Carmen Ward’s eighth grade son, Paul, has Asperger’s Syndrome. The St. Louis School system failed to meet Paul’s special needs for many years, so Ward turned to a charter school for help.
The Show Me Institute, a Missouri think tank that is dedicated to free markets and individual liberty, is highlighting this dedicated mom’s success at finding the best educational solution for her son.
“Missouri is one of the only states in the union that geographically limits charter schools,” said Michael Q. McShane, Director of Education Policy at the Show Me Institute. Luckily for Carmen Ward, she lives in St. Louis, MO., which has 26 charter schools. She found the perfect one for her son.
Paul has been attending KIPP Inspire Academy for four years, now, and is thriving.
But it wasn’t always that way.
“Paul entered St. Louis Public School in the first grade, ” Ward explained.
“Paul was in what was called a self contained classroom, so he was in the classroom with autism of all various levels,” she said.
That meant that he was exposed to kids who exhibited behaviors such as hitting their heads against the wall.
“He would come home and hit his head against the wall,” Ward said. “If they were eating pencils, Paul would come home and eat pencils.”
Ward explained that because Paul functioned at a higher level than the other autistic kids in the self-contained classroom, “it was very traumatic for him.”.
“There was really no support and no one who wanted to help me help my son,” she added. “It was all about warehousing him.”
“When I came to KIPP, I came ready to fight,” continued Ward. “Because that’s what I thought it was going to be. It was going to be a fight like every other school.”
The feisty mom soon discovered that things were a little different at KIPP.
“What happened was, I was introduced to his support team and they were different,” she said. “They were more like a family structure.”
Ward explained that at KIPP, “they immediately laid out an I.E.P (Individualized Education Program) that would fit Paul’s needs.” She added, “within that I.E.P. there were team members who were willing to meet me where I was. They laid out the plan for me. They organized a support system that worked for Paul.”
Ward said that the teachers “pushed him in the classroom to do as much as he could possibly do. They did the necessary modifications because he was very much behind. And once he caught up, they began to slowly take away modifications.” She said that as Paul improved and grew, they rewarded him when he met the mark, “because KIPP has a goal — KIPP through college.”
Because of the educational choices charter schools such as KIPP offer, Ward says she has been “enabled with the power to choose a school that is going to educate my son and give him the best opportunity to either make it to college, or get a good training where he could be beneficial to society.”
“Yes, he has Asperger’s,” she noted. “But that doesn’t mean that he has to be on disability or welfare his whole life.”
“I CHOOSE KIPP because they’re going to take him through college or to his highest level of independence that is possible to him,” Ward said.