Julian had significant delays in his language skills, and the Department of Education initially approved Julian to receive speech therapy.

However, instead of arranging for Julian’s speech therapy to begin, the DOE called Julian’s mother to come in for a second meeting and told her that Julian would no longer be eligible for speech therapy. The DOE had not conducted any new evaluations and could not provide any justification for this change. When Julian’s mother expressed concerns, the DOE staff member refused to listen and even accused her of “underestimating” her son by asking for special education services. Julian’s mother left the meeting feeling frustrated, hurt, and very worried that her son would not receive help for his language delay. While it is difficult for any parent in this situation to navigate the special education system, this experience was particularly hard for Julian’s mother because her primary language is Spanish.

A social worker at Julian’s EarlyLearn center connected Julian’s mother with Advocates for Children’s Early Childhood Education Project. AFC filed an impartial hearing request and quickly obtained an order for the DOE to provide speech services as well as make-up services for the weeks that Julian had missed. The DOE conducted new evaluations and determined that Julian would be eligible for speech services going forward as well as occupational and physical therapy to address motor delays.

Julian’s mother is thrilled to report that he has made significant progress since he started receiving all of these services. In particular, his mother and preschool teachers have noticed a big improvement in Julian’s ability to express his thoughts since he started speech therapy and in his ability to navigate stairs since he started physical therapy. Julian’s mother is very relieved that Julian is getting help now so he will be better prepared to enter kindergarten. While Julian’s mother previously felt frustrated and alienated by her experience with the DOE, she now feels empowered to assert her rights as a parent, and she is ready to continue to advocate for Julian throughout his educational career.