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How to prepare your Kids for School when they have Special Needs

Are you prepared for the upcoming school year?

Your local public school is close by and probably where most of the kids in your neighborhood go.

But it isn’t the only option. There are many different types of schools out there, public and private. There are even schools that specialize in helping kids with learning and attention issues.

School Supplies

Do you suspect that your toddler has a learning disability or a neurological disorder? Your public school district offers PPCD

What is PPCD?

Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities (PPCD) provides educational services for children ages 3 to 5 with identified disabilities. Students are eligible for services on their third birthday, regardless of when the birthday falls within the school year.

Does your child have an IEP? 

The Individualized Education Program, also called the IEP, is a document that is developed for each public school child who needs special education. The IEP is created through a team effort, reviewed periodically

Do I need to attend an ARD?

ARD is an acronym for Admission, Review and Dismissal. An ARD meeting is a meeting of a group of people who help to determine whether or not a student is eligible for special education and develops the Individual Education Program (IEP) for eligible students. 

Neighborhood Public Schools

The local public school is close to home. It’s free and lots of neighborhood kids go there. It also has some important benefits for kids with learning and attention issues. These include:

  • Free school evaluations for students suspected of having learning or attention issues.
  • IEPs and 504 plans with accommodations and services for kids who qualify
  • A wide variety of special education and related services
  • Specialists like counselors, social workers and often speech-language therapists
  • More than one teacher per grade level or subject (this may give you the option of changing teachers if one isn’t a good fit for your child)
  • Many sports and often extracurricular activities where your child can excel outside of academics

Keep in mind, though, that your neighborhood public school may have large class sizes. The instruction may also be less personalized instruction than in other schools, like private schools.

Here’s what to look for when visiting Public schools:

Researching schools in your local area? Use the GreatSchools ratings tool to learn about and find a local school that best serves your child’s needs.

Magnet Schools

Magnet schools are specialized public schools within your local school district. Because they’re part of the public schools, they’re free to attend. And your child can still get an IEP or a 504 plan if eligible. Other possible advantages of a magnet school include:

Focus on a specific area your child may be passionate about or strong in, like math and science or the arts

Access to special education services and specialists in the school district

Keep in mind, however:

  • Applications are often required, and it can get competitive.
  • Waiting lists may be long because of high demand and limited enrollment.
  • Your child may need to travel if the magnet school is far from your home.
  • Magnets have fewer neighborhood kids, which may make it harder to make friends.
  • Learn about vocational high school programs, a common type of magnet that teaches kids career and technical skills.

Charter Schools

Charter schools are independent public schools run by nonprofit groups, private companies or community organizations. They are free to attend. And they exist in most states, although there may not be one near where you live.

Charters don’t have to follow all the rules that traditional public schools follow. However, charters are required to follow special education law and provide IEPs and 504 plans to kids who qualify.

Read more about charter schools and students with learning and attention issues. And take a look at data on special education and charter schools.

Independent Schools for Students With Learning and Attention Issues

Some private schools specialize in teaching students with learning and attention issues. They typically offer your child more comprehensive and individualized support, but tuition can be high. However, sometimes a state or public school district will pay the cost of private school if a child can’t get an appropriate education in the public schools.

Explore the pros and cons of independent schools for kids with learning and attention issues.


One last school option is homeschooling, which is to teach your child at home. Every state allows homeschooling.

Choosing a school is a personal decision for your family. As you decide, it’s important you consider the level of support your child needs. Even within a public or private school, there may be other options, like inclusion classrooms or online learning.

Isn’t private school better equipped?

Private or parochial schools do not have the same requirements in regards to teaching certification, especially with special education. 

Back to school

Here is a list of questions and or concerns:

  • Does the private school have any special education licensure?
  • What areas of need does the private school address concerning children with disabilities? Are there any areas the private school specializes in as compared to other areas?
  • What is the admission process and criteria?
  • How many children per class? What is the Student/teacher ratio? Do the students in the same class have similar needs?
  • How many classrooms does the school have per grade?
  • What is the age range of children in the classroom?
  • Are teachers certified? If so, in what?
  • Who provides the following?:
  • Social skills:
  • Psychology services:
  • Parent training:
  • What training have their therapists received?
  • Is a nurse always on site?
  • What are the educational programs used for direct instruction in the following subjects and how are they provided, and how many times per week?:
    • Math:
    • Reading:
    • Written expression:
  • How are students broken up during programs? How are they grouped in the classroom?
  • How are IEPs handled? Does the school create a new one when a child starts attending the private school or do does it implement the IEP from the previous school?
  • How are Behavior Intervention Plans developed and administered?
  • Has the private school ever had to call the police? If so, how do you determine when to call them?
  • What are the discipline procedures of the private school?
  • How do they determine when a child is ready to return to the regular education setting?
  • Preparing before your visit to the private school can better help the parent determine whether the school is a good educational fit for the child.