Skip to Content

Paige’s Story

Paige on the first day of school, September 2014.
paige wearing backpack

Nine-year-old Paige, who is on the autism spectrum, is a bright, eager student who functions academically at or above grade level, but needs significant support in order to engage with her classmates and to stay on task in her studies. At the end of her second-grade year, following the recommendations of Paige’s teachers and therapists, the Committee on Special Education (CSE) recommended that Paige be placed in a self-contained, 12-student special education class at a community school. When Paige’s family was finally given an opportunity to visit the school in early September, they learned that it did not, in fact, have any classes that matched the type that was recommended. Instead, the only special education class available to Paige was an integrated co-teaching class with around 30 students. Paige’s mom immediately rejected this placement, but the DOE never responded to offer an alternative, despite repeated requests from Paige’s mother. Meanwhile, Paige sat at home, receiving neither academic instruction nor crucial therapeutic support.

AFC intervened, exploring multiple programs, including the DOE’s own NEST Program, to find an appropriate school that would accept Paige. After Paige was rejected from NEST in October, AFC reached out to Gersh Academy, a private school specializing in serving children with autism spectrum disorders. Paige finally started third grade at Gersh at the end of October 2013. AFC requested an impartial hearing and secured Paige’s full tuition for Gersh, where she has flourished both academically and socially. In addition, AFC won an order directing the DOE to pay for her participation in the school’s summer program to help compensate for the nearly two months she was out of school. In his decision, the impartial hearing officer noted that the DOE’s attempt to place Paige in the 30-student community school class “completely ignored the student’s needs. Their attempt to justify a totally inappropriate placement indicates a cynical disregard for and insult to the special education system.”

This September, Paige’s mom was able to send her daughter off to her first day of fourth grade confident she would be welcomed in a school placement that meets her needs – what a difference a year makes!