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The Wiatt family Is Driven Out Of Arizona's Prescott USD Because There is No Place For Their Two Autistic Children
My name is Greg Wiatt. My wife Joyce and I are parents of two autistic children, Weston is 9 years old and Emily is 7. We have resided in Prescott Arizona since 1995. For the last 3 years we have been unable to reside in our home due to the fact that Prescott Unified School District refuses to provide our handicapped children a free and appropriate education. Because of this failure we have had to endure incredible hardships both emotionally and financially.
by Greg Wiatt


My name is Greg Wiatt. My wife Joyce and I are parents of two autistic children, Weston is 9 years old and Emily is 7. We have resided in Prescott Arizona since 1995.

For the last 3 years we have been unable to reside in our home due to the fact that Prescott Unified School District refuses to provide our handicapped children a free and appropriate education. Because of this failure we have had to endure incredible hardships both emotionally and financially.

To gain a better understanding of what my family has been through I have organized a factual time-line detailing the events that has led us to the situation we are in today.

November 25, 1995: Moved to Prescott Arizona

February 2, 1998: Adopted Weston Wiatt at birth.

September 9, 1999: Adopted Emily Wiatt at birth. Emily is Weston's biologicial sister.

February 2, 2001: (Age 3) Weston is diagnosed with Autism on a moderate/severe level. He did not talk, make eye contact or feed himself.

WESTON 2001-2002 and 2002-2003 SCHOOL YEAR: (Age 3-5 1/2) Weston attended Prelude Preschool for children aged 3-5. This program was part of the Prescott Unified School District and was an early intervention program that was provided for at special needs children. During this time Weston recieved no services that directly treated his disability of autism nor did the district have any idea on how to intervene and educate autistic children.

So rather than have Weston learn nothing and having no support or knowledgable teachers at our public school district for helping children with autism. My wife found an ABA consultant/therapist named Terra Rice in Phoenix Arizona at a company named "Crysalis Play ABA." in the spring of 2001.

In my wife first visit with Terra she could see that she knew what she was doing and began teaching Weston sign language. Soon after that he was learning how to communicate using single words. Slowly his vocabulary grew to 6 then 12 words over the next few months. The progress was slow and painstaking but we could see incredible progress.

For the next two years my wife drove the 250 mile round trip to Play ABA in Phoenix to assist in the training of teachers in ABA to work one on one with our son. We were thrilled with Westons progress. In the meantime he continued to attended PUSD's Discovery Garden preschool during the day which was simply a playcenter which offered little more than custodial daycare play services. It did however offer speech and lauguage services for 2-3 hours a week by teachers who again knew nothing about autism..

NOTE: Studies show that early intervention of autistic students using proven menthodoligies such as ABA (applied behavior analysis) can actually reverse some of there learning disabilities. Furthermore over 40% of autistic students who were taught ABA an average of 30 hours a week can recover to a degree where upon entering 1st Grade they will require no additional support such as a fulltime aide or paraprofessional.

EMILY 2002-2003, 2003-2004 SCHOOL YEAR: (AGE 3-5) We enrolled Emily in preschool at Premivera, a private school with a focus on high academics and achievement.. During this period of time the teachers noticed that Emily was falling behind and was delayed when it came to speech and language which impacted her learning abilities.

May 22, 2003: (AGE 5 1/4) Weston graduates from Prelude Preschool and is scheduled to start Kindergarden in the B.E.S.T program at Taylor Hicks Elementary in August for the 2003-2004 school year.

NOTE: The B.E.S.T. program (Building Essential Skills and Techniques) is a self-contained program for preschool through grade twelve for students requiring more intensive instruction in small group environments. These classrooms are primarily designed for students who have cognitive disabilities. It was a cross catorigical setting that had no teachers or aides familiar with teaching autistic students.

WESTON 2003-2004 SCHOOL YEAR: (Age 5 1/2- 6 1/2) In early August of 2003 Weston was to have started kindergarten at the age of 5 and we thought that we would finally have some help with his education.

On his first day of school at Taylor Hicks Elementary my wife went to observe his classroom and was shocked to find that it was simply a babysitting class (custodial care) with no qualified teachers and little to no structure and no hope of learning anything meaningful.

When my wife confronted his teacher that this classroom situation would not work for Weston, his teacher Jana Harlow said to me "Joyce I knew that this would not be for you as you expect more".

NOTE: There was also an autistic llittle boy named Cody Parenteau who was the same age of Weston and it was his first day also. Cody's parents had just moved from California to Prescott.

Joyce took him out after a couple of days and was back to the home schooling program with our teachers that she had trained using our own funds.

WESTON 2004-2005 SCHOOL YEAR: (Age 6 1/2- 7 1/2) We continued this program of home schooling Weston through July of 2005 due to the fact that there was no Autism program or teachers who knew anyting about the teaching of autistic students.

PUSD sent out a homebound teacher named Mindy for 2-3 hours a day twice a week. She would read books, color and swing him on the swing. He learned nothing from PUSD.

This would of been his first grade year. We do not know what happend to the $24,600 in funding that Prescott Unified School District received for that year for his education.

EMILY 2004-2005 SCHOOL YEAR: (AGE 5-6) Emily attended Prelude Preschool for children aged
3-5. This program was part of the Prescott Unified School District and was an early intervention program that provided for at special needs children. At the end of the year the school year it was their opinion that Emily was mildly mentally retarded and displayed characteristics of autism.

EMILY AUG 31, 2005: PUSD recommendated that she be placed in the B.E.S.T. program at Taylor Hicks. After careful thought we decided against this.





AUTISM TESTING EMILY OCTOBER 10, 2005: (AGE 6) Emily was tested at the Melmed Center in Phoenix Arizona. She was diagnosed with Autism. She is 19 months younger than Weston.

Now we have two children with Autism and a school district that refuses to provide a free and appropiate education for either of them.

WESTON 2005-2006 SCHOOL YEAR: (Age 7 1/2 - 8 1/2)
EMILY 2005-2006 SCHOOL YEAR: (Age 6-7)

PUSD paid over $60,000.00 to send our children to a private autism school "Crysalis Play ABA." in Tempe AZ.

This is the same school which used to train our teachers in Prescott for our ABA home programs
for the last 4 years because PUSD offered no free and appropiate education for our children.

The Prescott school district still has no Autism program due to lack of space.

As evidenced by this letter we were told in November of 2005 they would have an Autism program for the 2006-2007 school year.

It is illegal to deny an appropiate education to any student due to lack of space and this is in violation of federal law.

We had to put both children in this school during 2005-2006 because geographically it was not feasable for me to be in one city with one child and my wife in another city 120 miles away with another child.

We had to move to Phoenix partime and returned to Prescott on Holidays and weekends.

We had to pay for another house, travel expenses and all the other added expenses of living in Phoenix.
Gas was $3.00 a gallon and we drove back and forth over 500 miles a week.

All this just for an education for our autistic children because our local school district would not provide one.

While this school was great for Weston it became appearant that it was not so good for Emily as Weston had moderate to severe autism and Emily was mild. Weston's needs were 360 degrees different than Emily's as all autistic childrens are.

We could see the effects of a great ABA program on Weston. However Emily's needs were totally different than Weston's and this setting had more of a negative outcome on her development.

We also believed that both children needed to be around mainstreem peers and this could not be accomplished in a school that was strictly for autistic children and a restricted environment.

At the end of the 2005-2006 school year we knew that Emily was ready to be in a regular classroom setting and Weston continue in an Autism program..

We could no longer have our family split up with one parent in Phoenix with Weston and onr parent with Emily in mainstream classes in Prescott. We were a family that needed each others support now more than ever. Our children needed to us to all be together and they needed to be educated together.

The stress of going back and forth from Prescott to Phoenix was taking a toll on our lives, emotionally and financially. We were at our wits end.

What now for the next school year? We knew that we could not continue turning our lives upside down nor could we count on our local public school district to provide a autism program in which our children could learn.

Additionally the call from PUSD special ed director Nancy Martinez never came and we knew again that year six would be no differen than the pastt. They just didnt care about our children much less about us as parents.

They had since 2001 to do so and it was now 2006. Five long and costly years of ignorance by PUSD.

In the summer of 2006 my wife began calling other school districts in Arizona and then nationwide in hopes of finding a program that would offer a temporary solution for Weston and Emily until Prescott Unified School District would get a program.

Our children were now at a critical stage. Emily was soom to be 7 years old and still had not attended kindergarden. Weston was now 8 years old and needed a school district that understood and could embrace and accomadate his special needs in a manner of continunity, responsibility and respect. Even if it was just until PUSD got there act together.

During our search we found a program with in the Missouri public school system that appeared to be exactly what we were looking for. It was now mid July 2006 and we had to again act fast. Our children could not miss another year.

JULY 2006: TRIP TO COLUMBIA MISSOURI After carefully reviewing our options four out childrens education we scheduled a trip to the midwest and visited Columbia Missouri. We had just sold my real estate company which gave our family some additional money to invest further in our children's educational opportunities.

November 2006
Weston age 8 and Emily age 7

During our search we found an autism program with in the Missouri public school system that appeared to be exactly what we were looking for. When we flew out to investigate the program further we were amazed that this quality of a program was offered in a public school setting.

We were invited to visit the last day of there ESY (extended school year) and witnessed one teacher and four paraprofessionals in a classroom teaching five autistic students in a highly structured environment that was based on ABA teaching methods with daily data being taken every moment.

It was now the end of July and school started in August and we had to make a quick decision on what to do
for this coming semester.

Desperate for an appropriate and meaningful education we decided to go to Missouri for the first half of the school year on a trail basis hoping PUSD would put together an autism program.

We returned to Prescott and began packing for our 1400 mile trip to Columbia Missouri.

Later that week we received a call from the Special Education Director, Nancy Martinez who informed us that they still had no program because they had no teacher for the program .

We told her that we could no longer wait paitently for a program and had to make other arrangements. She sounded relieved that she wouldnt have to deal with us again.

Our temporary move to Missouri was bittersweet. While the educational system was the best we had ever experienced for our special need children we were still Arizonans at heart and we missed our home and friends that the last 11 years had afforded us. Additionally my arthritis was getting worse do to the drastic climate changes that occur in the Midwest and we find ourselves depressed and homesick to return to our home state of Arizona.

More importantly we were faced with losing our health care benefits on our children that was provided by the state at no charge to us for adopted special needs children. Losing these benefits could be financially catastrophic.

In November 2006 we scheduled a trip back to Arizona to physically check out programs in other school districts. Casa Grande, Kingman, Yuma, Lake Havasau and a handful of others that had been recommended to us in hopes of returning.

We were shocked at what we discovered. Untrained teachers and aids in small groups attempting to control larger groups of autistic children in chaotic situations. These venerable students were learning little to nothing. No ABA no data and again little to no structure with few if any qualified teachers. And in each case the State of Arizona gratiously funding over $26,000.00 for each students education. And in each case the money not being used properly for a meaningful and appropiate education.


We decided to revisit the Prescott Unified School District again hoping that after all these years of empty promises they would of have a program or at least of found a qualified teacher or a suitable space that would be appropriate for our autistic childrenso we could finally return home.

On November 17, 2006 we met with the special education director, Nancy Martinez to see if there was any hope to come back home for the January 2007 semester.

What she told us was shocking. We asked her to sum it up in a letter.

She told us that she was unable to meet our needs now and in the future for our autistic children and furthermore if they did attend school there that there would be a regression of at least two years in thier development. The development that we had spent over five years of our lives and six figures to attain. What kind of school was this and how could they say this to parents of disabled children. We now knew how bad things really were.

Shocked, we left her office with a feeling of hopelessness and utter despair and drove back to our Prescott home. The home my wife disigned for our disabled children that we had just built 3 years before.

We went out to the back yard. A yard full of bittersweet memories now silent. We began to cry. We knew at this point our children would never be able to return to the home we created for them. The swings were empty and wef elt as if the town we called home for over 11 years no longer wanted our children.

As we were on the plane going back to Missouri and knew we had to make some tough decisions about our future. We could no longer afford to live in limbo. We could not afford the two house payments. Nor could we live like this any longer. What were we to do?

It was a decision no parent should have to make...



After over four years of ignoring the true needs of Autistic Students PUSD attempts to get it right.
Friday, May 25, 2007

New school will help bridge county autism gap
The Daily Courier, Friday, May 25, 2007

PRESCOTT - For the first time in the Prescott area, parents of autistic children will have another option as to where their kids can learn.

Note: ABA methodologies are the only proven method for inerventation and educating Autistic children. Previous to this (before November 1, 2006) the only "Autism Programs" offered were, in the words of Nancy Martinez, Special Education Director were "glorified babysitting classes. This statement was made under questioning during an Administrative Hearing on March 18th 2007.

Concerning the quality of the 2006-2007 Autism Program we were told in a letter from PUSD that if we were to put them in there current Autism program they would regress two years socially and educationally." This statement was made on November 17 2006. Was this statment made to intimidate and scare us while keep us from enrolling our children in the PUSD district.

Angela Levin, the parent of an autistic child, is opening a private school this fall for children in grades K-8 on the autism spectrum, including children with Asperger's. Registration will begin May 29.

The name of the school is ASCEND, or Autism Spectrum Center for Educational and Neurological Development.

ASCEND stands out because of its Applied Behavioral Analysis instruction, commonly known as ABA. Instructors will use the data-driven approach to monitor and evaluate students weekly or monthly, Levin said.

Chrysalis Academy in Phoenix is the only other ABA-based school in Arizona. "(ABA-based learning) is a specialty and it is a model that is effective for any of our autistic students," said Jo Coomer, special services director for Chino Valley Unified School District.

Kay Turner, special services director for Humboldt Unified School District and a member of the State Board Advisory Panel for Special Education, agrees.

"ABA is very successful most of the time when followed properly in elementary grades K-3. Beyond elementary, it depends on the child and what (he or she) has in the first 10 years for intervention," she said.

Levin's goal is "to provide a safe and nurturing environment for these kids that also lets them achieve the most they're capable of - the very most."

Eventually, Levin wants to bring her students to a level where they can intermingle back into a general education classroom.

However, her larger vision encompasses the entire county. She hopes to eventually improve autistic education in rural Arizona.

The growing need in Yavapai County

Special services directors for Humboldt Unified School District, Prescott Unified and Chino Valley Unified said the numbers of autistic children in their schools has been consistently increasing.

In February 2003, Humboldt Unified had 15 autistic students. In 2006-07, HUSD had 39 students. Prescott climbed from five autistic students in 2000 to 23 by 2006.

Both Prescott Unified and Humboldt Unified implemented autism programs for the first time this year.

Fact: Nancy Martinez called us two days before school (on or about Aug 2, 2006) was to start and informed us that they still had no teacher for the Autism Class. They didnt hire a teacher until the first week of November 2006.

Concerning the quality of the 2006-2007 Autism Program we were told in a letter from PUSD that if we were to put them in there current Autism program they would regress two years socially and educationally." This statement was made on November 17 2006. Was this statment made to intimidate and scare us while keep us from enrolling our children in the PUSD district.

Chino Valley's school board approved an autism program for middle and high school students to begin next year.

However, Chino's elementary autistic children still will fall under the general "special education" category.

All three districts said they did not begin autism programs until now because the need wasn't pressing enough. In addition, beginning an autistic program is expensive.

At PUSD didnt five students with Autism dictate a pressing problem??? Additionally Autistic students receive over $24,000.00 from State and Federal funds!!

Why did PUSD received over $600,000.00 in Autism funding last year according to there budget and spend only $21,000.00 on an autsim class??? Where did that money go and what services did the students that were to receive it get???

Was the real reason that PUSD is now dealing with the problem is that the legal fees to defend there shortcomings are enormous and not complying to state and federal laws will end up costing more than the programs themselves???

None of the public school programs uses strictly ABA-based instruction, their directors said. Every autistic child is different, and what works for one student may not work for another, they continued. In addition, numerous formulas exist to educate autistic children.

Experts in Autism Education agree that the data driven ABA methodologies are the ONLY way to teach Autistic students in a manner that is effective and allows them to learn with there disability.

Levin's solution

As part of her overall plan, Levin wants to turn her school into a training center, teaching instructors in general education and special education about ABA-based learning.

She said the public districts do not train their teachers to deal with autism, mostly because of time and money constraints. In addition, Turner said the state does not offer a special education certification specifically for autism, although lawmakers are working on it.

Levin plans to make ASCEND a state-approved day school through the Arizona Department of Education, thus allowing school districts to send their students to her school if they cannot give a student an appropriate education.

The three special services directors said they would not discount Levin's school away as an option, but each child's situation is different and they would make the decision on an individual basis.

We were told by PUSD"s Special Education Director on November 17, 2006 that PUSD would no longer pay for an ABA based school opportunity for our Autistic children .

One Autistic student at PUSD in the 2006-2007 school district was shuffled between four different schools, and had seven different teachers. The parents of this child were forced to file three due process complaint of which they won over $50,000.00 in compensatory services.

What happened to a "Free and Appropriate Education" ?

Tuition for children with autism will be $23,000 for a year, and tuition for students with Asperger's will be $16,000.

For more information, call (928) 443-9290 or e-mail
Contact the reporter at

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Friday, May 25, 2007

The financial rundown

Friday, May 25, 2007


One of the top reasons local school districts have not started autism programs until this year was a
lack of money from the state.

FACT: Students with Autism receive over $24,000.00 each year in funding.

PUSD received over $600,000.00 in for the 2006-2007 school year alone and only spent $26,000.00 on an autism program.



Renee Raskin, chief financial officer for Prescott Unified School District, said that setting up a new basic autism program costs about $130,000 from the district's maintenance and operations budget, and another $5,000 from its capital budget.

Why didnt it come out of the Autism budget???
Could the Autism budget money ended up somwhere else???

At Chino Valley Unified, Director of Business Services Vickie Mouland said a new autism program costs about $105,000 for one teacher and two aides. The expenses continue to grow at Humboldt Unified, where Special Services Director Kay Turner said her new program cost about $154,000 for five children. These figures do not include supplies, additional training, or more teachers.

The state allocates between $22,000 and $23,000 to the school districts for each autistic student. That's approximately the same amount Angela Levin is charging for tuition to her school.

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Content 2007 Daily Courier
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JUNE 6, 2007: The last day of school in Columbia Missouri for Weston who completed 2nd grade and Emily who completed kindergarden. It was the best year of there lives educationally. There was no comparison.

Weston was in a sel-fcontained Autism classroom with 1 teacher and 4 trained paraprofessionals where he received one on one in an ABA based inclusion program. There was a total of 5 students. He was pulled out and mainstreamed for Art, Gym and Counseling Class. He left on the bus at 8:AM and came home on the bus at 4:PM.

Emily was in regular kindergarden with an aid. There were 21 other children in her class. She reads, writes and was promoted to regular 1st Grade. She loves school and looks forward to going each day. She left on the bus at 8:AM and came home on the bus at 4:PM.

We were never called by the school because of behavior problems the entire year with either child.

The Columbia Missouri public school district recieves about $6,000 for each of our children. Prescott Unified School District previously received about $24,600.00 for each of our children or about the tuition at Arizona State University.

Why cant Prescott Unified School District offer a quality educational program for our children? Its clear that they just dont care. How could they recieve over $600,000.00 in state and federal funding for Autism and only spend about $20,000.00 on an Autism program???

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