What is Merlin Day Academy? 

Merlin Day Academy was founded to meet the needs of our clients and Chicago’s diverse learners. When our clients “graduated” from Blue Bird Day, our intensive therapy program for preschool and kindergarten aged children, some kiddos were able to go on to traditional schools, but others needed a more supportive environment to continue their learning. Families were struggling to find a school that provided support for their children’s unique sensory needs, learning goals, and therapy needs, so we built Merlin Day Academy! Over multiple years of program development and data collection inform our evidence-based interventions. We are proud to provide this innovative, proprietary program and strive to provide equitable access to our vital services.  

Merlin Day Academy is a Therapeutic Day School designed to provide children with special needs the ideal environment for learning. We provide special education instruction tailored to the individual needs of each child. The Merlin Approach to Learning© includes daily educational instruction in literacy, math, science, social studies, and art classes to provide children with a well-rounded education in a supportive environment. Our sister company, Eyas Landing, provides therapy directly in the classroom including Occupational Therapy, Speech-Language Pathology, Behavior (ABA) Therapy, Physical Therapy, and Social Work to support each child’s academic, social, emotional, physical, and developmental goals. Each child is evaluated by our multidisciplinary team to better understand the supports they need to succeed in learning, and our collaborative team of occupational, physical, speech, and behavior therapists provide therapy for medically relevant needs based on the results of these evaluations and therapist recommendations.

Addressing Barriers 

Every child deserves a high-quality education, and diverse learners are entitled to therapeutic intervention to support their learning, but there are many systemic barriers for families that limit their ability to access these services. Early Intervention, a publicly funded program through the Illinois State Department of Human Services, provides supports and services for families to help their children ages 0-3 years old to meet their developmental milestones and participate within their family and community, but this support cuts off at age 3. When a child ages out of Early Intervention, families often turn to private insurance to cover the cost of therapy services. Private insurance is costly, and for-profit insurance companies require the added burden on families of testing, assessment, and diagnosis in order to cover therapy costs. Insurance companies also dictate the type and quantity of therapy that is covered, which negatively impacts the autonomy of clinicians, clients, and their caregivers to determine what is best for each individual child. 

Investing in Illinois State Board of Education Approval 

Considering the limitations of private insurance and especially the financial burden it places on caregivers, we decided to invest in applying for Merlin Day Academy to become an Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) approved school so our clients could get their education and therapy publicly funded through their local school district. This has been a multi-year process that included curriculum updates and a new daily rotation schedule, policy updates, and constructing our new Avondale facility to conform to building code requirements.  

We invested in our new Avondale facility and the multi-year ISBE application process because we are committed to providing more equitable access to our vital therapeutic and educational services. Children of all abilities deserve to learn in an environment that meets them where they are at and provides a supportive environment conducive to learning. Traditional school is demanding and calibrated to the abilities of neurotypical children, without considering the sensory, executive functioning, and therapeutic needs of neurodiverse children. Merlin Day Academy is uniquely prepared to support children with Autism, Speech-Language Delays, Learning, Intellectual, and Emotional Disabilities and Other Health Impairments such as ADHD, sensory processing disorder, cerebral palsy, down syndrome, genetic conditions, gross motor delay, and other developmental and sensory conditions. 

IEPs and Your Rights 

An Individualized Education Program (IEP) details the services that your child is legally entitled to receive to support their education. Caregivers, teachers, and school administration work together to identify what supports your child needs to succeed in school, and these supports can include special education instruction, therapeutic services, and other supports based on your child’s needs, age, and federal and state laws. Children with a Therapeutic Day School placement identified in their IEP are eligible to enroll at Merlin Day Academy to receive the education and therapy they deserve.  

Merlin Day Academy Special Education Teachers

Who is eligible to receive an IEP? 

Students with a disability or impairment are eligible for an IEP under one of the following categories. The assessments and other criteria to determine your child’s specific impairment will be identified with your school district based on each child’s individual abilities and learning goals.  

  1. Intellectual disability*
  2. Hearing impairment (including deafness)
  3. Speech or language impairment*
  4. Visual impairment (including blindness) 
  5. Serious emotional disturbance*
  6. Orthopedic impairment 
  7. Autism*
  8. Developmental delays (age 3 through 9)
  9. Traumatic brain injury
  10. Other health impairment*
  11. Specific learning disability*
  12. Deaf-blindness
  13. Multiple disabilities

*Categories Supported by Merlin Day Academy & eligible for placement through IEP 

Merlin Day Academy can implement IEPs for children ages 6-14 in one of the following categories: intellectual disability, speech or language impairment, serious emotional disturbance, autism, other health impairment, or specific learning disability.  

How do I get my child an IEP? 

Because an IEP is tailored to each child, you’ll need to work with your local school district to identify the services your child needs. You can follow this step-by-step guide from our sister company and outpatient pediatric therapy clinic, Eyas Landing, to better understand the overall process of getting an IEP for your child: https://eyaslanding.com/ieps-and-504s/ 

How do I get my child placed at Merlin Day Academy through their IEP? 

Contact us to schedule a free, private tour to see if Merlin Day Academy is right for your child: https://merlindayacademy.com/contact/. Our concierge administrative team will work with you and your family to implement their IEP and establish their learning and therapeutic goals.