Family Empowerment Scholarship
for Unique Abilities

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A Unique Education for a Unique Child

Children with unique abilities may have different needs when it comes to their education. And we believe they deserve an opportunity to thrive and learn in an environment that will best support 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.

Important Information for McKay Scholarship Recipients

Welcome to families who have been receiving the McKay Scholarship for the 2021-22 school year. We are here to help you with the transition to the Family Empowerment Scholarship for Students with Unique Abilities (FES-UA) that went into effect July 1, 2021.

Under the new legislation, students who received the McKay Scholarship to attend a private school must transition to the FES-UA for the 2022-23 school year. All students who remain eligible will have funding.

Speak with your school about which Scholarship Funding Organization (SFO) is best for your family. McKay families will need to work with an SFO, such as Step Up For Students. Not every school works with every SFO, so it is important to know which SFO your school prefers.

If you want to work with Step Up For Students, please update your contact information if you have not done so already and monitor your email.

The Florida Department of Education FAQ about the transition

The Florida Department of Education email regarding the McKay Scholarship



Unique Abilities Scholarship Handbook

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

Who Is Eligible?

Students from age 3 through grade 12 or age 22, whichever comes first, who have a specific diagnosis.
Anaphylaxis
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
Amount varies according to grade, county of residence and disability.
View scholarship award amounts ›

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 services and products through MyScholarShop without having to pay upfront and apply for reimbursement. However, they can still use providers or vendors outside of MyScholarShop 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.
  2. Once approved, funds will be deposited into an ESA
  3. Go to MyScholarShop to find preapproved services and products. Payments to providers and vendors are made directly from the ESA
  4. Purchase preapproved services and products for your child’s education and request reimbursement

Interested in 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
Valentina Guerrero
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
Joshua Sandoval
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
Ezra Guzman
FES-UA (Formerly Gardiner) Recipient

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

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