My daughter Nalani is in High School!! Her middle school educational experience was the toughest we have had thus far. The IEP’s were giving me panic attacks. Nalani was getting more and more withdrawn and unhappy. I had to do a lot of research and soul searching to decide what to about high school. We live in a really good school district and I am aware of the importance of inclusion but, after visiting one of the special school districts self-contained schools I decided we would give it a try.  Nalani has not attended one of the special school district schools since preschool age 3-5.

From the first day at Neuwoehner High School she seemed a lot happier. The school is awesome, she is able to do things that she would not have been able to do in the district high school, but is still allowed to participate in “Sparkle” a district inclusive cheerleading program after school at the public high school.

Her class consists of a total of 6 students, 2 aides and 1 teacher. The students are put in classes according to their abilities. Her new school has lots of family activities and so far 2 school dances one of which they crowned her and a few of the other new girls homecoming queen. They offer a “bootcamp” activity where the students at all levels work together to perform tasks, she loves this. Her teacher writes me notes everyday about what she does at school and sends pictures of special activities. I send her pictures of activities she has done over the weekend and they discuss them at school on Monday. She gets books and educational material to help at home. They check on her when she is sick, which may not seem like a big deal but, it really means a lot to me.

She has been there a little over 6 and a half months and just had her first IEP. They changed a majority of the things I had been asking to be changed at the middle school in her IEP before I even had to ask. The speech therapist is so amazing that after 10 years we have stopped paying out of pocket for a private speech therapist. During the IEP they brought her in and had a PowerPoint presentation, including pictures of some activities she had done. The staff went around the room and everyone said something positive about Nalani. She really loved this, and was so incredibly proud it brought tears to my eyes. For the first time in years I enjoyed her IEP and did not feel like I was going into battle, I felt more like it was a group of people that cared about Nalani working together on a plan for her.

I always hear about advocates of inclusion and being in the least restrictive environment. Someone said to me when I made the decision to pull her out of public school where she was included in general education classrooms, that she needs to know what it is like in “real life situations”. I still worry about this but, when I look at the new confidence that Nalani has I believe I have made the right choice for her. I know that each child and family has a unique set of educational needs, I just wanted to share my experience with a self-contained school, and share a photo of my homecoming queen!


Mother of

Nalani age 15 PA

Xavier age 18 months

update 3/2015


My daughter Nalani just turned 14 years old!! Things are going great with her lately so I thought I would write an update.  She is in 8th grade and loves school. Every morning she wakes up asking if she can go to school even on the weekend. Next year for high school I am planning on sending her to a self-contained high school instead of the public high school in our district. I think this will be better for her socially and she is so tiny (4ft 9in) I am worried that the high school will swallow her up.

At her school they just started a cheerleading activity that we are very excited about. Nalani is currently in a Basketball class that is run by physical therapists that she loves. She is also participating in a dance class. One of the best things we have done is the Miss Amazing Pageant-LOTS OF FUN!! She also recently received a new adaptive bike from the St. Louis Variety Children’s Charity, we are really looking forward to riding it! She has a speech therapist in the evening and a tutor.

Nalani has a speech therapist, Pam that we love! We have been seeing her for about 9 years. She has at home tutors, Ann and Hope that have been WONDERFUL. Ann was a teacher that Nalani had in grade school. She attends our IEP’s with us and helps with what to ask and what the school should be doing. One thing I regret is that I was not more involved with Nalani in her early education. She had so many hospitalizations and medical hurdles that I was more focused on her health and not her education. I have always had therapist that come out to the house to work with us, and her teachers were great so I knew she was in good hands but, now it seems like I am struggling on how to handle things with her education.

Metabolically recently things have been so much better!!! She was running a 100+ ammonia levels for years and after changing to Peptamen Jr. her last 3 of 4 ammonia levels have been in the normal range!! This is huge for her, those ammonia levels kept me up worrying at night. Constipation has been another problem she has had. I have been doing my best to stay on top of this, because it seems like that is key to keeping her from developing ketones and vomiting. She is fed by g-tube still, she eats a little by mouth her favorites are lemon pudding, salty chips with salsa and onion rings. Echo’s have been normal and seizure free for 6 years now. She sees Orthopedics for a curve in her spine. We have chosen to put her on birth control because she had been getting very unstable at times. Allergies were also an issue. 2 years ago she got a type of sedated Lasik surgery, so she no longer wears glasses. She is just now losing the last of her baby teeth so we are going to talk to the Orthodontist about what can be done to help her speech. I think this will be our next hurdle.

Nalani is at around a 4-5 yrs old level as far as speech but, she reads at a 3-4th grade level. Math is very difficult for her she is working on using a calculator but, does not have a real concept of quantities. She LOVES to read and play on her Ipad! She is on Propimex 2, Peptamen Jr and I give her some of her protein by foods I have blended up in the Vitamix.  Her meds are Phenobarbital, Citra K, Carnitine, Flagyl, Miralax, L-alanine, Valine, and Nasonex.

Nalani is a wonderful daughter, a terrific big sister and truly a remarkable person!