Frequently Asked Questions


Why do families need legal assistance when their child is in special education?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (1990) mandates that all children with disabilities receive a “free and appropriate education” (FAPE). However, because IDEA was never fully funded by the federal government, much of the rising costs of educating a growing population of children with disabilities falls squarely on school districts. This lack of funding can create conflicts between parents and schools, which sometimes can only be resolved through the legal system.

How much does AESA provide to the families that it supports?

Arizona Exceptional Students Association provides scholarships of up to $3000 to qualified applicant families with children in the special education system who may need help securing their child’s rights to FAPE.

What is AESA’s mission?

Arizona Exceptional Students Association’s mission includes giving assistance to families of children with special needs. We strive to provide educational services to students with special needs from the time they are 3 years old until adulthood.

Who is AESA?

AESA is a nonprofit dedicated to families of students all of whom have special needs. It was founded by a mother of surviving quadruplets all of whom have special needs. After having to struggle to find consistent medical and educational information, she dedicated her life to researching information related to special needs. She began with medical research trying to understand why her children were behaving the way they were. Once the “triplets” became school-aged, she focused on education law. She now helps other parents advocate for their own children.

Is my family eligible for a REED Scholarship?

Your family may be eligible for a REED Scholarship if your family’s adjusted gross income meets our financial requirements, you live in Arizona, and you have a child currently in a public school special education program with a current IEP (Individualized Education Plan).

What documentation do I need to provide to apply for a REED Scholarship?

You must complete and sign the grant application and provide documentation of income (summary tax return or verification of government assistance), your child’s IEP, your child’s most recent evaluation (if applicable), and an invoice/estimate of proposed legal fees from a qualified special education attorney.

What expenses are covered in a REED Scholarship?

A Reed Scholarship covers up to $3000 of fees related to a qualifying family’s special education legal issues, provided by an attorney that meets AESA’s professional requirements or an advocate directly supervised by an attorney that meets the professional requirements. All REED Scholarships are payable directly to the attorney.

What are AESA’s professional requirements?

A lawyer will meet AESA’s professional requirements if they have practiced law with an emphasis on special/disability rights for three years or more. Special education/disability rights law should represent the majority of their practice. They must be affiliated with the American Bar Association (ABA) or the State Bar of Arizona and must be licensed to practice law in the state of Arizona.

What is the review process for the REED Scholarship?

AESA’s scholarship review process is conducted annually. AESA will accept applications and supporting documentation in the fall and will conduct on-site interviews of qualifying families during that period. The Scholarship Review Committee and Board of Directors will review applications based on available funding. Scholarship recipients will be notified as funds become available.

Will AESA recommend a special education attorney for my family?

Arizona Exceptional Students Association will not make recommendations for families in need of a special education attorney.


What is Homeschooling?

Arizona Exceptional Students Association defines homeschooling as educating a child in the home using any public or private resources available.

What is the Empowerment Scholarship Account?

An Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) is an account administered by the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) and funded by state tax dollars to provide options for the education of qualified students in this state. An ESA consists of 90% of the state funding that would have otherwise been allocated to the school district or charter school for the qualified student (does not include federal or local funding). The ESA is granted to the Account Holder of the qualified student to provide an education that must include at least the following subjects: reading, grammar, mathematics, social studies and science. By opting out of the public-school system and accepting an ESA, applicants can seek a range of alternative educational services such as private schools, home-based education, tutoring, and educational therapies (for students with disabilities only) using state funds. Funded by the state, tailored by the applicant, and individualized for the student—the ESA program provides a unique opportunity to prepare Arizona students to succeed in school and life. ESA contracts are between the applicant and the Arizona Department of Education Empowerment Scholarship Account Program. What applicants choose to share with their enrolled school is at their discretion. *ESA cannot provide any advice or guidance to families regarding schools, programs or service providers to use or where to send their child to school. The student must be withdrawn from public school upon signing an ESA contract and while remaining on ESA.

What is Assistive Technology?

Assistive technology is any device, software or equipment that can help children with learning and attention issues work around their challenges. Examples of assistive technology include text-to-speech technology and keyboards, as well as low-tech tools like lined paper and pencil grips. AESA will be able to rent Assistive Technology to parents on a monthly basis using Empowerment Scholarship Account funds. For more information, visit our store.

What is FAPE?

FAPE stands for Free and Appropriate Public Education. FAPE is an educational right of all children in the United States that is guaranteed by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).