Family Empowerment Scholarship
for Unique Abilities

Apply now for a scholarship for the 2024-25 school year.

A Unique Education for a Unique Child

Children with unique abilities may have different needs when it comes to their education. We believe they deserve an opportunity to learn in an environment that supports their success. The Family Empowerment Scholarship for Students with Unique Abilities (FES-UA) enables families to personalize the education of their students by directing funds to where they’re needed most. The funds can be used for a combination of programs and approved expenses including therapists, specialists, curriculum, private school, a college savings account and more.
View the 2024-25 Scholarship Award Amounts ›*
* Amount varies according to grade, county of residence and disability.
Frequently Asked Questions >

FES-UA Purchasing Guide Update: Through House Bill 1403, effective July 1, 2024, all scholarship funding organizations (SFOs) are required to collaborate with the University of Central Florida to produce an annual purchasing guide for families receiving the Family Empowerment Scholarship for Students with Unique Abilities (FES-UA). The guide reflects not only the work of the SFOs and the University of Central Florida, but also the input of thousands of families. To view the 2024-25 FES-UA Purchasing Guide, please click here.

Unique Abilities Scholarship Handbook

For more information on FES-UA, download our handbook.
Download the Handbook

Who Is Eligible?

  • Active-duty members of the U.S. military, with a specific diagnosis, who have received permanent change of duty station orders to Florida.
  • Students from age 3* through grade 12 or age 22, whichever comes first, who have a specific diagnosis.
    *Families of students who turn 3 or 4 years old during the year will be able to apply that year. 
Autism spectrum disorder
Being a high-risk child
Cerebral Palsy
Down syndrome
Emotional or a behavioral disability
Hearing impairment, including deafness
Hospital or homebound
Identification as dual sensory impaired
Intellectual disability
Language impairment
Muscular dystrophy
Orthopedic impairment
Other health impairment
Phelan-McDermid syndrome
Prader-Willi syndrome
Rare diseases
Specific learning disability
Speech impairment
Spina bifida
Traumatic brain injury
Visual impairment, including blindness
Williams syndrome

How Does It Work?

The Family Empowerment Scholarship for Students with Unique Abilities (FES-UA) provides access to an education savings account (ESA) that functions like a bank account from which you direct funds to pay for tuition and fees for a private school, homeschooling options, therapies, tutoring and more.

Families have the option to purchase products through MyScholarShop or services through EMA without having to pay out of pocket. However, they can still use providers or vendors outside of MyScholarShop and EMA for pre-approved purchases by paying upfront and submitting a reimbursement claim.

  1. Apply for a scholarship through Step Up For Students. You will need to show proof of your child’s age, diagnosis, and residency. Here is a checklist of documents you may need. (Please see page two for new students.)
  2. Once approved, funds will be deposited on a quarterly basis into an ESA on your student's EMA account.
  3. Go to MyScholarShop to find products. Payments to vendors are made directly from the ESA

Important Notice: Any completed and eligible FES-UA application submitted after December 15, 2023 that counts towards the program’s statutory cap will be considered as pre-registering for the 2024-25 school year.

Working with Providers

Specialized services by approved providers include but are not limited to the following:

  • Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services
  • Services provided by a licensed Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP)
  • Services provided by a licensed occupational therapist
  • Services provided by licensed physical therapists
  • Services provided by listening and spoken language specialists
  • Other specialized services provided by an approved provider

Specialized services providers must be one of the following:

  • An organization approved by the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) as a provider
  • An individual licensed by the Florida Department of Health
  • A staff member, listed under an organization approved as a provider through the Office of Early Learning for Specialized Instructional Services Provider (SIS), which includes behavior analysts licensed by the Behavioral Analyst Certification Board
  • An individual listed on the BACB website as practicing in the state of Florida.

Interested In Becoming A Provider?

Find out about becoming a provider.
Learn More

Stepping Up To Success

“She progressed like I’d never seen her before, and we were able to do that because of the Gardiner Scholarship.” ~Valentina’s Mom
FES-UA (Formerly Gardiner) Recipient
“Joshua is going to an in-person school that is simply fabulous. He is super happy and back to learning.” ~Joshua's Mom
FES-UA (Formerly Gardiner) Recipient
“The Gardiner Scholarship literally changed our lives. It gave me hope that my son can get help and learn like every other kid.” ~Ezra's Mom
FES-UA (Formerly Gardiner) Recipient