“My advice is to make the high school or secondary school experience an end in itself – not a means to an end. What universities are really looking for are children who have learned, who have made the most of their opportunities, who have experienced something and really engaged with that experience.”
Learn from our education experts how parents can successfully navigate the daunting process of selecting the best special needs school for their child.
Children who have physical, emotional or learning differences may struggle in traditional academic settings. Some children have difficulty staying focused, others find it hard to communicate either in writing or orally, and some children struggle to get along with peers. In these cases or others, parents may find it beneficial to send their children to schools specifically designed to address the needs of children with special needs.
These institutions and their specially trained instructors help students in ways that traditional school settings and teachers may not be able to. Classes are small, lessons specifically designed to address a variety of learning styles and support services provided are all designed to address these individuals’ specific needs. At times a child can benefit from a special education school or program for a short period of time while learning tools to help them learn in a regular classroom and to advocate for themselves with future teachers.
If parents believe their child may require special education, the New York City (NYC) Department of Education recommends that they ask themselves the appropriate questions regarding their son or daughter’s academic progress and behavior. When a child shows signs of learning difficulties or other troubles that do not appear to be transitional, parents will want to request an evaluation which public schools provide at no cost to the family. Based on the results of the assessment, professionals are able to determine whether or not a child is appropriate for special education services. For those who are eligible, an Individualized Education Program (IEP) will be developed outlining a plan to meet the needs of the child which includes specific learning benchmarks. Children receive one or more classifications and an appropriate program of services to address these, whether they have a learning disability, attentional difficulties, speech/language impairment or are on the autistic spectrum.
In the event that special education programs at the public school a student attends cannot provide the program specified by the IEP, parents and district representatives must find the best school for the child within the public sector, or at times, when appropriate education is not publicly available, a district will pay for a private school. Public schools are mandated by law to place children in special education programs within the least possible restrictive learning environment, often allowing students who are classified as learning disabled to learn alongside non-classified classmates. Many parents will choose to send their child to a private school for children with special needs at their own expense, even if he or she does not qualify according to district criteria. If the educational needs of a child suggest he or she would benefit from a more structured living environment, there are boarding schools in NYC and the
surrounding region which may be a good fit.
The best way for parents to identify the ideal setting for their children is to make a visit to special needs schools when they are in session. This can give adults an idea of these institutions’ day-to-day operations as well as a better sense of how comfortable their children will be in these environments. A qualified educational consultant may be of assistance to families interested in moving their child to an alternate school.