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Choosing a School: An Overview of What Parents Need to Consider

Disabilities School-School for Learning Disabilities As the parent of a child with LD (learning disabilities) and/or AD/HD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder), you’re well aware of how crucial it is that your child goes to the “right” school. The right school is a place where your child feels accepted and supported, a school that provides your child the special services he or she requires to succeed. No school is perfect, but maybe you’ve grown concerned about your child’s current school. Ask yourself:

Is my child
  • reluctant to go to school?
  • weary and unhappy at the end of most school days?
  • stuck in a cycle of underachievement or failure?
  • complaining that school is boring and that teachers don’t care about him or her?
  • lacking close friends at school?
  • stressed out during the school year?

If your answer is yes to one or more of these questions, the school may be a poor fit for your child. What can you do?

You Have Choices

Today’s parents have considerable say about where their children go to school. Kids do not all attend their neighborhood school, as they did in the past. Most districts allow students to attend any of their schools and any school outside the district, provided space is available. Public school options may also include charter schools and magnet schools. Families can consider private schools, some devoted to the education of children with learning disabilities, others with well-established special education services. Homeschooling is increasingly popular, and there are many high-quality online schools.

Where do you start? You know you have specific requirements for a school. Your child needs special services, informed and sympathetic teachers and administrators, and a suitable atmosphere for learning. How will you find the school that suits your child best? What rights does your child have for special education services, particularly if you’re looking at private schools? You need to know what your state offers because school choices vary from state to state. Most important, though, are the things you and your family find most valuable in a school.

What Is Most Important to You and Your Family?

It’s a good idea to sit down with your family and make a list of the important features of a new school. After you make the list, decide on the priority of each item, from nonnegotiable to “nice but not essential.” From this list, you will see questions you’ll want to research and then discuss with staff members when you visit schools. Here are some suggestions:

Practical Matters

  • Do you need a school that offers after-hours childcare or an extended day program?
  • Is location of the school important? Can you drive your child or arrange for other transportation if buses aren’t available?
  • Are you considering a private school? If so, what are your family’s financial requirements? (Remember that most private schools offer scholarships.)

Academic Program

  • Will your child learn better in a traditional, back-to-the-basics curriculum? Or will your child be more successful with a collaborative, noncompetitive approach; project- or theme-based learning; hands-on teaching?
  • What special learning assistance does your child require? Does your child need tutors, a resource room, classroom aides, assistive technology, small classes, teachers licensed in special education? Do regular classroom teachers need to be knowledgeable about both their subject matter and learning disabilities?
  • Does your child need flexible scheduling to allow for extended time and other accommodations?
  • Is it important to see opportunities for students with learning disabilities to demonstrate their strengths?
  • How important to you are a school’s test scores?
  • Are you looking for a rigorous curriculum that includes opportunities for gifted children and for Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate programs—and a school that makes these opportunities accessible to children with learning disabilities?

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