Worcester schools pivot, grant special needs student long-awaited assistance

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In the wake of a shift the last several weeks that included help from pro-bono counsel and a state advocate, and after more than 15 months of evaluations, meetings and frustration, Kelly Rawson, the mother of a 15-year-old Worcester Public Schools special-needs student, has finally reached an agreement that will give her son the educational services she’s long battled for.

Rawson said she was notified by the schools March 18 that officials now believe moving her son, Eugene “Gino” Berthiaume — who is deaf and suffers from developmental delays, epilepsy and cerebral palsy due to a virus contracted at birth — to a residential program at the Marie Jean Philip Elementary School at The Learning Center for Deaf Children, is the best course of action to address Gino’s educational needs.

Gino Berthiaume

Courtesy Kelly Rawson

Gino Berthiaume

Gino now attends a day program at the Framingham school through School Choice and is bused there by Worcester Public Schools. But for more than a year, he and his mother have waited for services proposed by the administration that have gone unfulfilled.

Rawson said she is waiting for a copy of the “proposed plan to make up compensatory time,” required by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, which will facilitate Gino’s move to the more comprehensive program. “In that program [at the Philip School], the teachers and staff try to go above and beyond a child’s IEP [Individualized Education Program],” she said.

“And what the dorm program is designed for is independent living skills, safety awareness, self-care, navigating the community, working, and learning trades,” Rawson said. “This is what I’ve been pushing for, and the Worcester district has always said no.”

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