Qualifying for the McKay Scholarship for Autism

McKay Scholarship Florida Autism Services

If you are a Florida resident, the single best resource for your child with autism is the McKay Scholarship Program. 

Essentially, the McKay Scholarship provides state funding so you can choose the school (private or public) that best suits your child’s needs.  Depending on the award amount (which is based on your child’s IEP), tuition can either be reduced or completely eliminated in a private school setting.  In many instances, enough funding will be left over to apply towards other services such as speech and language therapy, shadows, and after-school programs.  If your child is awarded a McKay Scholarship and you opt to keep them in public school, your funding can be used strictly towards autism services, if you so choose.

Like anything else, there are eligibility requirements for McKay Scholarship participants, most notably, a child must complete at least one full year in a public school setting.  For this reason, it is better to apply for the McKay Program at an early age because switching schools while in middle school or high school can often be challenging and even traumatic for kids on the autism spectrum.

To qualify for a Florida McKay Scholarship, a child must:

  • Have an Individual Education Plan (IEP) and
  • Have been enrolled and reported for funding in a Florida public school during the October and February Florida Education Finance Program surveys (Grades K-12); or 
  • Have been a pre-kindergarten student who was enrolled and reported for funding in a Florida public school during the preceding October and February Florida Education Finance Program surveys and was at least 4 years old; or 
  • Have attended the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind during the preceding October and February student membership surveys (Grades K-12). 

In general, Florida is not a great state for autism support and services, considering that it is the 4th largest populated state in the country.  However, the McKay Scholarship is a great resource that every parent should look into.  It allows for flexibility to place your child in a school that’s best for them and alleviates the financial burden of private school tuition costs and/or autism-related services.  Additionally, it’s important to note that the McKay is not exclusive to children with autism, but is a resource for all children in the state of Florida who have developmental or physical disabilities.

For more info, visit http://www.floridaschoolchoice.org/Information/McKay/

13 Responses to Qualifying for the McKay Scholarship for Autism

  1. kimberley walker says:

    if a child changes school does the award go with the child or do we have to re apply?

  2. Michelle Gonzalez says:

    Don’t quote me on this, but this is how I understood it at the time we applied 4 years ago:

    * You can transfer from one private school to another without penalty if the new school accepts McKay funding.

    * If you transfer from a private school to a public one, you will lose your McKay and will be unable to re-apply.

    The best way to know for sure is to contact them at 1-800-447-1636. Good luck.

  3. Billie Kaleel says:

    If a child has an IEP with related services, speech, vision and OT, do those services follow the child from district to a private school under the McKay scholarship? In other words, who is responsible to provide the services?

  4. Cathleen says:

    If your child has an IEP they are automatically rated by the school system at one of 5 ‘matrix numbers’. Think of them as levels of neediness (251 – 255). A level 251 might be a child with a learning disability in math who requires pull out classes or instruction, and also has a speech/language pathologist who helps them out with their articulation issues. This child will be granted a McKay scholarship based on a 251 matrix number – currently just over $5000/year. If you choose an $8000/year school, then you would end up paying $3000/year. If you choose a $1800/year school, then the McKay scholarship money would go towards tuition PLUS speech therapy that the school hires to improve your child’s articulation.

    IF your child is profoundly mentally handicapped and requires a nurse at all times due to feeding tubes and seizures, then their matrix number will be on the higher end – possibly a 255. That means the McKay scholarship will pay out around $18000 for that child. So again, if the private school charges $8000, then there is $10,000 left over for the school to hire a private nurse or special equipment for your student. If the school has no nurse on duty but costs $20,000, you will end up paying the extra $2000 and also have to figure out how to have a nurse available – at your own expense.

    Shop around for schools, visit them for a tour, see how they are working with the other children. A good private school will answer any questions you have. Many private schools have an enrollment fee, plus extra charges for a one on one aide, plus extra charges for pull out classes or PT, SLP or OT services. Make sure you ask.

  5. Autism Key says:

    Cathleen, Thank you for the EXCELLENT info.

  6. Kathy says:

    My child is in 3rd grade. He was suppose to go into 4th but the public school want him to repeat 3rd. I am moving forward with the McCay scholarship but am anxious to know what his matrix score is. If he has an autism diagnosis, is in an inclusion classroom with an ESE teacher, has weekly speech pathologist working on social and pragmatics and only gets pulled out for mainstream for science/social studies, pe, music, and guidance could that mean he would have a matrix highter than 251? We are really hoping for a 252 so we don’t have to pay as much at this private school. Can anyone give me information?

  7. Beverly Long says:

    Is there a scholarship fund like this one in Ohio?

  8. i have twins who are same autistic, we are from the philippines, are they qualified to ask scholarship for their education and theraphies needed. thank you.

  9. Janice says:

    Beverly, Ohio has a better program. The Ohio Autism Scholarship, which covers all spectrum disorders, provides a max of $20,000 in services including any therapy, behavioral supports, academic tutoring, or private school tuition. You do need to get an IEP from your local district, but you do not need to actually have ever sent the child to public or private school. It is open to homeschoolers as well.

  10. karina vasquez says:

    SI have a chile that he was diagnosticated with autism speech delate and i want to know how can i apply for a scholarship , my childs3 years and 4 months, somebody told me that i can not apply because my kid is a little one , please i want to know that thank you for answer

  11. Margaret says:

    I have applied for my son to have the McKay scholarship and have found him a school. I was curious as to if there are funds left over if the school is required to give you the funds in order to get the outside services in which they do not provide and or to use the funds for transportation costs for the child to attend the private school? I am in a situation right now where I am not quite sure how he is going to be transported back in forth but I figured we would cross that bridge when we got to it. Thank you for your insight!

  12. Andrea says:

    Karina, you will be eligible to apply once he turned 4 and has been in public school pre-k from Oct-Feb of that school year. You may apply in March for the following school year. Children with autism/global delays are eligible to attend pre-k at age 3. Early Learning Coalition has a program called SIS that will also provide $2400.00 toward therapy services for a 4 year old. An EIP or 504 is required

  13. Melissa says:

    I have a son who is 4 and will be 5 in October of this year. He was diagnosed by a psychologist at the age of 2 with Autism. He was in the Early Steps program and is now in the ESE program with an IEP in the polk county schools. He will be in the ESE program 1 more year for the 2014-2015 school year. He has severe speech delays,trouble communicating his needs, and still working on potty training. The psychologist recommended speech and ABA therapy for my son to help with behavioral issues. My insurance doesn’t cover any of it so the ese provides him Speech 2x a week and I pay 1 day outside to help and it has made a difference but he also needs ABA. The McKay was recommended to me but wasn’t sure how do you know what you qualify for as far as where they fall on the neediness scale so you can get an idea when looking at private schools since each one varies greatly in cost? I am told I will have to make a descision in early 2015 if I want to apply for the McKay for the fall 2015-16 school year. We live in the four corners area of Davenport so I am also wondering if their are any private schools for children with autism that I could look into? Most of what I am seeing are either in Lakeland or Tampa which is too far away. Any help you can pass along to me is greatly appreciated! Thank you, Melissa

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All information in this site is presented for support and educational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for medical treatment or visiting a licensed medical physician.

Visitors who desire to apply or use any information listed herein are urged to consult with licensed healthcare professionals first. All information is deemed reliable but its accuracy can't be guaranteed.

Did You Know?

  • * In 1970, Autism affected 1 out of 10,000 children
  • * Autism now affects 1 out of 88 children
  • * Autism affects 1 in 54 boys
  • * 1.7 million Americans have some form of autism
  • * 4 out of 5 autistic children are boys

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