Monday , 11 December 2017

What to Look for in a New School for Kids with ADHD

You’ve made the decision to move your child with ADHD to a different school! Now what?!  How do you know what to look for in a new school when you have kids with ADHD?

Whether it’s mid year, mid semester, or summer break, the choice to switch schools is never easy, and rarely clear-cut. There are many factors to consider when looking for a new school for your special needs child. So, how do you eliminate the runners-up and identify the winner?

We reached out to our amazing ImpactADHD Parent Community, and here’s what they came up with – the Top 5 Tips to help you find the school where your student can thrive:

1.  Teacher to Student Ratio: Regardless of the size of the school you’re considering, ask about the average class size per teacher. Too high and your child is likely to get lost. Too low and your child may feel singled out.

2.  Ratio of Special Education Resources to School Population: Does your child’s class have a robust amount of special education resources available? If so, that can balance out for a larger class size! But if the school only has 1 para per grade level, or 1 para per school, that may not be the best fit. Assess your comfort level with the numbers.

3.  Quality of Teacher/Staff training on Special Education Resources:  This is a tough one to assess, because you’re looking at what kind of education the teachers are getting AND their ability to implement what they learn. Even in the best schools with the most robust and current special education training, a teacher’s ability to incorporate or utilize the training is going to vary widely. With your detective hat on, try posing situational questions (How would you handle a situation where a kid behaved like…) and see what you get back. If anyone gets defensive or cagey about responding to your questions, make note of it.

Side note:  this is also a great opportunity to ask about the school’s crisis plan. What happens if your child has a meltdown? What interventions are in place to help calm an agitated child? At what point will you be notified? How will a meltdown impact your child academically? (it shouldn’t – in most cases.)

4.  IEPs and 504 Plans:  Will the new school honor your child’s IEP or 504? If so, how would they implement each of the accommodations? (This is also an opportunity to assess the level of training.)  What processes or procedures may be different? If a new plan for accommodations is required, are you comfortable with the process and the time frame for establishing one?

5.  Word on the Street:  Your pediatrician, child psychiatrist, therapist, fellow special education parents, etc. will have recommendations about what school they’ve heard great things about, and what schools are more challenging to work with. Listen to their suggestions, but trust your gut for YOUR child. You know your child better than anyone else, and you have a pretty good idea of what your child needs to learn successfully (or you wouldn’t be switching schools in the first place). This is where the tiger mama or papa instinct can be helpful in major decision making.

So that’s it – 5 things to consider when you’re trying to figure out what to look for in a new school when you have kids with ADHD. If you’re able to get a resounding ‘that works great!’ every step of the way, you’ve likely found the next right school for your complex kiddo! If not, you may need to do some additional research or consider homeschooling for a time.

And if you’re still not sure — to find the federal and state sponsored agencies in your area that are mandated to provide support for parents of special needs kids, check out this resource: http://www.parentcenterhub.org/find-your-center/

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