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A Better Education for My Autistic Child

Posted by Brian Spence on Jan 21, 2019 8:00:00 AM

Autism, Autistic, Behavioral HealthNever stand in the way of a momma bear and her cub. Officials in Henrico County, Virginia learned this lesson when they refused to provide a "free and appropriate" education for Gregory "Junior" Matthews, who at fifteen is non-verbal and on the Autism Spectrum. After a special education specialist determined that Junior qualified for attendance at The Faison School in Richmond, he was enrolled there.

Junior was making progress, becoming verbal and learning to read. His mother, Tonie Matthews said, "It was the best experience. He progressed tremendously." Then the Henrico County School Board tried to pull the rug out from under Junior by suing his family in federal court. They wanted to reverse the decision of the expert who said that Junior was not receiving adequate education for his condition. The School Board asserted that they could provide"free and appropriate" education for the child as mandated by federal government for individuals with disabilities. They disputed the findings of the expert who said Junior would be better served at Faison.

The Child's Interests First

But Mrs. Matthews disagreed. She was not going to allow school officials to use her son as a political football. She made the difficult decision to move her whole family to another school district to make sure Junior got what he needed. In New Kent County, Virginia, Mrs. Matthews found a school board more concerned about the quality of instruction for students than her previous locale. They agreed to pay for Junior to attend the school that was best for his advancement. When she moved, a judge dismissed the lawsuit.

My Son is Worth It

Although the stress of the lawsuit and the expense of the move have taken a toll on the Matthew's family, Mrs. Matthews has no regrets for moving to New Kent County and knows she made a good choice by moving. It would have cost $23,000 for Henrico County to send Junior to Faison, about one third of the tuition, the balance picked up by the State of Virginia and the federal government. In 2018, they spent $654,869 of taxpayer dollars fighting families like the Matthews whose children needed educational services that Henrico did not provide. Advocates for disabled children hope that the heavy handed tactics of the Henrico School Board will not be repeated in the future. In the meantime, Junior is getting the best education available thanks to the folks in New Kent County, Virginia, where they agree - he's worth it.

Working with special needs children is a fulfilling career. Staffing Plus can help you find a role in this field. If you're looking for further information on this and related topics, visit the Behavioral Health and Education sections of our blog.


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