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Meet the Franzone Family!

Uncategorized Feb 15, 2023

Let me introduce you to Steve and Michelle Franzone and let them tell you their inspiring story about their daughter Ariel. 

Our History

Ariel was first our biological niece. She was born very premature and addicted to drugs from the biological mom. At the beginning, many tried to steer us away from the adoption due to her medical issues and future surgeries she would require . In addition, Ariel suffered from severe night tremors that would keep us all up through the nights.  As she grew we began to see developmental delays. We reached out to Early Childhood Intervention, but were denied services. We pursued outside Therapy Center for a full evaluation. Their evaluations found Ariel was in desperate need of Occupational, Physical and Speech therapies. Despite these evaluations, Ariel was still denied early intervention. Almost 5 times a week for hours at a time Ariel attend private therapies. I am sure you can relate, our lives were absorbed with getting therapy and services. In addition, during those years, Ariel had to have three Strabismus surgeries on both eyes and wore a patch for many years after the surgeries to strengthen the eye muscles.

Repetitive Denials for Services

Ariel was always very social from birth. Smiling and happy.  During her preschool years her teacher pulled me aside and pointed out some more issues that needed to be addressed. This time they were learning disabilities. Ariel was a model student/friendly/social and kind. But when it came to the learning Ariel was struggling badly. She suggested I reach out to our district to place Ariel in the special education preschool class. She felt that might better prepare Ariel for Kindergarten since she wasn’t qualified enough as a teacher to do so. She wrote a letter for us explaining her concerns and I called for an appointment with the head of special services. They denied Ariel the program. Needless to say “frustrated” was not the word.

Follow Your Intuition

We did not give up and followed our intuition. We took Ariel to multiple professionals at our own expense.  A pediatric neurologist evaluated her. After 4 weeks of appointments, Ariel was diagnosed with Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, Dyspraxia, ADHD. We thought with a diagnosis from a professional that would be enough. That was not the case and we were once again dismissed and denied services.  We were livid.

To make a long story short, Ariel was continuously denied services until later in middle school even with her teachers advocating on her behalf. Ariel was doing well with her grades in all of her classes but she still could not read properly.

Is It Time to Give Up ?

By the time Ariel got into Middle School we were emotionally beaten down. We felt like we were drowning. How long can one fight a losing battle? We were given teachers that were not effective. Much of the time we felt belittled.  By this point this mom was DONE!!!! I had nothing left to give. I became depressed, tired, and emotional drained. I was so frustrated, and I let this whole situation consume my brain. It was not healthy for me or my family at all. I was so ready to move Ariel to a specialized private school. But we didn’t have the money. Finally we knew it was time to take action and hired an advocate.

Many parents walk away and don’t have the time or patience to deal with all of this over the extended period it takes to educate your child.  I am with you and totally understand. Some of you are single parents with no extra money to pay. Some have no time to fight. As a parent it is hard enough to have a child with special needs. It should not be this hard nor take this long to get FAPE (free and appropriate eduction.) We finally felt we had to reach out to a very reputable law firm in New Jersey who specialized in these types of cases. We also hired an advocate.

Get the Help You Need!

I don’t need too tell you that the cost of a lawyers is unreal. Thank God Steve had a job as a Police Detective to able to have an option take out a pension loan. Between tutors etc. we were scraping the bottom of the barrel. But we weren’t giving up. The lawyer attended our meetings a few times. It did not take many before we were able to make our point. We weren’t backing down, however, it shouldn’t have had to come down to this or the exorbitant costs the parent has to endure. Our advocate, Linda also fought hard and finally we got Ariel the services she needed.

After that, Ariel’s whole life changed for her. Thank God we got that all in before covid. It was set in stone and ready to follow the next year 8th grade. Having an advocate and the appropriate professionals in your corner is so essential. I learned a very important lesson through all of this. We should have done it sooner. We should have, but didn’t because we trusted the district to do the right thing. We were wrong to do that.

Advocacy and Hard Work Are Essential

Currently, Ariel is on the HS soccer team and has played for 3 years. She is a Girl Scout since 1st grade and is now working on her GOLD award. Her GOLD AWARD will be Advocacy for others in special education. Ariel has been very vocal in the last few years advocating.  Last year she challenged herself with the High School Varsity Robotics Team earning her Varsity Letter in 2 months. Ariel is the Robotics Team computer tech/programmer. Last year she went to Houston for World competition with her team. First year on team what an accomplishment.

She is now a mentor that helps other special education students with this same program. Ariel explains and shows them that they can do anything they want when you set your mind to it.  This 11th grade year she ventured into the HS Bowling team in which she has earned Varsity status for next year. And in the spring, she will try the HS Golf Team.

Success is a Journey

In conclusion, how did me fight so long for her? We fought all these years, but Ariel ultimately did the work. All she needed was the path. It is so important to teach your child to advocate for themselves and put in the hard work and discipline it takes to succeed. This year we received an email in October that Ariel was nominated for The National Honor Society. She did it! I guess her hard work doesn’t go unnoticed. To say how proud, we were is an understatement. The first thing we did was called our advocate, Linda and invited her to be a part of Ariel’s special night. I knew she would want to see that all her hard work and fighting brought Ariel to this level of excellence. We wouldn’t be here without our amazing advocate, professionals, and others who believed in Ariel and tirelessly helped to find her capabilities and own true success!

We are so happy to be coming to speak about our journey virtually at Pathways for Exceptional Parents on March 1, 2023 at 7:30pm. We will be speaking with our advocate, Linda A. McDougall-Leenstra, and sharing our experiences with you and other parents in order to help ALL of us network and find the pathways to success of your children. Click here to register and join us!


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