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Ryan’s Story

When his family moved from Puerto Rico to New York, Ryan was in third grade and already struggling with reading. His NYC public school passed him from grade to grade, while his reading skills remained stubbornly at an early elementary level. His school never told his mother that he was entitled to a special education evaluation that could lead to additional education support.

Now 15 years old, Ryan hopes to study accounting or computer programming in school. But because the DOE failed to identify him as a student with a disability and offer the specialized instruction he needs, Ryan entered high school reading and writing at a second-grade level.

In March 2020, Ryan’s family entered a shelter in the Bronx, and he was transferred to a new school, where he fell even further behind. Shelter staff helped Ryan’s mother submit a written request for special education evaluations, but the school ignored her request. Having exhausted their options, the shelter connected Ryan’s mother with an AFC advocate. AFC was able to convince the school to conduct an initial evaluation of Ryan, but once the school identified the possibility of a dyslexia diagnosis, they told his mother that it was up to her to figure out how to secure the more comprehensive evaluation that was needed.

Without an advocate, Ryan’s mother wouldn’t have known where to turn next. But with AFC’s advocacy, the DOE ultimately paid for a comprehensive evaluation that showed Ryan did have dyslexia, and given his years of unsupported instruction, he would require specially designed instruction in a small academic setting for students with language-based challenges.

Ryan’s mother and her AFC advocate then fought successfully for what he needed. In addition to his seat at a specialized high school for students with learning disabilities, Ryan has begun to receive 1,400 hours of compensatory reading tutoring to make up for the years of inappropriate education.

I have seen extraordinary changes in Ryan. His self-esteem has greatly improved and his is more self-confident, helpful, and happier and his social skills are excellent. Before he was very sad. There were very painful and frustrating moments where he felt very powerless.”

Ryan's mother

“I feel grateful and very happy,” says Ryan’s mother. “And I have a lot of hope that he will go very far because his current education program has opened the doors for him to have the foundation he needs to go forward in his life. I am really happy to hear him talk about his goals and future dreams based on all he is learning. From my heart, there are no words that can describe all the emotions and positive transformations that I feel. I can only say million times thank you! You have changed our lives.”