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November 8, 2020

[EP010] How To Get The State To Pay For Your Childs Private School Education


Have you ever wondered how you can get your child into a private school ..for FREE? In this episode Unique, from Becoming Unique Podcast, joins the Cipher to share her journey in getting her daughter into a private school through private placement. We discuss going through the process and how to find a school that fits your child. While sharing tips on how to deal with state representatives and connecting with other parents to discover resources in your area.

Key Takeaways

  • How to get your child into a private school for free

  • How your child's Individual Education Plan is a key tool for advocating for your child to get a private school placement.

  • The key indicators that a school is a good fit for your child

  • The difference between private, parochial, and public schools

  • How to know when state officials are suggesting that your child attend a school that they have relationships with instead of the school that is the best fit for your child

If you’d like to hear Unique’s favorite song “ Halo” by Beyonce click on the playlist below

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Unique Figeuro

Podcast: Becoming Unique

The Parenting Cipher

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Genie 00:08

Welcome to the Parenting Cipher, where each episode will give you the tools and resources to help your child thrive in school and in life. Please rate and review this podcast. I love to hear your feedback and also hit the subscribe button so you don't miss any upcoming episodes.

Genie 00:24

Hello, everyone. Today we are joined by Ms. Unique from Becoming Unique, who is a mom of two girls on a journey to becoming herself outside of being a mom and you can catch her journey on her informative podcast called Becoming Unique. I love that. Thank you so much. Thank you Unique for joining the Cipher today!

Unique 00:44

Oh, hey! Thank you for having me.

Genie 00:47

So what is so great about Unique beyond her podcast and just she's just a beautiful soul because me and her talked like a couple of weeks ago before she became one, is that she reached out to me because she wanted to share with the community. She wanted to help us all out with different journeys and she's going to share her journey today about getting her child in private school through private placement. In New York, they call it something different, right?

Unique 01:12 

Yes. NPS for special education. It's NPS for non-public school.

Genie 01:17 

Take us on a journey.

Unique 01:19

It was definitely, definitely a journey and looking hindsight, I was definitely so blessed the way everything just kind of fell into place for me but what I want to say at the beginning, because everything worked out for me in the long run, but when I was going through the storm, you couldn't see the non-storm. I was going through the storm at the time and I just want to let everyone know, even though you may feel discouraged with the storm, keep going because the storm will end and you will rise on top if you just keep going. You don't want to just give up and just surrender to the storm and now you're standing in the rain soaking wet when you could just kept going and got out of the storm.

Genie 02:07


Unique 02:07

So I just wanted to kind of say that because I know people get discouraged, they may see things that they don't understand. It looks out of the arranged, prices may look expensive. They may be talking about you need a lawyer, you need a doctor to do an evaluation, the psychiatrist and then they're talking about $5,000 and this and that and those things could be like a side ball to be like, oh, I don't know if I can afford to do this and you start talking yourself out of the journey of making sure that your child gets into the right place that they need to be in.

Genie 02:41


Unique 02:42

So I made my whole spiel about, I guess my disclaimer about this but yeah. So my journey started when my daughter was about three years old. I found [inaudible 2:55] and said maybe she needs some early intervention. So I started the process with the stage getting my doctors reports and all that type of stuff to start the process because, you know, everything is a process. You don't just call someone and say, "Hey, I think I need this." And you get it the same day when it comes to special education, you have to go through the process.

Unique 03:17

So time she got approve of psychiatrist coming to the home and all that type of stuff, doing their reports and evaluation, she was past the stage of early intervention so now she was going into school age, which is like three and four years old, because at that time, they can go to the pre-K centers and so on so during my journey, this was one part where I was like kind of like the divine intervention, I came across this program that I had no idea that it was for children with special education needs and so on and I was just walking down the street and then I looked and I was like, what is this new place in my neighborhood? I had no idea what it was, but I took their information. I had the information, I inquired, but of course there were a process too. It was like, you have to come in for an interview. You have to come in for a tour. You have to do this. You have to do that. They had their own process.

Unique 04:09

So even though I made a one at that program, it still was going to take me three to four months to get that program if they were going to take me. So in the meantime, now I have my meeting with the Board of Education, they pulled me in and they said, okay, you know what? Your child needs a school age program. We have a program for you. Take this place. They told me what to take, the board of Education, the state, and I told them, I suppose this program, and I told them the name of it.

Unique 04:36

I was like, I think I want my daughter there. They kind of blew me off. It was like, oh, you don't know if you're going to get that. Just take this place, because these places come and you may not be able to get a spot, these places are not just available like that. So I took the placement and it was during the summer. So she was entering for the summer program. So in New York, if your child has an IEP, they may have a twelve month IEP so that means she has a summer session. So she goes to school in July, in like half of August, so it's like a six week obsession, so we did the summer session at this particular center like Early Childhood Education Center, and my daughter did not speak one word to anyone during that whole six weeks. Even when they went on a trip to the park, she won't walk. They had to carry her. She was on complete shutdown -

Genie 05:28

And the program was recommended by the state?

Unique 05:31

Yes, she was on complete shutdown and then, when I went to walk her to school, she would be talking to me and stuff and then one day, the director of the program was like, "I know you can talk. I hear you talking to your mother. Why you won't talk to us?"

Genie 05:45


Unique 05:45

You know, just like you better talk to me. Talk to me. But she still gave complete shut down and during this time frame, I was going through the process with the other place that I saw her, that divine intervention that just showed me this place during my process so then I got accepted into that program and so now, I told the school, like towards the end of this program, I was like, oh, we won't be coming back for the fall. She's been accepted into X, Y and Z program. They were upset because I guess in their mind, they planned out their budget and that my child was going to be -

Genie 06:19

- a part of the budget.

Unique 06:20

Budget for the fall, even though they should have looked at my child and said something deeper is going on. She hasn't spoken to any of us. Maybe we are not the right program for her, you know, and that's why I think school should also be able to see, you know, I'll be the right match for your child because your child has to be able to thrive here and if your child is uncomfortable for some reason or whatever the case is, they're not going to thrive. It's just a waste of you know, she's just there wasting time.

Genie 06:53

And that's the difference between schools who are in it for politics and for money and the ones who are really concerned about the progress of your child.

Unique 07:04

Yes. So we need to be mindful of that when we're like looking out for schools and so on, just watching on their interactions, like, are you more concerned with my child or making sure you get that piece of that check that comes.

Genie 07:19


Unique 07:19 

So now the school that the government or the state referred me to, they will like attend to one to one. So it was ten kids to two teachers, the one to one but the school that she was accepted into was eight to one to one. So now, I needed to make a new appointment with the state again to get her IEP changed and so when I go into my meeting with the state, I am waiting in the waiting room and I see the director of the program that I told that I would not be returning, he was there. I was like, why is she here? So it was politics. They told her to come because I didn't inform her when my IEP meeting was. They told to come. She was in my meeting and she refused to let my child change her IEP.

Unique 08:06

She was like, she was in this program. She was fine with ten kids, there's no need to change it and the person with the state kind of like was on team with her because they've been working with each other for probably 20-30 years. So they were all team each other and now I'm just some parent but I did not let down even though my voice was quivering and shaking and now I'm like getting like, disoriented with my words and the only thing I kept saying is, she did not speak to anyone for six weeks.

Unique 08:38 

She did not speak to anyone for six weeks. And then it was her birthday during that time because her birthday's in the summer. Then I had like my phone and I tried to pull the video out. I was like, look at her head. It's her birthday. She's looking down. She can't look up like, you know, I'm trying to prove and fight my case but finally, this woman felt my energy, the director from the other program, and then she finally gave in and said, "You know what? I guess mom knows best." And then the state was like, okay , we'll change the IEP. So now I'm thinking I'm like Scot free. I was in this program. Amazing! Within a day, when I came to pick up my daughter, I was like, how was she? You know, did she speak? It was like, "Yes, she spoke" and I questioned them. I was like, "You sure, she spoke?" They was like, "Yes, she spoke." It was like, "Did you go to Peckle this weekend?"

Unique 09:26

I was like, "Yes," she was like "She told us." I was like, "Wow!" So she spent six weeks in one program and did not speak one word and then the next program, she was speaking within the day. So this just proves that we need to be mindful that, you know, we have to put our children in the right environment. People are going to try to throw, like curve balls at you just as that of a program did to try to stop me from getting to the next place but we have to stay strong to what we want and make sure we get there. It was so important that I got into this school because this school was...They directed me the rest of the way because I was completely, completely clueless about this whole special education system. I may have had like misinformed information about special education before being the special education mom, I think with special education, I looked at it as one thing in the urban community. A lot of times people joke about special education.

Genie 10:25


Unique 10:25

The short bus-

Genie 10:26 

The short yellow bus.

Unique 10:27

Yeah and they speak about it in such a negative tone all the time. It's always joke for, "oh, you know, you belong in the short bus, oh, used to, bail you this or you that" And then it's like you can't even try to have an issue without feeling like you're going to be ridiculed from the community.

Genie 10:46

As well as the assumption sometimes by relatives that you want something to be wrong with your child because it's not wrong with them.

Unique 10:53

Yeah. Everyone develops and grows so differently and some people, they get it, they go to school. There's no issues. They just understand everything. They comprehend that they can take it all in and then some other people, it takes a while to process it or they see things backwards or whatever the case is and we have to be understanding to that. If someone is a natural ballerina,  I'm thinking about one of my daughters. She was a natural at dancing. She went into a dance class. She could kick a leg up and it's no problem. With the next person, they could be trying so hard just to kick their leg and they can't even get it. And we don't look at it as like, "Oh, what's wrong with you? You can't dance. What's your problem?" We just accept it. Like, okay, dancing is not a sure thing. We need to accept, like, okay, you learn differently to that child that may learn different. Like we put education as everyone's supposed to be in one straight line of learning. And it's not like that.

Genie 11:55

Right. I love the fact that you were able to advocate from the standpoint of what your child is going through and I feel like sometimes parents, they had you in that situation where you were probably inside, like what is going on but I love the way that you were steadfast and I know that this other school, this other choice is what's best for my daughter and you were able to advocate from that place and sometimes when you're in those IEP meetings and you're alone, I'm going to speak like that and when I say you're alone is, there a team of people sitting at a table and they've already decided politically where your child is going to go.

Unique 12:36

From a piece of paper too. They haven't even met your child and they just looking at a piece of paper and deciding what they know best for your child.

Genie 12:45

And you have to dig in and realize that beyond all the degrees, all the tests, you are the parent and no one ever is going to know your child better than you and you have to dig deep with their experience. You have to bring out their experience beyond those test scores and those written reports in real time and you can't consistently saying, she has not spoken to people in his program for six weeks so this isn't working.

Unique 13:15

Yeah, and we have to recognize that because someone else may have said, oh, they may have looked at the easy role. She's in school. I don't have to worry about it. I don't think we've to look for another school and just keep them in that school and not look at the bigger picture and say, oh, well, you know what? Maybe she is not developing the way she should be so I think we also just got to be mindful of it, because I think sometimes in life, not even just with this, just a lot of things in life, we already in it and then we just stay there when instead of growing from it.

Genie 13:47


Unique 13:48

Because we are comfortable.

Genie 13:50 

And we're comfortable. You already is already set but in all honesty, even the programs that your children are in or will be in, your children grow and sometimes that program isn't a good fit and you have to not start all over again, but you gotta do something different so -

Unique 14:07

Yeah, you have to shift. Yeah, they can outgrow it or things change but the program that she got accepted into, oh my God, they were amazing and I would have never found out about the NPS, Non-Public Schools program, the state paying for them if it wasn't for the school. The other school that definitely was not on their radar and this school, they were on top of it and they knew every school in New York so they knew what school would be best fit for my child because even when I was talking with other parents, it was like, oh, I want to visit this school and that school and why didn't they give me that school? And then when I went back to her counselor, they broke it down because they knew my child and understood my child. I'm just looking at like, I want to look at all the schools. Why don't you give me all the schools?

Unique 14:56

And they was like, your child doesn't have those issues. Those schools specialize in this and your child is just working with more with anxiety and this and that. This is the direction your child needs to go and that's the other thing we need to be mindful, like we may also look at school and be like, oh, it looks pretty, it looks shiny but is this the school the right match for your child? They may look pretty and shiny, but it may not be the right match.

Genie 15:18 

Right. And maybe shiny, pretty, they have an awesome curriculum but when we start talking about private placement or non public school placement and we're looking at private schools, especially in special education, they have niches. So you have school where it's about autism. You have a school that support ADHD, you have school that support dyslexia so depending on the program and your child, every school is not a good fit, like even the school my son is in right now, initially, it was a great fit because his sensory issues superseded his academic issues like it was the barrier to access his academic.

Genie 15:59

Now, I'm at the point and I'm like, oh yeah, I feel like this is not a good fit because now his academic has triggered in his self-confidence and that's another important thing even when you speak into your daughter, like not speaking and speaking, the self-confidence that a child gains from a very good nurturing environment that fits for them, that almost overnight, like you say, like overnight, all of a sudden, it's like you have a new child because like for my son, being able to embrace the...He went from I can't learn and I don't know to you have to tell me in a way that I can understand. So now he's not the problem. You're just not giving it to him in a way that he can understand, but he knows that he's capable.

Unique 16:48

Yeah. Yeah. And we have to make sure that we're mindful that we're going to find a program that's going to customize their curriculum to your child because we have special children that may learn a little bit differently from the mainstream.

Genie 17:03


Unique 17:03

And it's fine, but we just have to put a little more extra TLC with it to make sure that they get to their highest potential.

Genie 17:11

Right. The school that's going to actually fit them and then on that note, I want to talk about this politics of the school choice real quick and we both have our children in private school in NPS programs and I don't want to say a lot, but in my experience, there's a lot of politics that go between the state in some of these private schools when it comes to placement, especially if the program I mean, I went to visit a bunch of schools, my journey was a little different and I found that the schools that for artistic purposes were like they had the best programs, they were almost full, but they still have space.

Genie 17:53

And I had to do my own legwork. I had to call the schools and ask them, my son is in this grade, you have any space because the state literally was trying to put me in the schools that they chose and as far as I was concerned, it wasn't. It didn't fit for my son and I didn't feel like as far as quality, I didn't feel like they had a quality program.

Unique 18:15


Genie 18:16

So I had to do the extra legwork before I sat at the table and like you said, the state has programs where they know each other, they have relationships, and they have seats to fill.

Unique 18:29

Yeah, exactly. Just like the pre-K program that she was going to or the early childhood education. They had a relationship. They was not thinking about my child at the beginning of that meeting. That woman wanted to fill a seat in her program so they can make sure their budget was done and she had a connection with the state where she knew she was going to get that money guaranteed. So, yeah, we got to be mindful to just definitely make sure...Politics is going to be politics and they're going to do what they're going to do but you got to make sure, like you said, advocate for your child so you don't fall into that rabbit hole of what they want you to fall into.

Genie 19:06


Unique 19:06 

And then the three program that had her in with the three fours before she went to kindergarten, when it was time to look at her elementary school, they warned me. They said, when you got to your meeting, they're going to suggest to you that you do District 75, do not do District 75. They warned me on how it was going to go so because I was completely new to this world, I had no idea and if I was doing this by myself, I may have gone down the rabbit hole with the state wanted because I'm listening to them as they are the authority figure. They're the professionals. They know what they're talking about and then I may have fell down the rabbit hole and it didn't whip in order to climb out because you already kind of stuck, you know, and I was like, which way do I go?

Unique 19:50

So I'm so thankful to that program because they honestly directed me into the direction that I needed to be directed into and they are the ones that told me about the NPS program so when my daughter went to elementary school, she got into a school and that was...So this is the part that I was talking about at the beginning where a lot of things are going to come in, and is going to kind of try to discourage you, but you got to keep going to get your way through the storm. When it was time to apply for schools, it felt very discouraging because of the fact that these schools only take about eight kids. They have one kindergarten class because their special education is only eight kids in the class. And it was like, wait a minute, how in the world is she going to be accepted with only eight kids? I'm going on these toys and these toys are full. The houses are full from back to front. I'm like, there's a lot of special education kids out here.

Unique 20:46 

All these parents want seats. So it's like, will my family be worthy enough to get one of the eight seats? So that part was eating at me as well, too. I was like, oh, will this happen? I don't know. Maybe I have to look into something else. So we just also got to be mindful not to let that type of stuff eat us, because someone I met a couple of years ago, she had a daughter that was going into kindergarten and I was telling, I was like do something called the NPS program. She did not have her daughter in the school like I did, where they was directing me and helping me out. I was like, go NPS, go on the tours to help. I was just giving her all the information that I had because I already went through the process but she was excited and all that type of stuff but she started getting discouraged. She was like, you know, they cost like $50 000. I was like, girl, don't worry about price.

Unique 21:37 

It was just like all these things. She's finding reasons why she shouldn't apply so that either her I don't know what her end result was, but at that time when I was speaking to her, I was taking the class so I would see her every day during that class time but then when the class ended a few months later, I didn't see her anymore, so I don't know where her story ends up being but I saw her getting sidetracked and discouraged because she was just thinking how worthiness wasn't there, just like I was thinking, like, why would they accept us when there's lots of other people and there's also other people that didn't look like me. So then it was making like, oh, maybe these schools are meant for them and not for me.

Genie 22:18

So with that, I know guys like, for people who are not familiar with the process, we're talking about school interviews and private placement so one of the steps to getting your child into a private school NPS program is that you have to go through the private schools regular admissions process and part of that process is fill out the application, doing a tour and having your child come in for a visit. And during the tour, they talk about their program most often. I don't know but Unique, but most often and I've been to a lot of schools, you may be the only black person in that room or you might be another one in that particular admissions group and they talked about the program.

Genie 23:04

As you're walking through the school, you are going to notice it is not that many black and brown children then after you tour the school, going to this prom and then they talk about how many slots they have. They also talked about the admission process as far as the application fee and sometimes some school will break down and say, oh, well, are you going to do it NPS? Are you going to do a non-public school placement and then they'll actually segue into that conversation for people who are in the room who are doing that but sometimes they don't and they just say, "Hey, this tuition is $40,000 a year and you're like, What?!

Unique 23:42

I've got to interrupt you, because when you said the application fee, I have an FYI because I had like eight schools to apply to and each application fee was $100 or $75. I was like, What?! That's like a hundred dollars. So the school said, just tell them you're low income.

Genie 23:58


Unique 23:58

They will waive the application fee so just remember that. They're not going to say send your taxes, prove that you're low income. Just say I'm low income or I plan on applying for financial aid.

Genie 24:08

And sometimes, if you tell them that your private placement by the state, they will waive that altogether but most definitely, even without the special education, I have two children that I sent to private schools and I just told them like I'm low income, so they waive the application fee. It's the same thing with tuition. The main thing in this conversation is you don't let money hold you back. You don't let the fact that you may be the only black and brown person in that room, because guess what? The fact that you are the only black or brown person in a room, they need you because I mean, I'm going to be real with you. It's a program; it's a program they have to fill so just go in and you just keep trying.

Genie 24:47

And with my son, who is in a special education program, we visited three schools he got into, one, because they had the space but I have another journey with my kids, with just private school in general and we did a lot of applications and they got into the school that was meant for them but I never let money deter me. I will never forget I went to admissions, one of the tours and there was another sister there and she was like, How do you like the school and how it's like? It is nice, you know, they are resistant like it's nice but this number was in my...It must have been on my face and she said, "What is it? Is it the money?" And I was like, "Yes, a lot of money."

Genie 25:24

She said, "Let me give you a tip." She said, "You don't ever look at the money because you're not paying it." She was like, "If you're not a millionaire, billionaire, you're not paying that. So you don't ever look at that. The only thing you ever focus on is getting your child in and being positive." And that's not just general private school, it's with special placement. You just keep your eye on the prize.

Unique 25:46

Yeah, exactly!

Genie 25:47

Just own it.

Unique 25:49

Yeah. The confidence needs to be there. We can't get like we see that storm and we see all this stuff coming against us and we can't see the light at the end of the tunnel. We can't let that stuff get to us. Just keep going. You're going to get there. Just keep going. Don't look back. Just keep going. Just keep going. So, yeah, just remember, that's when I think I actually learned about the whole application fee thing because I didn't know that because I was like, what? I am gonna pay my application fee? I was like, oh no, just tell them you're going to apply for financial aid like now. So don't even think about that, girl.  That was like the smallest worry for them. Like, are you even questioning this, girl. Just apply to the school.

Genie 26:28


Unique 26:29

So, yeah. Don't let anything get in your way of what you want because honestly, the universe will give you what you're seeking. That's the rule of life but the universe also listens to that inside voice, too. So if you're thinking you're not worthy enough for the program, then you know what? You've done told the universe that's who they can hear inside you.

Genie 26:49

And I'd like to add life is life. So you have your ups and downs but one of the things I did with my kids is we would go for visits and they would come back like, did you like the school? If your child is verbal or was it fun? Like, just have a conversation with them. Do you want to go there and then they will be like, yeah, but you got to own it and that craze, like the shift in energy because if your energy is not there but your child's energy is there, they'll get it. I will never forget. We went to a lot of schools and my daughter came out, she said, "I'm going to school" And it was all girl schools was prestigious. I was shaky; my energy, she was like, "What do I need?" I was like, "Well, you need textbook." She's like, "I got that." I was like, "Great!" She's like, "I got that." I was like, "Oh, okay."

Unique 27:33

She visualized herself. She was like, I will always see myself there. I was done.

Genie 27:37

Exactly and she said, "I'm going there," and that was the only school she got accepted to.

Unique 27:42

Yeah and thank goodness and sometimes that's like a blessing too, because when you do have like a couple of acceptances then it kind of makes you get distracted on the prize. So sometimes when it's only a one acceptance, it's a blessing, just a food for thought on that one. I'm just thinking about some things with my college daughter's experience. Even though she was in special education, it was just that some school, she thought she was like sliding into those schools because she does musical theater, so she had like auditions and stuff like that, and that she'd got great feedback.

 Unique 28:15

She just thought she was accepted and she didn't. We don't know why the reasoning why she didn't and the couple of schools that she didn't get accepted, we look back, we say, thank God, because if she will get accepted to those schools, she may not have much a school that she's going to now, which is the perfect match for her. So the universe knows which you need as well, too. Sometimes you may be like, oh, I only got accepted to one school and no, that's the one that was meant for you.

Genie 28:42

Exactly, and then another part of the admission is sometimes schools ask for a separate testing and here's the part of that. You don't let that deter you as well, because the schools will waive those fees as well as discount those fees and some people will say, well, I already had the testing with the school. This testing is different but another part with private school testing you Unique were talking about a couple of weeks ago is sometimes it's good to have someone else test your child outside of the system.

Unique 29:15


Genie 29:15

Especially if it's...I'm going to be real, so most private schools will actually have a list of testers and they're pinging those are the best people who to do the testing in their area, right? And my daughter was tested by someone that I could afford and then she was tested by one of the people that I was referred to by the school and here's the difference. The test that I pay for through my health insurance, they diagnosed my daughter with one thing and it actually was wrong. It was in the vein, but it was incorrect, the person that the school referred and here's another little caveat for some people who don't know. If your child goes to a private school and they're getting financial aid, the school will pay for testing.

Genie 29:55

So in my daughter's case, they paid for her testing and it was like $5,000 and the school pay for that and came to find out she had a different diagnosis and she had an additional one and that is the difference in best why it is worth be it a discount or be it free but you do have to advocate and you have to let the school know. Look, there's no shame in my game because I will tell people real quick, I'm not driving a Porsche and everybody up in this. My kids school driving the Porsche, Lamborghini. You’ll rich, I am not rich but I'm not poor either, but guess what? I'm going to get whatever I need for my daughter, for her to be her best person when she becomes an adult.

Unique 30:34

Yeah. As far as the testing, I agree. We've done the testing two times when she was going into the elementary and now she went to middle school and both of the times when the two different schools, the state would never suggest it, never. Because the state is going to write those reports in favor for the state to picture child in the state school if that's not what you want so the testers that are usually being referred to you, they know the system, they know how to word those reports to favour your child. That's just food for thought, too. So if the school is suggesting this tester, they're suggesting it for a reason because they're testing those are the write those reports and they understand this process that we're going through because you want your child to get accepted for whatever the program is that they're going towards. So in New York, the test is going for about $5,000 right now.

Unique 31:29

And when I was doing elementary school, I feel like it was maybe $3,000 or $4,000. The first time around the school, they gave me a tester and they said, give what I can, so they volunteered someone to me and then the second time around, they gave me suggestions and stuff like that and I even tried to see if I can try to get it as cheap as I could go through, like college programs to see if they can do the testing and so on but ended up going with the school suggested. But the tester, she said her price, and said I can't afford that and she worked with me, she said, don't tell anybody at the school how much I'm charging you and she worked with me and she gave me a payment plan. So that's another thing to think about. Have a conversation. Don't just think, oh, they said $5,000 and this is the final price. See which you can work out. Make a deal.

Genie 32:18

Right. Just ask. 

Unique 32:19

Yeah. Just ask. You never know what you can get just by asking.

Genie 32:22

You never ever, ever know. Even now, I have a son. He's in private school special education but he's there on scholarship and any time I have issues with financial aid or like paying my bill, they're like, well, what do you need? They ask me because I have a habit of sometimes like, oh, well, I'm going to do it and they're like, Do you need more time? And I'm like, Well, sure, I'll take that extra time if you want to give it to me, because it wasn't an option, because it's in my plan. It wasn't an option what's wrote on my plan but the federal government shut down and we had some issues and I had to tell them that, you want me to extend it for you.

Genie 32:59

It's okay. It's all about a lot of times these schools are really into community and this is a time where you can't be intimidated because you are the only black person in the school. Start to talk to people, talk to the teachers, talk to the administrators, build that relationship with them and then when things happen or there is a struggle, you won't feel some kind of way when you have to ask like I don't have it. You know, I remember my daughter went to a ski trip and I was like, oh, that field trip is like $500 and I wrote an email basically saying, she would love to go, unfortunately, we don't have it in our budget. And they were like, oh no, she's on financial aid. We cover the majority of her trip. You just have to pay $200.

Unique 33:43


Genie 33:44

And I'm like, oh, thank you very much.

Unique 33:47

Communication is the key.

Genie 33:48

Communication, vulnerability, I know it's a struggle because we are strong and we can do it ourselves but in these circumstances, it's about community and environment a lot of times like, we're talking about the power in conversation so on boarding with just the state, it can be really isolating. It isolate you and your experience because you're not talking to another parent, so you can't really tap into someone else's experience as well as what resources they may have.

Unique 34:19

Yeah. This is such a good conversation and it's like we're pointing out so many points. I had something on the tip of my tongue that I wanted to say in reference. Oh yes, this was what it was. Back when I was talking about how I only had one idea of what special education was in the past and so I had a special education child. Now, I understand there's so many levels of special education. It's not one box.

Unique 34:44

And even doing your IEP, there's so many different categories on the IEP that they can check off. One that many people may know is maybe like emotionally disturbed, where your child may have a lot of tantrums in class or whatever the case is. But what my child was put under was speech and language delay. That's what's on her IEP, so I'm saying this because when you're looking at these schools, each schools qualifications or what they accept is different so you can't just say this is a school for special education and then your child may have ED on their IEP and there's a lot of schools that do not take children with E.D, emotionally disturbed or something.

Unique 35:27

I hope I'm saying the right ED with emotionally disturbed, which I realized a lot of schools did not accept that. A lot of people may unknowingly have that checked off on the IEP, so just be mindful that we are knowing what boxes being checked off with the diagnosis of your child from the state.

Genie 35:46


Unique 35:47

And then also be mindful on what categories the schools are accepting because you may fall in love with school the same year. The school is really perfect for my child. I can see my child here and all of a sudden, your child has something completely different on the IEP and I had no idea that speech and language delay was a special education and so my child had that box checked off.

Genie 36:09

Oppositional Defiant Disorder so ODD and with that, what I wanted to chime in and say is it's important to know what's being checked off but it's also important that you understand, you agree with the diagnosis, like you said, children who were diagnosed with ODD, it's really hard for placement and the  schools that do place, I can only go by DC. I don't know about New York or any other place, but a lot of those schools, you wouldn't want your child to go there. So, you know, just be mindful of the diagnosis but also, have a representative. Get a representative if you're not sure from the very beginning when you start the process and you say, okay I want my child to be tested.

Genie 36:58

And this is not just at the beginning. Any time, you can get a representative because if you're unsure of what's going on and you don't actually have a relationship with your school, like in my case with my youngest son, I had a relationship with them for over seven years and my other son was in special education so I was familiar with everyone, so I felt secure but I also did all of my own work. I took classes, I did a lot of things so I was my own advocate beyond the people at the table but if you are unsure, get yourself a representative. Talk to another parent if you can in your school, get support because in those cases, it's not saying like once the box is checked, it can't be unchecked but once the box is checked, they make it hard to get that back unchecked.

Unique 37:50

And also, a representative can maybe be your child's teacher. I didn't know anything about a representative at the time, but my daughter's school, like when I had my first meeting with her going into elementary school, her school showed up. Her school came to the meeting and they spoke for me. I was just sitting there like, oh, my goodness, I don't know if I could advocated like they did. They explained my daughter to the tea, the reason why she could not take a New York State public school and that it would not be the right fit for her and that they suggested, they gave the suggestion, they didn't wait for the state to give the suggestion.

Unique 38:25

They gave the suggestion. It was like because of X, Y, Z. This is why this is not going to be a right fit for her and because of X, Y and Z, we suggest that we print on this report here. She's going to go to a NPS school and I was like, wow. Also, they came on their own because that was just the standard of that particular school that she was in but maybe, you can act your child's teacher and say, "Hey, I may have a hard time with advocating for my child. Besides me, you're the next closest person to my child. Will you be able to come to this meeting and help me advocate? This is to make sure my child is put into the right place."

 Genie 39:00

Yes and ask them, talk to them beforehand. I mean, in my case, when we went to sit down with the state, we went in as a team so it was his teachers. It was his therapist. We all went in, we went into the table saying he's going to get private placement and when the state basically, she tried to tell us, well, we feel like you haven't done everything, it actually was his speech therapist who spoke up. He was like, so what exactly do you need to indicate? You feel like he needs private placement because we're telling you what it is and she was like, well, basically, it's not up to her.  We have to agree and then they have to go ahead and place him. So we were like, okay, well, we all agree. Everybody say yes and everybody said yes but you can have other people to support you. You do not have to go all by yourself.

Unique 39:47

Yeah, because the state is looking out to save money and they don't know your child personally. You know, they know a piece of paper and they know that they have quotas to fill too like they can't go over budget. They can't just be sending all these kids to $50,000 schools and have to cut the check because when your child in New York, if your child's not going to a public school and they're going to one of these private schools, now, the government needs to write a check to that private school. So, of course, they'll save the money if they can keep them in their system.

Genie 40:21

Right. Or in a private school that isn't, I'm going to say quality. I mean, there's different programs and I'm only going to go about what I've seen and I've seen a lot of different special education programs and I find that the state will typically try to push you to the ones that are not high quality, but also that price point is very different from the one that is a quality school.

Unique 40:43

Yeah, as a parent, we just have to put the work in because it's not just like getting them to pay for it. You also got to be out there figuring out what school is going to be the right match and that was also my thing at the beginning. It was like, oh, folks, I was dressing like, how is she ever going to be accepted? They only accept eight kids. There's hundreds and hundreds of applications coming through. Why would they pick us? So I had that very stressed on me and then she was accepted into a school and now the second stress was going through the politics of the state to see if they were going to cut that check and someone said to me, and this is now divine intervention again, came into play. So we got to be watching out for that divine intervention of one of the parents. I don't remember who. I just remember her saying, "Have you heard from the state?"

Unique 41:28

Yeah. I was like, No, I haven't. It was the end of May going into June. She was like, well, if they don't send you any information by June 15th about paying for the school, you get the Nicholson letter. I was like the Nicholson letter. She was like, yes, that's where they have to place you, where you want to be placed so just giving me you guys that information as well, too, because I think that's hidden information so once June 15th and nothing came through, I went seeking to find out where is this Nicholson letter. No one knew of this Nicholson  letter. I'm calling everyone at the state. Everyone acted like they didn't know of this Nicholson letter. So at the end of the day, I'm not even sure if she would want the Nicholson. I even want to question. The only thing I know is that they said is paid for, I was like, thank you but the government or the state, they try to take the money away.

Unique 42:16

So I was accepted by July. I had to do like an emergency IEP meeting because the state took so long to give me my answer and so I remember I had to go to a different location because I say that it was summer session, so things were closed down. So someone's in my IEP. My daughter was accepted to the school. They did a new IEP to be on track with the standards of that school. They said they were paying for it and then on August 15th, I got a call from the new school that she was accepted into, that she was supposed to be starting in September saying, call your lawyer. The state has took your funding away and now in New York, we have a summer session, but summer session ends about August 15th. So since I did my IEP in the summertime, I had the phone number to that person that did my IEP.

Unique 43:01

I called her and I was like, "Hi, remember me? You did the emergency IEP for me." She's like "Yeah, I remember you." I don't know what's going on. The state did something and I need to redo a new IEP and get accepted and so then she calls me back an hour later, she gets everybody on the phone like a special education teacher, whoever was in the building to have this meeting. She was like, "You're lucky you call me today. Today is our last day here. We are packing up to leave for the summer."

Unique 43:27

So they do the meeting. They say, okay, yes, approved. She goes to NPS school and then she does this. Then she calls me back about 30 minutes later and says, you know what? I know we had that meeting, but I can't approve this. I was like, "What?" So obviously, she must call to her boss and said I just did this, and so this is where, again, the storm got really heavy, and I could get thrown in the towel so like I said, I get through the storm at the end, but my gut was torn up.

Genie 44:01


Unique 44:01

I didn't know what was going on like what? Oh, my God. Like, what am I going to do? I couldn't flip the school. How are we going to do this? Because I didn't get the answer right away. It took a moment for me to get an answer. So she went out to approve the IEP that she just said she was approving because she spoke to somebody so I'm on the phone calling any and everybody you guys may know Bill de Blasio, because of like this whole COVID stuff but he wasn't in office yet. I remember calling his office. I was just calling everybody's office to figure out what is going on. I have no idea who made the phone call to the school who approve my daughter but it took like a good week of me making phone calls and also the Internet wasn't where it is right now.

Unique 44:43

So I know it was a lot of phone call making at that time because she's 12 now. So this is what she was like, five. So now we can, like, fine and do everything on the Internet but it was a little more old school. But at the end then the school called me like a week later and they said, you're good now. I didn't ask any questions. I don't want to stir any pot, but they said I was good and I took it. So I have no idea who make a phone call, but it was me being persistent, giving that energy to the universe. I got to make this happen but at the same time, I wasn't jolly go lucky during that time, say, oh my God, I'm going to get this just because I said I'm going to get this.

Unique 45:22 

No, I was stressed out. Like feeling like I want to throw up. Your stomach is like in knots, so, you know, at the end but you got to just realize, just get through that storm. It's so important to just keep pushing, even though I felt like it wasn't going to happen for that week of me just stressing out and calling any everybody that I could call but it end up working out in her favor. So we got in and in September, she started a new school that was paid for by the state. She was one of the eight kids accepted so with all of that stuff that my mind could took me down with, I still pushed through and she was one of eight kids with the state paying for her tuition.

Genie 46:04

So you have to persevere. That moment when your stomach is knotty, you are stressed, but you got to keep moving forward and persevere. And I always tell people, I still  work for the state for public assistance and I used to always say, anything that you want, it's never going to be quick and easy. You're going to have to put in some work and persevere and you have to see it through all the way to the end and I'm not saying you have to be grinding, but you have to keep your eye on it and if something happens, like with Unique, she was like, okay, now who I need to call? Okay, let me get call in and sometimes you call people, they brush you off, you keep moving forward. You don't wait. You keep moving forward.

Unique 46:49

Yeah. And you just never know. So you may not get an answer and people are not going to be like, oh sure, I got you. I have no idea who did what they did out of all the phone calls I made but one of them stuck. One of them got the information and they passed it through. So you just never know. It may not be the person that you think is going to be the one, but you just have to keep pushing just so important. Yeah, it was a process and I mean, it's still a process. We're still in the system of schooling, so it's not over yet.  It's definitely a journey but like I say, I wanted to share whatever information I had that I can for my journey to help, hopefully help someone understand that they got this.

Unique 47:34 

They can do this even though it may seem like, oh, why do I have to go through all this? I don't know. I'm so confused because also I mean, I wish we could be more educated on special education because I was completely clueless and I think I may have had my little prejudices about special education from being misinformed. They just looking at it as one category, because some people in my culture always using it as a joke when it's not necessarily a joking situation and then it's not even allowing children to be their true selves because they feel like they need to measure up to what society says they're supposed to be and they can never really embrace the specialness that they have going on for them.

Genie 48:19

Right. And then you also have social media that gives you this false identity of what particular diagnosis look like. So as soon as someone says, oh, we think your child have... You immediately like, No because I just watched a TV show and my child doesn't act like that at all.

Unique 48:39

Yeah, there was one point where I had a doctor said my child had autism and this was where she was in the three, four year old stage and I went to a neuro doctor, my regular pediatrician suggested saying, "Well, maybe you should go see a specialist." And I went to the specialist and within ten minutes, he gave a diagnosis that she have autism and he was writing me a prescription. I said you can keep your prescription and then I was like no drugs and at that time, I was just like, how can he make this diagnosis in ten minutes?

Genie 49:12 

Right. Without any testing.

Unique 49:14


Genie 49:14

Without even talking. That's a whole another conversation because he touched on it. I'm a touched on just a little bit. Be aware that this is the United States and it is a pharmaceutical country and they will immediately try to give you like first visit. You have to sat and talk to my child. First visit, you're given medications. I will never forget my son. We start with the anxieties. His anxiety was really bad. We didn't start with drugs. We started with therapy. She said he doesn't know how it even feels to be calm. We went for something for anxiety. We started with one medication, next you know she add on another one and another one.

Genie 49:52

He's like six and he's asking me for these pills. What is in these pills? You know what? We're good at the pills off. The problem was when we will go, she was a good therapist, so she would ask him about the pills. "Did you take the pills? Did mommy give you the pills?" And finally, I am like, just tell her I gave the pills. Finally, I had to say, look, you know, I'm not comfortable with him taking these medications. I don't know what the long term is and I don't feel like that should be the go-to.

Unique 50:23

Yeah, it's so crazy. Like you said, this country is just so drug infested and they feel like that's the one all cure like, let's just write a prescription.

Genie 50:33

Right and be leery of schools as well, because sometimes if your child has a behavior, ADD, ADHD. When you say in the IEP meetings, the first or second, maybe the fifth question is, is your child on medication? Do not be ashamed if your child is now on medication, do not feel like that somehow puts them in power and disempowers you because your child's not on medication. Your child doesn't have to be on medication. It is their job to create a space or environment for your child to access academics.

Unique 51:04


Genie 51:05

Period. Your child doesn't have to be on medication for that because there are other modifications that they can do for your child. If your child has to fidget, if your child has to have that feedback in their muscles, this thing they could put on a chair, this thing that you have in their hand, your child doesn't have to be on medication so don't let that ever let them shame you because they will do that real quick. I don't know about Unique, but I've been in meetings with other parents as a representative and I'm like, oh, that's how we start. You almost immediately start to break the companies down with that question.

Unique 51:37 

Well, I haven't experienced that question with the schools that we've taught yet. I haven't experienced this. You take any medication. I don't know if it's maybe because of the reports. I know that was on the report. The neuropsych report is already stated that she was not on the medications. That's still something that I'm trying to figure out because definitely constantly being suggested but I still haven't went there yet but like you were saying, with schools that deal with special education, if you look in the classroom, you will see some of the cheers maybe haven't see or just different tools to help that child and that's why the classrooms are usually smaller. It's usually a eight to one to one, because it's to be able to attend to that child that may be a little more needy but then also, if your child is extra needy, you can get a power like I know people that has had personal powers with them just in class.

Genie 52:31 

Peer educator so a peer educator, everyone is an individual that works with your child directly to help them access academics or just support so you have like the teacher, so let's say the rate to teacher student ratio in a room could be 4:1. Your child actually needs 1:1 so there will be given a peer educator that will work with them individually within the group. It can be on your child's IEP.

Unique 52:57 

Yeah. So that's just another food for thought. If you feel like, oh my goodness, my child is just so needy and I don't know if the teacher is going to be able to handle him. You maybe request that your child has a 1:1 power so your child goes to school with everybody else, but that teacher will be in the classroom just for your child.

Genie 53:16

And that's a good workaround. If your child is in a classroom and they have an IEP, but you're like, these numbers are still wrong. It could be 10:1 and the school is saying, well, we don't have the resources, we don't have the teachers, then your response can be, I want my child to have a peer educator.

Unique 53:33 

Yeah and they have their own personal assistant, basically. So now the teacher, if your child's becoming a little more needy now, the parents [inaudible 53:40] your child with all their needs. I don't have experience, but I just know I've seen throughout my travels, I've seen students have powers, which is a great option.

Genie 53:51

It is a great option. Parenting Cipher is to provide information and resources. I've heard about it. Well, actually, I know about it and my mom is actually a peer educator, which she started to do after both my boys were diagnosed and she really started to get to understand their diagnosis. That's another conversation but, you know, Unique and I have not had peer educators. It is something that you can ask for.

Unique 54:15


Genie 54:15 

And we just want to let you know that. I just want to say thank you again for gracing us with your journey so that we can all learn from it. But this is the Parenting Cipher so I have to ask, what's your favorite hip hop song and a song that helps you persevere and you said anything Beyoncé.

Unique 54:34

Yeah. And I thought about that also. I guess that's on the website but I think I also go with mood. I don't necessarily have a favorite favorite song, but it depends on what mood I'm in and that's the vibration I want to get. I think I go more on vibration, but not necessarily go to song but if I do need to put an artist in my arm and my phone, the first go to one is Beyonce. But if you go to my Instagram page, I always do like videos and always has music so one video may have the Beatles and the next video, I got the trap song on it's whatever vibration I feel like I need for that moment.

Unique 55:16

I understand. For me, I just love music. Overall, you sound like you love music as well and it is like a vibration. I'm being real with you guys like right now, my soundtrack is so funny - it's Julie and the Phantoms, which is like a pre-teen musical because I love musicals on Netflix. Okay, and right now.

Unique 55:37

I haven't seen it. What is it called?

Genie 55:39

Julie and the Phantoms.

Unique 55:40 

And it's a musical so then stopping and singing the dancing every 5 minutes.

Genie 55:44

Right. Not every five minutes. I think it's like one performance, but it's the songs that get me standing on the edge of great. The things that we go through of life are just stepping stones and I'm like, yes, because that's like where my mind is. And for me that's what music is, it's the vibe. Sometimes you want to pump up, sometimes you want to contemplate. Sometimes you just need something to pick up your spirits just because it's that type of day when you say anything Beyoncé, I was like, yeah, because Beyoncé I mean, she gets on everything, which you don't feel good, you feel bad.

Unique 56:22

Beyoncé has been taking this on her journey as well, too. It's been going with her life.

Genie 56:27


Unique 56:28

So her music from twenty years ago is different from what it is now. Now we got the apple beats with twenty years ago it was more pop. So it's beyond her journey as well too.

Genie 56:38

Right and it's great to see other people's journey, especially when it relates to your own and actually like, when I am looking at your podcast. I'm like, oh wow, becoming unique. I'm like, oh, beyond being a mom in that shift in itself is powerful. I remember like the various conversations I had, especially in the midst of my journey, I must say, battling guys just because I remember opening up a book and the book said time to yourself and do not feel like you're a bad parent.

Genie 57:07

And I mean, leash at the book because I was like, I've got time for that. I'm super mom. Like, I'm out here hustling like for kids. My husband is not working. I can't hear that. I can't hear it, you know and then I realized, like, I was no longer Genie, like I was someone's mom. This is someone else's mom and all of the pIaces I was in, it was always in this mom's place or unless I was at work.

Unique 57:31


Genie 57:31

And then really getting to understand, you still you. Like I'm still Genie like Genie is a whole type person and I have to know her because once the kids grow up and you're gone, what am I going to do and that's why I just love that. Before we go, tell people a little bit about your podcast.

Unique 57:52

Well, I think you did a great job at the beginning with introducing me, but Becoming Unique is a piece of my journey but I feel that everyone has a becoming unique journey within them, that we all deserve to walk into our individual footprints in life and along with being informative and just giving like information like, well, we may be talking about essential oils or CBD or herbalism. I always like to also just input a little bit of soul, a little bit of energy or spirit to make us feel like growth is happening, growth can happen. Not going to say necessarily likewise words, but food for thought. You got to check it out. The feel, the vibration, what I'm talking about or check out my Instagram. I'm all over the place over there.

Genie 58:37

They can catch you on...well, I catch you on iTunes but where else can they catch you?

Unique 58:41

Spotify as well, too, and then Google and then this Anchor and Breaker, which I don't think many people listen to those. Yeah, and I just did a website, so now I have a website so you can keep up with me there and the website is becomingunique.com so you can find all links there as well, too.

Genie 58:58 

Well, thank you so much for guesting here in Cipher.

Unique 59:02

Thank you. Oh my goodness. The conversation was just so full and so rich, I just feel like, thank you for having me on. I completely appreciate it and I hope you were able to be informative for at least one person out there.

Genie 59:14

Always remember you're doing the best with what you have. Remember to be patient with yourself and your child. Did you know you can support the show on  patreon so the Parenting Cipher can keep bringing you great content and guests. Just click on the patreon link in the show notes. ' Till next time.

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