How To Choose Between Special Education Schools

There are many excellent programs available for special needs students.  We have access to equipment and materials now that that were not an option 10 years ago.  The advent of computer technology and Internet assistance has opened doors for special needs students. 

It is important to research the options for special needs students.  School districts receive additional funding for students with special needs.  If your state offers you your school of choice, take advantage and shop around for the facility with the best options.  Here are some guidelines for selecting a program for your student.

  1. A necessary precursor to ensuring quality programs is to fill out all the necessary forms and make use of all testing programs.  Your state has certain criteria for funding for the various special needs.  If your keep up with documentation and testing for the special needs student, this will help the district to know what they can plan on in funding.
  2. If you suspect that your child has a special need, gather information and seek testing while he is young.
  3. Look for programs that offer assistance for children as young as possible.  Many districts offer pre-primary special needs education for infants and toddlers.  This will help them adjust more quickly to their needs and can often prevent some conditions from degenerating.
  4. Visit different schools.  Tour the facilities.  I look for organization, cleanliness, cheerful environment, safe and user-friendly equipment and furniture.
  5. Check out their learning materials, computer system and supplies.  Look for materials that are attractive, organized and properly used and stored.  Look for creative, interesting and useful materials for daily life skills, math, reading, science and fine and gross motor skills.
  6. Interview principals and staff.  Get to know all the staff that will interact and care for your child.  This is good advice for all students, but particularly for special needs students who are more vulnerable.  Evaluate them on: patience, positive attitude, quality of interaction and general knowledge of special needs students and programs.
  7. Find out what professional services are available for your child. Is there a school psychologist, nurse, occupational, physical and speech therapist?
  8. Does the school offer extra programs?  Does it link parents with the community resources they need?  In what local, state, federal or private programs does the school participate?
  9. Ask about training and certification of staff.  Do they have frequent training and staff development?
  10. What special programs are available?  Is there art, music, dance or drama?
  11. How are meals handled?  Do they participate in the state food program?  How nutritious are the meals? Are they conscious of food allergies?  Is there good variety and good food service equipment?
  12. What  transportation is available? How is the safety?  This is essential for special needs students.
  13. Check the teacher to student ratio.  How many students is each teacher responsible for?
  14. Is this a happy place to work?  If it is, it will generally be a great school.  
  15. Check out all  school websites.
  16. Talk to other parents, attend functions and try to participate occasionally to give you a feel for the facilities environment, staff and programs.
  17. Take another family member with you and pool your thoughts.  Trust your instincts;  if you are uncomfortable in a school, classroom or with a particular teacher, don't ignore what is probably your good common sense. 

You are your child's best advocate.  Ask and investigate.  And best wishes to you in finding a suitable school.


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