Florida Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts (PLSA)- Homeschooling Special Needs Scholarships

Anecdotal evidence points to a growing number of families choosing to homeschool their child(ren) with Special Needs.  This can often mean that the child(ren) are no longer eligible for services they would have been eligible for in a public school setting.  In an effort to offset the disparity in access to therapies, in 2014 the Florida Legislature created a statewide scholarship program to help families who chose to homeschool their child(ren) with Special Needs.  This program is called the Personal Learning Scholarship Account (PLSA) and is administered through Step Up for Students.  There are eligibility requirements and limited funds, which are disbursed on a first come, first serve basis.  The program is in its first year of administration, and I have discovered that they are still working out the bugs.

As a homeschool mom, and as a provider of therapy for traditionally and homeschooled children, I was thrilled to learn of this program!  The mother of a homeschool child that I work with enrolled in the program and became my guineau pig, so to speak, to see if they would actually pay for private therapies.  The test was to see if the parent could be reimbursed for the therapy after paying for it.  (Versus the traditional insurance model where the therapist provides the service, then bills the payor and waits for payment.)

The mother has submitted invoices and 3 weeks later she has not yet received reimbursement.  When I talked to a representative at Step Up for Students today, she assured me that this mother can be reimbursed for services she’s paid for.  This is with the assumption that the services are provided by a licensed provider, and they are the services that the provider is licensed to provide.  (In other words, parents can not be reimbursed for a speech therapist who is providing gait training.)  However, the representative informed me that reimbursement is much faster if the parents request pre-authorization through their online account.   So, pre-authorization is not necessary for reimbursement, but it might speed up the process.

While it could be frustrating waiting for them to iron out the bugs in the system, this is truly a beneficial program for homeschool families.  It is another avenue to allow parents to make truly individualized education plans for their child with Special Needs, and to access often financially burdensome services.

For more information and to receive updates, go to Special Needs Kids at Home and register.

ADDENDUM:  This mother was reimbursed for all of the therapy/groups her son participated in with me.  It took approximately 5 weeks for her to receive the money.  Yay!

PAUSE and YET, They Are the Magic Words

Academics can be challenging for many children.  Repeated frustrations can lead to feelings of helplessness and self-defeat.  “I can’t do this!” becomes a mantra.

When trying to communicate with children, I have often found that words can mean something entirely different to them than they do to me.  Children hear adults tell them to stop doing this and stop doing that so often that it takes on a sinister meaning for them.  They learn to ignore it completely, or they over-react the minute they hear it.

I have found PAUSE and YET to be magical and helpful words when managing these frustrations.  The magic lies primarily in the child’s understanding of the word PAUSE.

Children as young as 2 understand PAUSE these days thanks to the variety of electronics they have available to them.  They get that PAUSE doesn’t necessarily mean STOP entirely.  They understand that it means to temporarily interrupt the activity, to (hopefully) be resumed within a short period of time.

This word is best put into play before hitting full-on meltdown mode.  When you can sense frustration, despair, and/or anger, tell your child to PAUSE the emotion/behavior.  (I’ve actually had children take a step away from their position when they PAUSED, to indicate that they have removed themselves from the emotion.)  Then help them assess the situation now that they are more calm and able to reason it through with you.

While they are in PAUSE mode, this is where the magic word YET comes in handy.  The child needs help understanding that when they say “I can’t do this!”, they need to add a YET to the end of that statement.  I often remind them that they couldn’t do xyz at one time, but now they can.  And even though they can’t do [insert academic challenge here] YET, they most likely will someday.  (I hope it’s obvious that the child may need help figuring out how to tackle the problem and what supports they may need to continue working.  The point here is to help them de-escalate the negative spiral that comes with the frustration so that they can honestly assess their abilities and need for assistance.)

Once you have helped them come to an understanding of what is going on, and you’ve (hopefully) de-escalated the negative emotions and instilled some hope, tell them to hit the RESUME button in their mind.  More often than not, they do not feel the need to resume the negativity.  And if they do, they have definitely lost a great deal of the momentum.  And they are ready to tackle the challenge in front of them with a renewed sense of the possibility of success!