If your child has been diagnosed with autism, dyslexia, or another condition that causes learning challenges, you will need to be very selective in your choice of schools. While some public schools do offer ample resources for children with learning struggles, in most cases, you will be better off choosing a specialized school. Here are some qualities to look for as you visit various schools and interview their administrators.
1. How available are the administrators?
When you call to make appointments to see the school, how responsive are the administrators? If they take three days to get back to you, then you may assume they would have similar communication issues if you needed to get in touch with your child during the school day. Look for a school that gets back to you quickly and makes it clear who you need to communicate with in order to have your questions answered.
2. How customized are their lesson plans?
One of the challenges of educating differently able children is that each child has very different, specific needs. A school that places all the kids in one classroom, teaches them with a single approach, and hopes for the best is lacking. Look instead of a school that designs customized learning plans for each student, based on their unique needs and abilities. These learning plans should be developed only after a teacher has spent a certain number of hours actually interacting with your child — not just after reading their paperwork.
3. How are meals handled?
This is especially important if your child needs assistance at mealtime. Are there aids available to help with tasks that your child may struggle with, such as opening their milk cartons? Are there flexible meal plan options for kids who cannot have gluten, peanuts, or other common allergens?
4. What therapists are provided or accessible?
If your child needs occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, or some other assistance, look into the therapists who are provided by the school. If they do not directly employ the type of therapist your child needs, can you arrange to have your own therapist come in and work with your child during the day?
5. What training do the teachers have?
You want to look for a school where the teachers have specifically had training to deal with differently able students. Ask to see the specific qualifications that the teachers who would be working with your child hold. Someone with a minor in special education or a certification in working with differently able children is preferred.