By: Linda Bates
As a parent, I want what is best for my daughter ShaiLyn. Sure, there are others — like teachers, neighbors, pastors, and friends — who care deeply about her well-being, but none of their concern holds a candle to mine. I am her mother. She is my baby.
You can imagine my heartbreak when ShaiLyn was first diagnosed with apraxia. First off, it is hard for people to pronounce. Secondly, it is hard for others to understand. And last, but certainly not least, it is hard for all of us — her father, myself, and her — to truly grasp the many ways this will affect our lives.
The best way to describe the effects of apraxia is that ShaiLyn knows what she wants to say, but when she tries to speak, it does not come out right.
She is beyond bright. She has the biggest heart. She also has a learning disability.
After further testing, doctors told us that ShaiLyn also fell on the autism spectrum. I have come to learn that apraxia and autism go hand in hand. Both of these conditions affect hand and eye coordination.
This makes learning to read quite tough, since words are not as clear to ShaiLyn as they are to you and me. While some students can concentrate in a room full of their peers, my daughter is distracted and unable to communicate what she sees, feels and hears.
Virtual school has been a blessing for my daughter.
Our public virtual school, Wyoming Virtual Academy, organizes ShaiLyn’s curriculum to her individual needs. Not every student has to be on the same page so she can work ahead where appropriate and spend more time on subjects where she struggles. She is receiving unmatched lessons from state-certified teachers who meet her where she is academically.
We have weekly one-on-one lessons scheduled with her teacher and her special education instructor. We are on a first name basis, know each other well, and have grown incredibly close. These teachers treat us like family, not just a number on the attendance sheet.
Upon reflection of their time working together, ShaiLyn’s teacher Khris Looney said, “With the constant support of her family and the freedom to learn in an environment where she was completely comfortable, safe & able to focus solely on the task of learning, ShaiLyn began to take baby steps. Before long she was able to take great steps toward her goals. She has come such a long way from that terrified, painfully shy little girl.”
Virtual school is the best option for my daughter. I am not anti-traditional brick-and-mortar school. I simply believe that parents like me should be trusted to choose the school setting that best fits my child’s needs.
I am immeasurably thankful for the option to choose the best school for my child. It has changed our lives.
Linda Bates is a Cheyenne resident and parent leader with the Wyoming Chapter of PublicSchoolOptions.org.