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Micaela’s Story

Micaela on the first day of school, September 2015.

Five-year-old Micaela is a dual-language learner who is on the autism spectrum. She is very bright, but struggles with social-emotional skills and sensory processing, and she more readily forms relationships, responds to directions, and is able to express herself when speaking Spanish, her primary language. In pre-K, Micaela made progress with the help of a bilingual special education teacher in an environment with bilingual supports. When it came time to transition to kindergarten, however, the Department of Education (DOE) recommended an English-only Integrated Co-Teaching (ICT) class, despite the fact that Micaela’s primary language is Spanish and Spanish is the only language spoken at home. When Micaela’s mother visited the school placement offered by the DOE, she was told by the principal that there were no Spanish-speaking staff members at the school, their kindergarten ICT class would be overwhelming for Micaela, and they would not be able to meet Micaela’s needs. At the suggestion of City Council Member Carlos Menchaca’s office, Micaela’s mother contacted AFC.

In mid-August, when Micaela still did not have an appropriate school to attend in September, AFC contacted the DOE’s central office and requested that the DOE hold a new meeting to discuss Micaela’s kindergarten program. At the meeting, attended by an AFC attorney, the DOE agreed to recommend a bilingual Spanish ICT program and additional bilingual special education services, as advised by Micaela’s most recent evaluation. AFC then again brought Micaela’s case to the attention of the DOE’s central office to ensure she had a spot in such a program in time for the first day of school. Micaela was quickly enrolled in a specialized dual language ICT class where native English speakers and Spanish speakers, with and without disabilities, are learning together in both languages. Thanks to our continued advocacy and her parents’ persistence, she is having a great start to her kindergarten year!