Choosing a school for a child with additional needs.
Choosing a school for any child can be a difficult undertaking. It can be a painstaking experience, but when you have found the best school for your child, it will be well worth the challenge. Schools these days come in all shapes and sizes. Parents must decide what goals they have for their children and how they feel those needs should be met. First considerations Parents must first evaluate what needs should be met by the educational institution. What needs does your child have? Are these needs physical, emotional, intellectual, or some combination? If these needs are being addressed at home, how does that translate to the school environment? For example, children with physical needs may need a personal care assistant, physical equipment, or preferential seating. A parent must decide what their idea of meeting the needs might look like.
Once a parent decides what their children need, they also have to decide what type of setting they are seeking. Students have various needs, and schools have different missions and goals. Choosing whether to mainstream or send a child to a special school is but one step in this process. Parents must also choose whether their child will prosper in a mainstream state supported or independent school. Independent schools can have more specific focus which may be beneficial for some special needs students, but other students may struggle in the same setting. No two students are the same. Making these choices is entirely personal. What are the requirements for the school environment you have chosen? If you have chosen an independent school or one with entrance exams, can your child pass the entrance exams, or do they need some type of accommodation? If they need an accommodation would that accommodation be permitted for the entrance exam? If you want your child to attend a school that he or she cannot pass or sit for the entrance examination, you need to reconsider your choice. Is there a waiting list? Are there application requirements? Can your child meet other entrance requirements? Be sure that you are choosing the type of environment that your child will allow your child to be successful. Setting a child up for failure will not be beneficial to you, your child, or perspective school. If everything is so subjective, how do I choose? Once you have chosen the type of school and the needs you expect to be met by that school, start researching. Below are a few ways you can research.
Ask friends or family members. If your child has a specific condition, there are often support groups for parents or families. These groups often have parents of older children who have experienced the same things in the past. Ask them for their recommendations for school types and programs. They have already paved the road. Take their recommendations seriously, but you should always rely on all of your research rather than just one person.
Search for information about target schools online. View the school’s website, Facebook or social media pages, and websites dedicated to evaluating schools in your area. Like the last suggestion, though, take online reviews with a grain of salt. Sometimes those reviews are from angry parents who don’t want to admit their fault in things. If, however, every review is negative, this might be a clue into the practices of the school.
Drive by the schools to see if the pictures online are true snapshots or if they look entirely staged. You can get an idea of the school environment by seeing the grounds from a distance. Does the school look inviting? Are the grounds in disrepair? You will get a feeling about the school. If it just looks old, but well kept, don’t let the age of the building hinder you. If it looks like it isn’t cared for, though, that might be a red flag.
Call the school to schedule an interview and tour. Any school should be willing to schedule a meeting time for perspective parents to tour the grounds and interview the school. Once you are sure that your child can be admitted, consider looking around the school to interview them, but remember, they may want to interview you as well. I will list some questions to take with you to the interview.
Make your final choice. Making your choice can be difficult, but after following the above steps, you should have an idea of the environment where your child will be most successful. Don’t be discouraged if your first choice or two don’t work out. We need to be proactive for our kids, and if an environment doesn’t feel right, move on. Keep trying until you find the best fit for your child. You are his or her parent and know their needs best, so don’t discredit your instincts.
Questions for the Interview
What are your current practices for children with additional needs?
Are there programs for children with special needs to get interventions?
What is your SEN philosophy?
Do you have other children with ______?
What is your typical school day like?
How many teachers would my child see in a typical day?
What should I do if I have a concern about an intervention or activity?
Who is available to answer questions if I don’t understand the reason for an intervention or activity?
What are your entrance requirements?
How can I help my child to succeed while enrolled in your school?
If any of the answers to the above question feels out of place or isn’t aligned with your goals and views for your child, you may choose to reconsider. If you are feeling confident that the school has your child’s best interests at heart, proceed forward with enrollment. Final thoughts No parent ever feels that he or she is always making the right decision. You know your child better than anyone else. You should always follow what you think is best for them. Use this guide to help navigate new waters.