Private vs Public for Special Needs kids (x-posted in Special needs) - updated - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 21 Old 03-07-2011, 07:35 AM - Thread Starter
 
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My son is in Kindergarten in our local public school. He is on an IEP and receives speech and occupational therapy twice a week at the school. He has no formal diagnosis yet, they are looking into ADHD (which I'm skeptical of), I suspect an auditory processing disorder and/or sensory processing disorder. He's doing well at school academically and socially and seems happy, never says he doesn't want to go to school. It's considered a very good public school.

 

But I'm considering private school. The main reason is class size. His K has 24 kids in it (but they do have a full-time teacher's assistant). I'm looking at a school that has 12-14 kids per class. He definitely has harder times concentrating or hearing in loud, chaotic environments--and that does describe his current school pretty well. The private school I'm looking at was extremely quiet (too quiet, I felt... actually...)

 

As I say there's not a compelling reason to switch him now, he's happy... but on the other hand, I almost feel it might be better to move him to an environment I feel might suit his needs better while he's still happy, before he becomes discouraged or gets labelled negatively. Has anyone else struggled with this kind of decision? What did you decide?


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#2 of 21 Old 03-07-2011, 08:06 AM
 
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I would keep him where he is happy UNTIL he is unhappy.No sense moving from a good thing for a *maybe*,but in the end you know him best.  While I like the idea of quiet classrooms I think it is tough on the kids when the teachers push it all the time.My kids are in private Montessori and the class size changes yearly.The noise level varies at times. I think the public school they were in was far more quite(in the class),but it was imo too repressive/stifling.

 

And while I don't think they should many  teachers/staff will label kids regardless of the school type.

 

Hope all works out for your ds!

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#3 of 21 Old 03-07-2011, 08:32 AM
 
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Do you have a good sense of how accommodating the private school will be for his needs? How does it compare to the environment at the public school? It sounds like the public school is willing to work with his needs and is offering good services. That is so important.  

 

It is wonderful to have good options for schooling, but I think these days there is a sense that we have to find the absolute best, perfect education for our children. It leaves parents vaguely dissatisfied and feeling a need to continue searching even if their children are happy and well in their current schools. I think, unfortunately it's rare to find perfection. There's also the law of unintended consequences. By acting to solve one problem, do you open yourself up to others? 

 

It's good to stay aware and on top of potential problems and be ready to act. Before making a change, I'd assess how bad the problem really is and what new problems the change may create. It's almost guaranteed that there will be something you or your ds doesn't like about the new school. Can you figure out what it will be and how much you can live with it? 

 

 

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#4 of 21 Old 03-07-2011, 08:40 AM
 
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We are at the other end, but we've chosen public school. There were no private schools in our area that accommodate gifted children. At our public school, we are much more likely to be able to push for accommodations, though our state doesn't require Gifted IEPs. (Some states do.) Our state does require Gifted Service Plans, which aren't binding, but they're only for public schools. I don't know how it works with SN children because I believe those services are federally mandated. Still if a private school doesn't have the resources, then you may have to look at public school anyway.


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#5 of 21 Old 03-07-2011, 10:17 AM
 
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Hi there - 

 

I'm a speech therapist, and my first question would be, what are the guidelines for your kidlet's treatment if you switch the private school? Will they assume responsibility for managing his therapy, or would you still access the public school services?


And I think guidelines are different in different states, would you lose your access to his therapy services if you switched? 

 

I'd balance two things - how well he's learning and how content he is in the environment. You mention he's happy (yay!), and doing well academically. If he's on target and his specialists feel like he's going to keep up well, then perhaps staying in the place where he's comfortable and where his friends are is a good idea.

 

Also, you could ask to sit in on the first and second grade classes and get a feel for them. While chaotic still, you should see a good progression of kids being able sit, sustain (moderately wink1.gif) quiet  learning activity and better ability to attend to the teacher. If it seems that large classes and continued hyper-stimulating environments are the norm even as the grades progress, talk with his OT and SLP and let them know your worries.

 

Good thoughts for you!

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#6 of 21 Old 03-09-2011, 01:28 PM
 
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My case is different -- the child having difficulties was/is twelve, and definitely has ADHD -- but we did look at various charter and private schools as alternatives.  Our eventual decision was to homeschool, which worked for us.

 

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#7 of 21 Old 03-09-2011, 02:57 PM
 
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I don't know how it works with SN children because I believe those services are federally mandated.


Those laws ONLY affect public schools. Private schools can choose which students they want and decide what accommodations (if any) they are willing to make for kids who have special needs. They are not required to accept any students, and they are not required to provide any accommodations. Because of this, I suspect that *most* sn kids are best off in public school.

 

Many private schools really don't want to deal with kids who are different. In looking into different options for my 2E dd (gifted and on the autism spectrum) I felt that most private schools would be a nightmare for her, and I found that most didn't have any one on staff with training either in mental health or special education. In checking into private schools, don't make any assumptions. Some deal with discipline issues far more harshly with no lie way for kids with issues, and many don't a soul on staff who understands what a "sensory issue" is. I thought through the most likely issues to come up for my DD, and asked different schools how they would handle them.

 

We did end up switching to a private school for her, but it's a very unusual school. It's a great match for her.


but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#8 of 21 Old 03-16-2011, 07:29 AM
 
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Check in to whether or not he'd still get services at the private school.  My speech-delayed kid isn't in school yet, but we send our kids to a Catholic school and the second he enters as a Kindergartener, we lose therapy.  


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#9 of 21 Old 03-16-2011, 02:06 PM
 
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All children who have been identified as needing services are entitled to them (Yes, they are federally mandated). If you move your child to a private school, you are still entitled to services at the public school. However, you would be responsible for pulling him out of class and transporting him to the public school for services. My children attend a Catholic grammar school. Directly across the highway is a public grammar school. We have at least one or two students a year who have this set up in place (this is specifically for speech therapy). Our Catholic school has a resource teacher and a gifted teacher. My son has a DX of Aspergers. He thrives in the Catholic setting because he likes the routine and rules. I also liked that he could stay at the same school from Pre(K)-7th grade (Our Catholic high schools begin in 8th) because he hates change. He used to go to the resource room to take tests from certain teachers; ie the nun's test which was HORRIBLY written. (I am a teacher and took a test writing class; trust me, these were awful) It wasn't that he didn't know the material- he just couldn't understand what she wanted him to do. Anyway, you should check into what they would be willing to do, what would be your responsibility, etc, before you make a decision, IMO. Good Luck!

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#10 of 21 Old 03-16-2011, 03:28 PM
 
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Originally Posted by mar123 View Post

All children who have been identified as needing services are entitled to them (Yes, they are federally mandated). If you move your child to a private school, you are still entitled to services at the public school. However, you would be responsible for pulling him out of class and transporting him to the public school for services. 

 

The state of New Mexico resinded those services and there is nothing we can do.  Homeschoolers are also no longer entitled.  There were to many kids needing services here and a huge budge shortfall, so they went after the families that can, theoretically, pay.
 

 


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#11 of 21 Old 03-17-2011, 07:35 AM
 
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The state of New Mexico resinded those services and there is nothing we can do.  Homeschoolers are also no longer entitled.  There were to many kids needing services here and a huge budge shortfall, so they went after the families that can, theoretically, pay.

 


yah -- the federal law is usually interpreted to mean that if a public school cannot meet a child's need's but a private school can, the district has to pay for the private school. But Arizona has stopped doing that. They passed a law saying that no public school money can go to private schools, which pushed a bunch of special needs kids back into public schools that have already admitted that they can't meet those kids' needs.

 

I'm sure that eventually it will filter through the court system and get changed, but that could take years. With budget shortfalls being what they are right now, what the federal laws says doesn't do families in many states ANY good.

 

 


but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#12 of 21 Old 03-18-2011, 05:29 AM
 
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What I am speaking of is NOT private schools or services being paid for by public money. It means that your child is entitled to services at the PUBLIC school; you just have to get him or her there. This is mainly for things like speech servies, IME.

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#13 of 21 Old 03-18-2011, 07:10 AM
 
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What I am speaking of is NOT private schools or services being paid for by public money. It means that your child is entitled to services at the PUBLIC school; you just have to get him or her there. This is mainly for things like speech servies, IME.


 

I understand what you are saying, but I don't think you understand the situation in different states or what some parents would be up against to make that happen.

 

(the money that runs public schools IS public money. Many school districts are broke and letting staff go. Many states are behind on their funds to school districts. It's a big mess, worse in some parts of the country than others. Trying to a get a school that is cutting staff because the state hasn't given them REQUIRED funds to provide speech therapy for your child who doesn't even go there is going to be a complete waste of time for *many* parents, even if the federal law is on you side)


but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#14 of 21 Old 03-18-2011, 09:23 AM
 
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We went the other way. We started in a small private school environment where our son was happy. Then moved over to the public school for two years. Now he is thoroughly discouraged and home schooling is helping him recover. I wish we had stayed with the small private school environment. 

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#15 of 21 Old 03-18-2011, 09:25 AM
 
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I have seen plenty of public schools failing to meet the needs of children with special needs, but then say they are and that is the end of the road on getting money for private. If the district won't admit they cannot provide (I am in Texas) then it turns in to a lengthy, 10+ yrs long court battle.
 

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yah -- the federal law is usually interpreted to mean that if a public school cannot meet a child's need's but a private school can, the district has to pay for the private school. But Arizona has stopped doing that. They passed a law saying that no public school money can go to private schools, which pushed a bunch of special needs kids back into public schools that have already admitted that they can't meet those kids' needs.

 

I'm sure that eventually it will filter through the court system and get changed, but that could take years. With budget shortfalls being what they are right now, what the federal laws says doesn't do families in many states ANY good.

 

 



 

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#16 of 21 Old 03-18-2011, 10:08 AM
 
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Linda- I understand the situation for parents. I am strictly speaking of what the public schools are required to do by federal law (states don't get to pick which federally mandated law they choose to follow). If your child has been diagnosed as needing services by the public school system, they are legally required to provide services (speech,is the most common example and what OP was referring to), whether your child attends the school or not. They are not federally mandated to pay for those services at another school if they feel they can provide the services (we parents might disagree), but they do HAVE to provide them to you at the public school. My son had speech issues, but the public school system said they weren't severe enough for them to provide services. They went to his Catholic school to evaluate him- yes, it took 3 months even though that is longer than LEGALLY allowed. I work in the public school system (I taught in special education for 6 years and most of these services all under this) and the law is very specific about what the schools must do.

 

I am not debating any issue of whether the services are worth getting, if the parent can provide the transportation, etc. I am strictly speaking of what they must do.

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#17 of 21 Old 03-18-2011, 03:25 PM
 
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Linda- I understand the situation for parents. I am strictly speaking of what the public schools are required to do by federal law (states don't get to pick which federally mandated law they choose to follow). If your child has been diagnosed as needing services by the public school system, they are legally required to provide services (speech,is the most common example and what OP was referring to)....

 

I am strictly speaking of what they must do.


 

I understand what you are saying, but I'm pointing out that in MANY places states aren't doing as required by federal law, and that actually getting a school district to do what the federal law requires when the state is refusing to do so could take years in court and cost a great deal of money.

 

Just because federal law requires something, it doesn't mean that parents can reasonably access it.

 

Question about whether public or private school is best for specific child is complex, but one thing parents really ought to consider is how much of a fight they will have on their hands with whatever they decide.


but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#18 of 21 Old 03-24-2011, 06:41 AM - Thread Starter
 
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A sad update.

 

I visited DS's current classroom yesterday for the first time. (Bad mom, I should have earlier.) I was shocked and unprepared to see the social problems he is having--it have never been mentioned by him or his teachers and as I said he always seemed happy to go to school. OTOH the items on his IEP--being sensory seeking for example--were not in evidence--though I have seen them plenty of other times.

 

But he seemed incredibly socially isolated. He started the morning reading a book by himself in the corner while all the other kids did their free-choice activities in groups. At snack time he tried to sit in a free chair and a boy at the table told him he couldn't sit there. At gym he was supposed to get in a line with the other kids and they wouldn't let him in. Later in gym there were not enough of an item for everyone (looked like they were just short one) DS didn't get one. In every case of being shut out he walked away sadly and disconnected from the group, was hard to get called back. Is this what the teacher thinks is impulsivity or distractibility? Do they think he's walking away for the heck of it and not see that it's a reaction to hurts?

 

Obviously we need to work on helping him deal with these situations.

 

I'm also now doubly interested in checking out some private schools, a much smaller class size or montessori, can't see these situations being tolerated in either environment. Poor guy, I had no idea.

 


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#19 of 21 Old 03-24-2011, 08:20 AM
 
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I'm also now doubly interested in checking out some private schools, a much smaller class size or montessori, can't see these situations being tolerated in either environment. Poor guy, I had no idea.

 


Unfortunately, you can't assume this.  While my child does not have any special needs, he is a little "quirky" and we aren't the typical family for the private school he attends (one of a few kids on scholarship, live outside of the area, I'm a WOHM, nothing huge - just not quite the same).  He's struggled with being subtly bullied and isolate for the last couple of years.  This despite a strongly stated no-bullying policy and a very low teacher/student ratio that should mean it all gets seen and dealt with.  But it hasn't been the case for the last year or so and its been devastating to my DS.  We really should have pulled out last year but decided to hold out until he would naturally transition to middle school.  Probably not the right decision, but that's a different thread.

 

My point (I know, finally) is that you can't assume he would be less isolated just because its a private school and/or fewer kids per class.  Sometimes that means that the "different" child sticks out more and there is less likely to be someone like him who might be his friend.  When there are only 6 or 7 boys in each  classroom, sometimes its not so easy to make a friend.  So be sure to investigate how the school handles social situations and social difficulties.  Not just what they SAY they do but what they actually DO in the classroom.  You may be able find a great fit, but be sure to investigate thoroughly.

 

In the meantime, have you talked to the teacher about what you observed?  What did she say?  What is her plan for addressing the situation now?  Unless you are prepared to move him right this minute, you should definitely follow-up with her as well.

 

 

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#20 of 21 Old 03-24-2011, 10:44 AM - Thread Starter
 
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In the meantime, have you talked to the teacher about what you observed?  What did she say?  What is her plan for addressing the situation now?  Unless you are prepared to move him right this minute, you should definitely follow-up with her as well.

 

 


I definitely talked to the teacher. Well, if bursting into tears in front of her counts. :(  I followed up with a calmer email this morning outlining all the incidents I saw and asking for assistance in helping him. I'm not 100% sure it's the place but I will definitely bring up my concerns about this stuff at our IEP meeting next week.
 

 


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#21 of 21 Old 03-24-2011, 09:11 PM
 
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We suspect DD (ok, just at the preschool level, though) has sensory issues (as did her pediatrician before we moved) but haven't gotten her formally tested since our insurance doesn't kick in until next month.  We knew we were going to send her to a private school here since publics are just not safe where we live (outside of the US) but we really thought long and hard about what situation would be best for her.  The worst environment possible for her is filled with loud noises, lots of kids, and chaos.  We had a school recommended to us that was play-based but knowing DD that would've led to her acting out.  Instead we found a very small private Montessori school and she loves it.  The ratio between teachers and students at her level is 3 to 1 and all the sensory materials there are like heaven to her. 

 

It's really be tailored to her needs.  She's advanced in some areas but her fine motor skills are not stellar so she has the opportunity to work on them.  She also gets the direct attention that she needs (and craves) while being able to move when she needs it.  The teachers have also been great on picking up on DD's moods and if she starts getting nervous/looking like her mood is about to implode they take her outside and give her the running around time that she needs. 

 

I'm not sure what your son is like, what activities work best for him or what schools you have available but could you possibly talk to your OT and see what type of activities he needs and then think about what type of schools could provide that for him? 

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