Choosing a school for your special needs child
When it comes to finding a school for your child with special needs, there are a whole range of options available including government, independent and catholic schools. In addition, there are schools that specifically cater to special needs or mainstream schools with special needs programs.
Striking a balance
Where possible it is often advantageous for children with special needs to attend mainstream schools to maximise inclusion, participation and social opportunities. In order to be successful at a mainstream school there will need to be an established special needs support program and an active approach to disability support. However, where your child’s needs are such that they will struggle to learn in a mainstream school, even with additional support, there are many schools specifically for special needs children which will create a far more positive learning experience for your child.
How to find a School
There are a range of resources for finding the right school for your child and it is recommended that you start this process 18 months prior to enrollment to ensure you have enough time to fully research your options. Steps you can take include:
- Disability and advocacy associations are able to recommend suitable schools for your child’s needs.
- If your child currently attends preschool or is engaged in any kind of early intervention programs, their teachers are well placed to give you advice on what kind of environment they would be suited to.
- Obtain recommendations from other parents whose children have already started school
- Attend a wide range of school open days so that you can have a more in-depth understanding of the school environment and facilities
Questions to ask the school
Once you have an idea of what schools are going to be a good fit for your child, it is important to make an appointment to speak to the principal to discuss their facilities, support programs, strengths and suitability in more detail.
Questions to ask include:
- Size of the school and individual classes
- Experience in working with children with disabilities
- Any physical access issues
- Available support programs
Things to consider
There are also a variety of additional issues to consider. For example, if you are not enrolling at your local primary school is transportation going to be easy - or is it going to be prohibitive? If your child is easily made anxious in unstructured, crowded environments (such as the playground) is the school able to offer alternatives for your child such as spending time in the library or classroom? Further, you need to be aware that in order for your child to attend a special needs school, your child will need to be assessed as eligible by your regional disabilities coordinator, and this can take some time.
For a successful, inclusive and positive school experience, parents will need to have a collaborative relationship with the school and teachers and this will be a key consideration in looking at potential schools.
Find more about special needs learning and development
- Choosing a school for your special needs child
- Learning disability assessment
- Long term illness and school
- Mobility issues and school
- My friend's different
- Social skills for children with autism
- Support services for children with special needs
Ready Set Learn
Written by Zoey Martin for Kidspot, New Zealand's largest online education resource with information from Better Health Channel . Zoey is a mum of one, with another on the way, who blogs at Good Goog or you can follow her on Twitter .