Bellevue SD recommends sending 10-year-old boy with autism out of state

by: Alison Grande Updated:

The parents of a 10-year-old boy with autism say the Bellevue School District says it can no longer teach their son and recommended he be taken out of their home and placed in a residential school. There aren't any residential schools for 10-year-olds in Washington, so the recommendation would send him out of state.

Nicole and Andrew Khouw told KIRO-7 they are shocked the district would suggest something so drastic. They found out about the district's recommendation when they met with the district late last month and got Ethan's IEP -- Individualized Education Program.

Image: Ethan's Trail Facebook page

"I wasn't thinking they were going to tell me we're going to send him out of state," Nicole Khouw said. "This is my 10-year-old who needs me."

Ethan's parents say his education has been a constant struggle.  He's been at several Bellevue elementary schools. They acknowledge he has behavior issues due to his disability. They say he was expelled last fall after he bit a paraeducator during a tantrum.  Now they say the district has given up on Ethan.

The Khouws took their dismay to the Bellevue School Board on Tuesday.

"To my disbelief and horror, the Special Education team proposed that my son be removed from my family and sent to a 24-hour residential facility out of state," Nicole Khouw told the school board. 


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The Khouws said there isn't a residential school in Washington that would take their son because he's so young. Even if there was a residential school close by, they wouldn’t even consider it, so they will keep Ethan in their home.

For curiousity, the Khouws did call around and found the closest residential programs are in Utah and Kansas.

KIRO 7 confirmed there is no residential school in Washington State that would take 10 year-old Ethan.

According to the Developmental Disabilities Administration, part of DSHS, residential habilitation centers are not permitted by law to take in minors younger than 16 for any reason.

Image: Ethan's Trail Facebook page

Washington Autism Alliance and Advocacy in Redmond said recommending Ethan be taken out of the family home and placed in residential care is "an extreme proposal."

They have worked with Ethan and his family.

"He's in and out of our offices regularly and we interact with him regularly," said Washington Autism Alliance and Advocacy's founder, Arzu Forough. "He's familiar to us and he doesn't come across to us as someone who can't be served in his own community. I think there is a way to find people who can work together in putting a program together that works for Ethan."

Diana Lafornara is a parent partner who helps other parents through Washington Autism Alliance and Advocacy. She said 24-hour residential care is typically for teenagers who are very troubled.  

"That is something that happens to some families that have very highly-impacted children whose behaviors are out of control," she said. "Seeing their son personally, he does not strike me as that kind of child. I'm not denying there could be behaviors that are challenging."

The Khouws would like Ethan to be able to attend public school a few hours each day. They hope the district will meet with them to come up with another plan for their son.

"It's hard to understand why such a big school district doesn't have a placement for a child who is 10," Khouw said. "There needs to be an inclusion program."

KIRO 7 asked the Bellevue School District about Ethan and the recommendation for residential placement out of state. A district representative sent this statement:

“We are committed to supporting all students, within the district and community they reside in. We partner with families to identify and provide services that meet the needs of their child. Due to the sensitivity of the issue and our dedication to protecting the privacy of our students, we will continue to work directly with the family. “

"My son will not be taken away from me," Nicole Khouw said. "We will have dinner together and I will tuck him in at home every night." 


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