When the boys were little, we knew we wanted them to attend French Immersion School. It’s one of the main reasons we chose to move to New Orleans. While it’s been a journey navigating IEP’s and 504’s, we found success through advocacy, educating ourselves and opening clear lines of communication with teachers and other school personnel.
Change of Plans
We knew what school we wanted the kids to attend and made the selection work for them and the special needs they had, medical and behavioral. As our third child developed, we realized she wasn’t meeting milestones as quickly as her siblings and peers. With testing and lots of doctor visits, it was determined that she had Autism as well as Semantic Pragmatic Language disorder. Strangely, language immersion still wasn’t off the table for us. We made the choice years ago and had plans to make the selection work for her, like we had the others.
After some soul-searching and excellent advice from family, physicians and teachers, we made the decisions to keep her at her English speaking, traditional school and not send her to language immersion with her siblings for Kindergarten. Why was it so difficult for us to make this choice? Why couldn’t we easily come to the realization that immersion wasn’t the best for our daughter?
Choosing the best school for your special needs child (or any child) is not an easy process. There is nothing straightforward or simple. Not only are you looking at the school grade, curriculum and quality of programs, but there are other factors at play. The following list of questions may help guide your discussion with the schools you are looking at:
- What kind of special education department is available?
- Does the school believe in and ensure inclusion?
- Is there a full-time speech therapist, occupational therapist and other resources on campus?
- Do those staff members have the bandwidth to give your child the hours required by her IEP?
- What experience does the teacher have with students with special needs?
- How does the teacher/school communicate with parents? How often?
- What kind of behavioral program is in place?
- Do the teachers and staff feel supported by administration?
Not an Impossible Task
Choosing the best school for your child is not an impossible task, though it can feel like it. We are lucky enough to live in a city with more choices than we could imagine and while this brings opportunities, it also comes with its share of headaches. Ensuring that the school fits the needs of my child is turning out to be a lot better than trying to mold my child to fit the school. I am learning with each year, that my idea of a perfect school experience isn’t necessarily going to align with what is the best for my child, and that’s okay.