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Zio’s Story

Zio (center) with his father and his AFC attorney, Michera Brooks, at AFC's 2013 Spring Benefit

When Zio, who is classified as autistic, came to AFC, he was 12 years old and had attended four different schools in six years, none of which had provided him with an appropriate education. In his most recent placement, Zio was not progressing in his studies, was not receiving support to address his behavioral needs, and was being bullied by his classmates.

AFC, in conjunction with pro bono attorney Camille Calman from Debevoise & Plimpton, successfully argued an impartial hearing on Zio’s behalf. As a result, the Department of Education (DOE) was ordered to fund Zio’s attendance at the Aaron School, a private school with specialized experience meeting the needs of cognitively high-functioning students with autism.

After just a few months of receiving proper social and emotional supports at Aaron and being challenged academically, Zio settled in and began to make friends. By the end of the school year, he was a calm, confident student. Zio’s father felt as though his son’s new school allowed him to be the person he was all along. 

With the continued help of AFC and his pro bono attorney, Zio has remained at the Aaron School, where he is currently in 9th grade. He continues to thrive both academically and socially as he receives the supports and instruction he needs to achieve his potential. 

Zio’s father writes, “For years, it was difficult to send my son to school every day knowing that he was struggling to make friends and failing to make academic progress. It was a horrible experience for my son and for my family altogether. Each school year I often wondered, when will things improve?

As soon as I contacted them two years ago, Advocates for Children of New York provided immediate guidance and support. Thanks to Advocates for Children, he now attends a school where he discovered a passion for learning after years of frustrating school experiences. My son now looks forward to his school day and I do too. My son is quite popular at school and is often invited to go on play dates with peers. He has many friends and has learned ways to maintain and strengthen his friendships. Academically, I must proudly say that I am impressed with his overall performance.

Now I wonder, what would I do without the support of Advocates for Children of New York? Are there other organizations in New York City with a mission similar to the mission of Advocates for Children? I do not know of any and was unable to locate one when I desperately needed support. The handful of organizations that I reached out to for help specialized in other areas but not in special education advocacy. AFC truly made the difference in our lives, and I am quite sure they have done the same for many other families. Their name speaks for itself. They are truly advocates for the children of New York City.”