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This scholarship is for students who are Florida residents three years old through graduation from 12th grade or age 22 (whichever comes first) in an eligible Florida private school or home education program who have been diagnosed with one of the following disabilities:



The medical term for the life-threatening allergic reactions that may occur when allergic individuals are exposed to specific allergens. Anaphylaxis is a collection of symptoms affecting multiple systems in the body.


Autism Spectrum Disorder

As defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, published by the American Psychiatric Association.


Cerebral palsy

A group of disabling symptoms of extended duration which results from damage to the developing brain that may occur before, during, or after birth and that results in the loss or impairment of control over voluntary muscles. For the purposes of this definition, cerebral palsy does not include those symptoms or impairments resulting solely from a stroke.


Down syndrome

A disorder caused by the presence of an extra chromosome 21.


Dual Sensory Impaired

A student who has dual-sensory impairments affecting both vision and hearing, the combination of which causes a serious impairment in the abilities to acquire information, communicate, or function within the environment, or who has a degenerative condition which will lead to such an impairment.


Emotional or Behavioral Disability

A student with an emotional/behavioral disability has persistent (is not sufficiently responsive to implemented evidence based interventions) and consistent emotional or behavioral responses that adversely affect performance in the educational environment that cannot be attributed to age, culture, gender, or ethnicity.


Hearing Impairment

A student who is deaf or hard-of-hearing has a hearing loss aided or unaided, that impacts the processing of linguistic information, and which adversely affects performance in the educational environment. The degree of loss may range from mild to profound.


High-risk child

A 3–5-year-old*, being a high-risk child with a developmental delay in cognition, language, or physical development.  (*On or before September 1 of the school year.)


Hospital or Homebound

A student who has a medically diagnosed physical or psychiatric condition which is acute or catastrophic in nature, or a chronic illness, or a repeated intermittent illness due to a persisting medical problem and that confines the student to home or hospital and restricts activities for more than six months. (FLDOE definition/current IEP required.)


Intellectual Disability

Significantly sub average general intellectual functioning existing concurrently with deficits in adaptive behavior which manifests before the age of 18 and can reasonably be expected to continue indefinitely. For the purposes of this definition, the term:

  • "Adaptive behavior” means the effectiveness or degree with which an individual meets the standards of personal independence and social responsibility expected of his or her age, cultural group, and community.


  • “Significantly sub average general intellectual functioning” means performance that is two or more standard deviations from the mean score on a standardized intelligence test specified in the rules of the agency.


Language Impairment

Language impairments are disorders of language that interfere with communication, adversely affect performance and/or functioning in the student’s typical learning environment, and result in the need for exceptional student education. A Language impairment is defined as a disorder in one or more of the basic learning processes involved in understanding or in using spoken or written language. These include Phonology, Morphology, Syntax, Semantics, Pragmatics. 

The language impairment may manifest in significant difficulties affecting listening comprehension, oral expression, social interaction, reading, writing, or spelling. A language impairment is not primarily the result of factors related to chronological age, gender, culture, ethnicity, or limited English proficiency.

Muscular Dystrophy

Muscular dystrophies are a group of muscle diseases caused by mutations in a person’s genes. Over time, muscle weakness decreases mobility, making everyday tasks difficult. There are many kinds of muscular dystrophy, each affecting specific muscle groups, with signs and symptoms appearing at different ages, and varying in severity.


Other Health Impairment

Other health impairment means having limited strength, vitality or alertness, including a heightened alertness to environmental stimuli, that results in limited alertness with respect to the educational environment, that is due to chronic or acute health problems. This includes, but is not limited to, asthma, attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Tourette syndrome, diabetes, epilepsy, a heart condition, hemophilia, lead poisoning, leukemia, nephritis, rheumatic fever, sickle cell anemia, and acquired brain injury.


Orthopedic Impairment

Orthopedic impairment means a severe skeletal, muscular, or neuromuscular impairment. The term includes impairments resulting from congenital anomalies (e.g., including but not limited to skeletal deformity or spina bifida), and impairments resulting from other causes (e.g., including but not limited to cerebral palsy or amputations).


Phelan-McDermid Syndrome

A disorder caused by the loss of the terminal segment of the long arm of chromosome 22, which occurs near the end of the chromosome at a location designated q13.3, typically leading to developmental delay, intellectual disability, dolichocephaly, hypotonic, or absent or delayed speech.


Prader-Willi syndrome

An inherited condition typified by; neonatal hypotonia with failure to thrive, hyperphagia or an excessive drive to eat which leads to obesity usually at 18 to 36 months of age, mild to moderate mental retardation, hypogonadism, short stature, mild facial dysmorphism, characteristic neurobehavior.


Rare Diseases

Rare diseases which affect patient populations of fewer than 200,000 individuals in the United States, as defined by the National Organization for Rare Disorders.


Specific learning disability

A specific learning disability is defined as a disorder in one or more of the basic learning processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest in significant difficulties affecting the ability to listen, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematics. Associated conditions may include, but are not limited to, dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, or developmental aphasia. A specific learning disability does not include learning problems that are primarily the result of a visual, hearing, motor, intellectual, or emotional/behavioral disability, limited English proficiency, or environmental, cultural, or economic factors.


Speech Impairment

Speech impairments are disorders of speech sounds, fluency, or voice that interfere with communication, adversely affect performance and/or functioning in the educational environment, and result in the need for exceptional student education.


Spina bifida

A person with a medical diagnosis of spina bifida cystica or myelomeningocele.

Traumatic Brain Injured

A traumatic brain injury means an acquired injury to the brain caused by an external physical force resulting in total or partial functional disability or psychosocial impairment, or both, that adversely affects educational performance. The term applies to mild, moderate, or severe, open or closed head injuries resulting in impairments in one (1) or more areas such as cognition, language, memory, attention, reasoning, abstract thinking, judgment, problem-solving, sensory, perceptual and motor abilities, psychosocial behavior, physical functions, information processing, or speech. The term includes anoxia due to trauma. The term does not include brain injuries that are congenital, degenerative, or induced by birth trauma.


Visually Impaired

Students who are blind, have no vision, or have little potential for using vision or students who have low vision. The term visual impairment does not include students who have learning problems that are primarily the result of visual perceptual and/or visual motor difficulties. (FLDOE definition)


Williams Syndrome

A rare genetic disorder characterized by growth delays before and after birth (prenatal and postnatal growth retardation), short stature, a varying degree of mental deficiency, and distinctive facial features that typically become more pronounced with age as defined by the National Organization for Rare Disorders.



Additional eligibility criteria:

  • Non-school aged students must be at least 3 or 4 on or before September 1
  • Students entering kindergarten must be at least 5 years old on or before September 1
  • Students entering 1st grade must be at least 6 years old on or before September 1
  • Students must be a resident of Florida
  • The student needs a formal diagnosis from a physician or psychologist with an active license or an Individual Education Plan (IEP)
  • The student may be enrolled in a private school or a home education program


The student cannot receive a Family Empowerment Scholarship (formerly Gardiner) while he or she is:

  • Enrolled in public school, including:
  • Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind
  • Florida Virtual School (as a public school student)
  • College-Preparatory Boarding Academy
  • A developmental research school
  • A district charter school
  • A district virtual education program (as a public school student)
  • Florida Volunteer Prekindergarten
  • Receiving a McKay Scholarship or an income-Based Scholarship (Florida tax Credit – FTC)
  • Enrolled in a school operating for the purpose of providing educational services to youth in the

Department of Juvenile Justice commitment programs


One or more of the following documents may be required to support the application:

  • A physician’s diagnosis OR an Individual Education Plan (IEP)
  • Parent's Driver's License issued January 1, 2010 or later OR Utility Bill
  • Sworn Compliance Statement
  • Student's Birth Certificate



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