The Khouw family knows a few things about tackling challenges in the special education system. Andrew and Nicole Khouw first reached out to Washington Autism Alliance & Advocacy (WAAA) when their son Ethan’s behavior started to regress in school a few years ago. Seeking Special Education support, they needed guidance on how to advocate for proper support for Ethan. Since then, WAAA has walked hand-in-hand with the family providing advice, informing them of Ethan’s legal educational rights, connecting them with resources, and helping decipher the extensive Special Education paperwork process.
WAAA’s Special Education Advocacy program grew due to the number of calls from parents like Andrew and Nicole, seeking advice to better empower them as advocates for Ethan.
After years of being in and out of public and private school programs, in a moment of frustration last year, Ethan, then 9 years old, was expelled after a meltdown in class.
David versus Goliath
Early this summer, the Khouw’s tried to work with the school district to re-negotiate for the educational support that Ethan needed, but in a surprize move, the district instead proposed to send 10-year-old Ethan to a 24-hour residential facility, the nearest of which was Utah. The Khouw’s rallied a response, speaking at the school district Board meeting, talking with reporters, and enlisting community members to testify on Ethan’s behalf.
Due to Andrew and Nicole’s tenacity, the school district reconsidered their response. In August, for the first time in five years, Ethan got his teacher assignment and educational plan before school started. Attending for :30 minutes a day to start, the plan is for him to gradually increase his time in the classroom.
Thrilled for the opportunity for a fresh start, Ethan’s parents brought a cake into WAAA to celebrate. With a smile across her face and her boy in her arms, Nicole commented, “Now this, this is what inclusion looks like.”
Families need to know they are not alone. Inclusion means that we collaborate and come together as a community: parents, educators, school districts, advocates, and students. WAAA is here to help even the playing field for families and advocate for those who struggle to have their voice heard so that children with autism and developmental disabilities can get the education they need to thrive.