4 Mistakes Parents Make When Choosing a Special Needs Private School

Judging by Appearances

While the facility may look inviting, and the teachers and administrators may seem personable, be sure the school is equipped to address your child’s specific needs. Do your homework and find out exactly what they have to offer.

Does the school offer specialized services? If your child needs a particular service, find out whether the school or district can provide it on campus.

  • What professional certifications and/or compliance standards does the school adhere to that would qualify them to meet your child’s needs?
  • What therapies are available on-site to assist your child in meeting developmental, social, and academic needs?

Not Visiting More Than Once

Ask to attend a classroom experience. Most districts will allow parents to observe classes for 20 minutes, allowing you to see how the teacher manages the class, how the aides interact with the students, and how much focus the teacher gives to behavior management, academics and socialization. 

Julie Billiart Schools invites families to observe classroom activities at an Interested Parent Open House. This will give you a good feel for the learning environment your student will experience.

Not Asking Enough Questions

While every family will make decisions based on their child’s individual needs and circumstances, these questions can help guide you through the process:

Can the school accommodate my child’s unique learning challenges?
Meet with school administrators and teachers and discuss the specific issues or behaviors you've observed. Ask how the new school would address those issues and behaviors. 

How will you be involved in your child’s education experience?
It’s important to remain informed of their progress as well as their setbacks. 

  • How often are parent-teacher conferences conducted? 
  • What vehicles for communication are utilized by the teachers and staff? 
  • Is parental input welcomed and encouraged? 

What do other families say about their experience? Conversations with other parents will prove to be invaluable -- perhaps more than any other endorsement. Reach out and ask about their experience at the school. 

  • Why did they choose this school for their child over other available options? 
  • What advice would they offer new students and their parents?

What type of financial support is available? Tuition and scholarship opportunities - The state of Ohio offers two scholarships (Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship and the Autism Scholarship) for children with special learning needs. Keep in mind that all providers don’t offer the same programs and services. 

  • Is the school you are considering a provider of either of these scholarships?
  • Are there other financial aid options available?

Does the school provide their own transportation? If not, you will want to check with your school district of residence to see if they provide transportation or refund the expense of providing your own means of transportation.

  • How many other students need to be picked up and dropped off? 
  • How reliable is it in terms of consistent pick-up and consistent drop-off time?

Not Looking Beyond Academics

Does the school offer hands-on learning experiences?You should see evidence that a student is not only supported but challenged – academically and socially.

  • How much value does the school place on developing independence?
  • Does the cognitive profile fit the needs of my students?

Does the school provide adaptive learning for music, theater, sports?All teachers, including music, gym, art, and other instructors, should offer resources and sensory supports that equip your child to learn in their own way.

Does the school have a sensory room and other sensory supports? Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders sometimes have high levels of anxiety and stress, particularly in social environments like school. How does the school address these needs?

What’s the school culture and community like? Because your child isn’t in the classroom 24/7, ask what type of supports are available throughout the school to help you and your family sustain what is being achieved in the classroom. 

  • Are there professionals on staff that can help your child transition into their new school or even help you identify community resources that can enhance your child’s growth and development? 
  • What if my child would benefit from additional therapies?
  • How does the faculty involve and engage parents (and siblings) in academic and social functions at the school? 

Remember, you are your child’s best advocate. 

Make no mistake, your most important job is to ensure they are learning and thriving in their environment over the course of their academic career. When you start seeing everyone as your child's team for success with you at the helm as captain, then you know you are on the right path to helping your child achieve academic and social success.

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