Choosing the RIGHT School for Your Child
Choosing the right school for a child can be a difficult decision. But choosing the right school for a child with special needs or learning difficulties is absolutely critical.
We are led to believe that the best school for our children is the school that is highest in the league tables. Well I’m here to tell you that if you have a child with additional needs, that is probably the last school you would want to send them to.
It is now time to completely re-think the type of school that is actually RIGHT for your child. And I’m going to tell you exactly how to choose the RIGHT school.
When you have a child with special needs, the RIGHT school can:
- Be a fantastic source of support for you and your child.
- Help your child reach their full potential.
- Reduce the negative symptoms of your child’s disorder or difficulty.
- Make your child feel comfortable and happy.
- Allow your child to make friends and eliminate the chance of bullying.
- Improve your child’s chances of a bright future full of opportunities and possibilities.
Exactly what every parent wants for their child.
Related Article: The Constant Worry, When You are a Special Needs Parent!
However, choosing the WRONG school can:
- Give you little or no support.
- Hold your child back.
- Make their symptoms worse.
- Cause your child to feel scared, alone and isolated.
- Make it difficult for your child to make friends.
- Increase the likelihood of bullying.
- Limit the chance of your child having a bright future.
YES, this is how important it is to get the RIGHT school when your child has special needs. And unfortunately this is the reality of what could (and often does) happen.
I have had a lot of experience in this area with my own son. When he was due to start school. I spent hours trawling the internet in search of the best local schools, in the best areas, with the highest league table scores and best reports.
This was a HUGE mistake.
If you have a child who does not have special needs or learning difficulties, then yes, do what I did, and look for those high performing schools in ‘good’ areas.
BUT, if your child has special needs, DO NOT DO THAT. I can’t stress that enough.
High performing schools are often high performing because they have very few children with special needs. It’s sad but true.
This means that:
a) they won’t have such good facilities and procedures in place for them. And:
b) they won’t have such good knowledge or experience with special needs or learning difficulties.
Also, high performing schools in ‘good’ areas often lack in diversity. This can make your child more likely to be subject to bullying.
Where a school has a higher number of children with special needs and a greater level of diversity, children are more open to differences between them and less likely to pick on a child for being different.
The first school I sent my son to, I made this mistake. I sent him to a very high performing school in a wealthy area. The school had less than 1% special needs. And 0% cultural diversity.
Within a few months, my son was terrified to go to school. He hardly had any friends. He was being bullied. The teacher constantly came up to me at the end of the day to tell me what he’d done wrong that day or how much he’d struggled. He achieved barely any learning progress. And every time I went into a meeting with his teacher or special needs co ordinator, they would say things like, “we don’t know what to do with him”. And, “We think you should consider sending him to a special school”.
For far too long, I left him at that school, not realising the damage it was doing, or that things could be different.
After nearly 2 years I pulled him out. And not to send him to a special school (like they had suggested). I sent him to a school in a nearby town, which was the exact opposite of the school he had just left.
I sent him to a school with low performance rates. The highest percentage of special needs children in the area (12%) and was located in quite a ‘poor’ area with lots of diversity.
Within a few weeks he started to read simple words, write his name and count to 10. Things he had never been able to do. He enjoyed going to school (most days – we still had the occasional day he couldn’t be bothered, but no screaming fits). He made lots of friends. And all the teachers and staff there loved him.
Instead of having a teacher constantly moaning about him, they spoke about him with fondness and affection. It was fantastic.
After just over 4 glorious years at that school. Sadly he had to leave, because we were emigrating from England to Australia.
But, when we started the search for a school in Australia, I had already learnt my lesson. So I knew what to look for.
So here are the some criteria to look for when searching for a school:
- Small (under 400 students) the less the better. This way the child won’t get lost in the masses, the teachers and students will all know them and look out for them, and your child will feel comfortable.
- Has high rates of children with special needs and learning difficulties (minimum of 8% diagnosed). This way the school will have a good understanding and knowledge and both the teachers and other students will be accepting and helpful.
- Has a very diverse mix of students, with children from lots of different economic, ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds. This will help your child feel comfortable, and not segregated or ‘different’. And the other students will be more accepting of children’s differences. This can also help with bullying.
- A school that focused a lot of attention on social development and happy children.
I hope this helps in your quest to find the best school for your child. Never be afraid to remove your child from a school that is not right for them.
If you have any questions, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I do get a lot of emails, but I will get back to you as quickly as possible.
You can hear directly from myself and other experts a the upcoming My Special Child Special Needs Conference. CLICK HERE for more information.