How to Choose a School for Your Special Needs Child

Choosing a school for a child with special learning needs certainly has many difficulties involved. Aside from the usual criteria, the decision is compounded by the fact that the child will require services that should be attuned to his needs. The same as any individual, not all special kids – even those with the same condition – will have the same characteristics, wants, and preferences. For example, not all ADHD students will have the same degree of impulsivity and attention-deficit, calling for as much an individualized an approach as possible. Even study tips would vary depending on the situation, and this does not even include the complexities of high school.

To make things as simple as possible, we distilled the whole process into these tips that you could consider when choosing a special school. We also wrote it in such a way that these could be applied to universally and with any culture. Generalized into these reflections, we hope that you could have a clearer perspective and help you make the best decision.

Know the programs

Children are placed in special schools under the advice of a diagnostician, a psychiatrist, or a clinical psychologist. They do tests and evaluate the child to make sure that they give appropriate advice and point the parents in the right direction. Knowing the terminology associated with special education would help parents a lot.

For starters, though special education programs vary, these can be categorized into three major groups: mainstreaming, inclusion, and integration. Inclusion happens when the child is placed in a regular classroom with kids of the same age level but is given educational activities more appropriate to what he is capable of at that time. For example, though inclusion means that a 10-year old autistic child is placed in Grade 4 classroom, he won’t be doing Grade 4 activities but will be accommodated with individualized activities instead. Integration means that the child will be placed in a special classroom but will be doing arts, sports, or other extra-curricular activities with regular children. Lastly, mainstreaming means that the child will be placed in a regular classroom and will be doing regular activities for his age level – this is as normal as it would get.

Good special schools build communities

Special schools which are worth the price almost always are very accommodating of parents’ inquiries and needs. They have a clear schedule for parent-teacher conferences over the course of a year and they make efforts to keep parents updated about the condition of their children. Anecdotal reports are easily accessed and tracking a child’s progress means a lot more than just using a journal notebook. Good special schools also educate parents about special education in general and are generous in giving advice to parents. Teachers are also careful to articulate their thoughts to parents and should be discreet in dealings that require such careful management. All in all, special schools of choice build trusting relationships with the parents.

Good special schools should have expansive and extensive services

Take note of the special needs services the school offers. For example, if the child is placed in a mainstreaming program (i.e. the special needs child is placed in a regular class), then the school should have appropriate auxiliary services to help the child out. A team of specialists should always be on call to provide these services and should be willing to run the extra mile just to make the kids happy inside the school. Ask the other parents in the school and inquire about their relationships with the specialists; are these experts friendly enough? A good school would offer an extensive special needs services for children: diagnostics, evaluation, therapy, curriculum modification, and individualization.

Tour your child inside the school, and make sure to make an appointment for such an excursion. Though results may vary, gauging how the child behaves while inside the school might give clues to how he will be behaving in the future. Just like any other educational institution, schools should make students feel welcome inside their premises and should make learning a comfortable and exciting experience.

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