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Yacine’s Story

At a family celebration this summer, 13-year-old Yacine’s relatives couldn’t believe how bubbly and social she had become – the same young girl who had been so quiet and reserved just a few years earlier!

When Yacine and her mother, Fama, first came to Advocates for Children of New York, Yacine was struggling. An eager, hard-working student, Yacine was diligently committed to her classwork but had trouble grasping the material. As the pandemic surged, Yacine fell even further behind — without one-on-one support from a special education teacher as required by her Individualized Education Program (IEP), and no remediation to help her adapt to the new remote learning environment, Yacine’s progress in math and reading completely stalled.

Fama also was struggling, as she tried to navigate NYC’s complex public school system.  Though Fama speaks English, it is not her first language, and she was unsure of what some of the terms on her daughter’s IEP meant, or how she could access information to help her make decisions about Yacine’s educational rights. When the school failed to provide language support to allow her to participate meaningfully in her daughter’s education, Fama would often be excluded from Yacine’s special education planning.

When an evaluation revealed that hearing loss, a language disorder, and specific learning disorders were behind Yacine’s difficulties with verbal comprehension and her slower processing speeds, Fama and her AFC advocate identified a school that they hoped would be a better fit: one with smaller class sizes, evidence-based reading supports, and a safe environment where Yacine wouldn’t be subjected to bullying from classmates who didn’t understand her learning needs. AFC filed a hearing request to secure tuition for Yacine’s placement at a more appropriate school, and fought for occupational therapy and the tutoring she would need to catch up to her peers.

Since changing schools, Yacine’s academic progress and her attitude towards school have changed completely. Though she entered her new school significantly behind grade level, Yacine graduated this June from 8th grade with her peers, and even won an award for academic perseverance! Fama recounts how Yacine now comes home each day bursting with stories about her day with friends, and how excited she is by what she’s learning in the classroom. Yacine’s teachers have seen that same progress, describing how much more confident Yacine has become, and how eagerly she now participates in class.

Before, Yacine put in hard work, but she wasn't making progress, and she was always struggling. But she never gave up. Now, she's getting the help she needs, and her hard work is getting positive results. Yacine always used to keep to herself. But now, she knows she can do it. She's confident now.”

Fama, Yacine's mother