After years of struggle, you’ve got the official diagnosis of a language-based learning disorder, like dyslexia. With this knowledge in hand, you find out quickly that traditional education simply doesn’t have the resources to help your child. It’s time to find a new school, but where do you go?
There are schools that are built for children with learning disabilities. Here's what to look for:
1. Has a Structured Literacy Program
Students with language-based learning disorders require reading and writing to be taught in an alternative format than traditional schools. There are several structured literacy programs, most based on the Orton-Gillingham Approach. It’s critical that your student receives structured literacy instruction every day.
2. Controls Class Sizes
The more students in a classroom, the more distraction from learning that occurs. To ensure focused learning, classroom size must be controlled. A classroom of 10 students to 1 teacher or less provides the optimal teaching and learning environment. It is easier to implement consistent student accommodations to a smaller class size of students with similar learning profiles.
3. Provides Small Group Instruction (5 to 1 or less)?
Schools that provide small group instruction in structured literacy, math and ELA are able to level students more appropriately based on learning need. This allows curriculum and lessons to be targeted to the individuals rather than the whole.
4. Has Alternative Seating and Workspace Options
Studies show that 1 in 12 students have correct posture while sitting at school. Students who learn differently often benefit from alternative seating and workspace options including floor seating and wobble stools. Your school and faculty should be versed in alternative seating options and correct usage and posture to encourage efficient learning.
5. Has a Place to go for Fresh Air and Exercise
Equally important to a streamlined classroom space is a robust exterior space which includes areas for play, exercise and just getting some fresh air. Studies show that up to 50% of people with learning differences also have co-occurring issues including ADD/ADHD. It’s critical that these students aren’t “cooped up” all day. Students benefit from movement and opportunities for social engagement through less structured activities.
6. Offers Additional Student Services like Speech or Occupational Therapy
Most students with language-based learning issues require additional support from a SLP or occupational therapist. Look for a school that offers push in and pull out programs (or both!) for these services.
7. Has a Licensed Therapist
Students with learning differences often have anxiety related to school and may experience of isolation, low self esteem and even bullying from peers. An on-demand therapist or MFT can assist with immediate issues, schedule on-going therapy if it is affecting educational goals and guide parents/guardians to outside resources.
8. Assesses Students for Growth and Progress
It’s critical to have an assessment process and programs that baseline your student for their current and realistic educational levels and then subsequently test them regularly to gauge improvement and growth.
9. Has a Certified Non Public School (NPS) status
Nonpublic schools (NPS) are specialized schools that provide services to public school students with disabilities. The tuition of a student in an NPS is paid by the district that places the student in the NPS based on the student’s individual needs. Unlike other private schools, each NPS is certified by the California Department of Education.
Finding the right school that can support your student’s learning needs may seem daunting at times, but the correct fit can change a student’s trajectory.
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