Autistic child looking for proper schooling

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. --- One Duval family is concerned that their daughter might not get the proper classroom placement when the start of school in less than two weeks. Asa and Priscilla Maass are parents to Abigail, 9, who suffers from autism. She was diagnosed at the age of two, and she has never spoken a word. However, her parents say she is extremely intelligent and like all children, she deserves the proper education.

"I may not walk her down the isle. You know, I may not send her to college or get the chance to buy her her first car. I just don't know about those things, but there are a lot of things that I can do, if she gets what she needs now," said Asa.

Asa says what his daughter needs, is the proper education. The Maass family says since Abigail's Duval county schooling in 2005, she has made minimal progress. As a result, they took the school board to court in order to get the education they say, she deserves.

In May, an administrative law judge agreed the school staff did not follow its educational plans for Abigail. The judge ordered the district provide Abigail with "compensatory" education services, which includes a behavioral modification program called Applied Behavior Analysis.

"I felt good," said Asa "I was so happy. I felt like all of our hard work and all of Abigail's hard work paid off and she was going to get the education she needed."

However, school starts in less than two weeks and still, there is no word on who will be teaching little Abigail.

"We have had to fight for a lot of things with autism, but to fight for your child's education? Every child deserves an education," said Priscilla.

"We don't have time, that's one thing we don't have. That's one thing we don't have the luxury's time," said Asa. "We can't put things off until tomorrow."

First Coast News reached out to the Duval county school system for comment. They sent us a reply from Superintendent Nikolai Vitti: "Our legal counsel is currently working with their attorneys to ensure that we meet the guidelines of the Final Order that was issued. Unfortunately due to FERPA laws, we cannot discuss the issue any further."

Abigail's brother, Isaiah says he has received a superb education with the district as an intellectually gifted child in the school system. Now, he wants his sister to get the same opportunity that he's been given.

"Just because she has a disability and she's different than me, doesn't mean that she's any lower than I am," said Isaiah.


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