Uplift Voices

Choosing a school for your child with special needs: What you need to ask

Selecting the best school for your child with special learning needs may seem difficult. Fortunately, your student can benefit from a range of school options. Before enrolling your student in a particular school, you want to ensure it can accommodate your child’s specific learning and environmental needs. These are some questions you might want to ask:   

Does the school offer services that meet the needs of your child?   

In the initial process of scouting a school, be forward about your child’s disability and evaluation plans. You may know this already, but not all schools provide services to accommodate every learning need or disability. The government funds public and charter schools; therefore, they must accept all students and adequately implement their IEPs (Individualized Education Plans). In comparison, private schools might not be able to provide for the needs of kids with disabilities. In both cases, some schools may only accept higher-functioning students. You can save time and work by being aware of this. Once you have those needs in check, you can look at the school options that would most closely accommodate those needs and facilitate learning. One by one, you can compare these options by looking at the school’s philosophy, aims, and mission.    

How does the school handle the specific needs of my child?  

As a parent, you know better than anyone how your child will function best in a learning environment. Find out how the school accommodates your child’s particular circumstances. Is your child sensitive to light or excessive noise? Does your child need more interaction to stay engaged? If your child already has an IEP, then the program should include this information. 

Do you outsource services?  

Public and independent schools are required to provide 504 and IEP plans with services for eligible students. However, some districts, especially smaller ones, outsource special education services rather than having full-time employees. While many contract providers are excellent, this also comes with the risk of inconsistency, as contractors can change personnel frequently. If you feel consistent relationships with adults are essential for your child, this might be a great question.  

Uplift Education, the largest charter school in the DFW metroplex, serves 2000+ special population students. “At Uplift, we provide a full continuum of special education services to scholars who qualify for Section 504 and in accordance with their individualized Education Plan (IEP). We understand that consistency is important for our special needs populations, so we have chosen to employ a full-time, credentialed, and trained staff to serve our scholars with special needs,” states Ms. Enright of Uplift Education.  

Are special needs students at your school in a self-contained setting, an inclusive setting, or a hybrid setting? 

The purpose of the self-contained classroom is to give students with disabilities specialized interventions and support. The class is sometimes smaller than a general education class, with a lead teacher and several paraprofessionals who assist. Students spend most of their day in a self-contained classroom. While beneficial for some students, self-contained classrooms have limitations that inclusive classrooms do not.  

Inclusive classrooms educate students with and without disabilities. Studies since the 1970s have repeatedly proven that students with disabilities who learn alongside typically developing students make tremendous gains in all areas of personal growth and development. As such, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (a federal law that governs how people with disabilities learn in American schools) states that children need access to the general education curriculum in the regular classroom to the maximum extent possible. “I’m so proud to work for a district where staff promotes inclusivity for all scholars, including our scholars with special needs,” Ms. Enright continued. “These inclusive practices support our scholars and their social and emotional needs and contribute to a positive school culture. Providing the necessary accommodations in our classrooms and supporting ALL scholars is part of our mission.”  

Some schools will use a hybrid approach depending on the student’s needs, where the student is in a contained classroom for part of the day, then included in the regular classrooms at other times.  

Again, you know your child’s needs better than anyone, so seek out the format that best fits your child.   

Make Your Decision  

Finding the right school for the needs of your child is vital. Before committing to the school, scheduling a tour is the best way to find answers to your questions. Notice:    

  • Does the campus promote exceptional classroom management?   
  • Does the building have a welcoming environment?  

Take your child along to watch how they respond. The school where they are most at ease will be where they will thrive, and that will be the best choice. 

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