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Exclusive: Microschools Fill Niche for Students with Disabilities, Survey Shows

When Steve and Jenny Balbaugh’s daughter turned 5, they were hesitant to enroll her in the Fort Wayne, Indiana, schools. Ali was born with a rare brain defect that affects her learning and had been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

“I didn’t want her to get lost,” Jenny said.

But private options fell short. A Montessori school she attended for kindergarten let her sleep all day. When she reached sixth grade, the Christian school she went to stopped providing extra help with schoolwork. The principal, Jenny said, explained that extra services weren’t important because “99% of our kids go [on to] higher education.”

That’s when the Balbaughs tried Streams of Hope Christian School, a smaller, unconventional program based in an Anglican church that lets students move at their own pace. Now in eighth grade, Ali can use a calculator for math problems and gets help with writing assignments.

“Every single child’s plan is individualized,” Jenny said, “and they don’t move on until they have mastered whatever they’re working on.”

Families like the Balbaughs, who have children with autism, ADHD and dyslexia, are seeking out small programs like Streams of Hope — part of a growing education sector known as microschools. Almost two-thirds of operators say their programs draw students considered neurodivergent, according to the latest snapshot of the movement from the National Microschooling Center, an advocacy organization. The survey of 400 microschool founders in 41 states also shows that children with other disabilities represent one of the next largest populations served, with 53% of school operators reporting that these students are enrolled in their schools. 

Read the full article on the74million.org. (https://www.the74million.org/article/exclusive-microschools-fill-niche-for-students-with-disabilities-survey-shows/)

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