All In For Aly!
Aly Fournier is many things--a sweet daughter and sister, a student, a bright light in the lives of those who know her. She also has non-verbal autism. Aly’s condition left her at the mercy of a school system that failed her. In September of 2015, due to the decision of their town to remove itself from a regional special education program, Aly was forced to transition from Middletown High to a brand new program in their hometown of Portsmouth. The program was hastily created and run by inexperienced, under-qualified staff who were unable to support her needs. Constant staff turnover led to four different 1:1 aides in just the first two months. The inconsistency led to extreme anxiety, self-injury and aggression to the point that Aly's parents took her out of school and filed a Due Process Case. After two months out of school, Aly returned and was placed in the care of aide #5. Back in the same environment, Aly’s anxiety and aggression quickly returned - she was engaging in self-injurious and aggressive behavior 70% of her school days and suffered a 6-fold increase in seizure activity. The situation culminated with Aly coming home from school one day with bruises admittedly caused by her aide and then having the most extreme and dangerous meltdown of her life. Once again, Aly’s parents removed her from school and filed for Due Process, requesting that she be allowed to return to Middletown High where she had been happy, safe and thriving.
Despite the testimony of Aly’s physician - the Chief of Pediatric Neurology at a prestigious New England hospital - stating that continued anxiety-induced seizures could result in lasting brain damage, or even death, the Due Process Hearing Officer sided with the school department and ordered Aly’s return to Portsmouth High. In reaction to the ruling, Portsmouth threatened the Fournier family with truancy charges if Aly were not reinstated in their program - specifically with the same 1:1 aide who injured her. Desperate to keep Aly safe from the system that failed her so egregiously, the Fourniers instead chose to quickly split up their family to protect their daughter. With truancy charges pending, Wendy had one week to find an apartment and move with her daughter to Middletown in order to re-enroll her in the program where she had previously thrived - with exceptional staff and peers who know and love her.
Families in the Autism community know Wendy Fournier, Aly’s mom. They know her as a tireless champion of the children who cannot speak for themselves. At the detriment to her own health, Wendy has spent almost two decades going above and beyond for not only the Autism community, but many outside as well. You can imagine then, what lengths Wendy has gone to for her own daughter. She and her husband dissolved their assets, drained their savings and used all available credit during their seven-month battle with the Portsmouth school district. In addition to tens of thousands of dollars in legal bills, credit card debt, and no savings, the family is now faced with financing two households. All of this to simply keep Aly safe.
For all the light that Wendy has sent out into the universe, we’re hopeful the universe is ready to send some back her way. Let us help in the way we know how. Let us lighten the financial burden that detracts from the benefit of this move, and the fight that came before it.