Stamford teen and others with severe disabilities are falling through the gaps in CT, attorneys say

Ava, 13, loves rainbows, cartoons and her dog Cassius.

“I like the lion because it has a rainbow and I like rainbow,” she said, pointing to a painting she’d made.

But a huge hole on a broken door to her room hints at the traumatic reality for Ava and her family.

Caregivers, like Shannon Burke, haven’t stayed long. When Ava broke a mirror one day, “she did end up taking one of the pieces of glass and chasing me around the house with it,” Burke said.

Ava’s “pulled the hair out of my scalp to the point where I’m bleeding because she wanted to leave the spoon inside of the microwave and I had to explain to her that she couldn’t do it,” said Ava’s sister Sophia.

AVA FONT

Joe Amon

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Connecticut Public

Twenty-two year old Sophia Font with her thirteen-year old sister Ava at the families home in Stamford, Connecticut February 4, 2023.

Single mom Nancy Camp, who adopted Ava as a baby, said she was diagnosed with autism as a toddler and then with an intellectual disability.

Camp, of Stamford, is struggling to get her daughter the care she needs to survive, and perhaps even thrive. Camp says Ava is not safe at home. A hospital says she can’t stay there forever. And alternate schools say she’s too aggressive to be enrolled.

Kids with autism and other disabilities are falling through the gaps in Connecticut schools, civil rights attorneys say. In severe cases, they’re removed from traditional public schools and then from district-funded special education programs. What happens next is uncertain.

For Ava, things came to a head last fall when she wanted another dog. Camp said no. The teen — nearly six-feet-tall — had a meltdown so bad that Camp called the police.

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