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Factors to Consider When Choosing a New School for Your Neurodiverse Child

Finding a new school for your child at any time can feel incredibly stressful. Transitions are hard and these are big decisions. Here is a list of factors that I think are important to consider, things that I look for when I'm learning about and touring schools. Once you have this information you can then prioritize the most important factors for you and your family and come up with a list of programs. 


SCHOOL COMMUNITY

  • How do students seem to feel about their school? Engaged? Enthusiastic? 

  • What is the general appearance of the school? Does it look well cared for? Organized?

  • How diverse is the student body - learning profiles, race, ethnicity, gender?  


SPECIAL EDUCATION

  • What kind of related or support services does the school offer? 

  • What is the IEP team like? Who is the point person?

  • Do they push in/pull out or do both?

  • Does the school offer Adaptive PE?

  • Do you need a barrier-free (accessible) school?

  • If your child has speech and language difficulties ask what method the school will use for communication. Do they have access to assistive technology? 

  • If public school,  what classroom settings are available (Gifted, Gen ED, ICT, 12:1:1, etc)?

  • If public school and will need a paraprofessional - what training is given to paras? Do children get the same para every day? Do they join for lunchtime and recess?

  • Do they make modifications and accommodations within the classroom to make learning accessible for all? Learning tools? Different seating options? Visuals?


ADMINISTRATION + FACULTY

  • What is the educational background of the Head of the School/Principal?

  • Who are the teachers and what are their credentials?

  • What percentage of teachers have advanced degrees?

  • Any view into teacher/staff turnover? 


PHILOSOPHY OF EDUCATION 

  • What is the school’s mission? What are the main values the school aims to promote? 

  • Is there an identifiable philosophy of education and approach?

  • What are the education goals of the school and how well does the school community reach those goals?

  • How do they support children’s emotional learning? Is it prioritized? 

  • What is their approach to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging? Are windows and mirrors integrated into the curriculum?

  • What are the behavioral support systems? How do they manage challenging behaviors? How do they manage bullying? How do  they tend to communicate when something happens? 


FAMILY

  • How does the school communicate with families? And how frequent is the communication?

  • What support is offered to families? 

  • What is the expectation of family involvement? 


QUALITY + ASSURANCE PERFORMANCE

  • How is the school accredited? Do they follow state standards?

  • How frequently is the school inspected and by what agencies, to ensure that proper academic standards are maintained?

  • Do they offer diplomas? 


OTHER CHARACTERISTICS

  • What is the enrollment of the school?

  • What is the typical class size?

  • What is the class adult to student ratio?

  • How long is the school year? 10 or 12 months?

  • Is the school in a convenient location? What would the commute be like?

  • Do they offer exmissions support?

  • Does the school provide transportation? Offer transportation accomodations?

  • Does it provide food service? Where do the children eat? How do they handle dietary needs and restrictions? 

  • Is there a gym, library, recess yard, music room, art studio, or other facilities? 

  • Is there a school nurse on site full time? If not, how are medications handled? Spills on the playground? Sick children?

  • How often do they have recess and time to play? Field trips? Time in community?

  • What specials classes are offered? (gym, language, art, music, etc) 


ADMISSIONS, TUITION, FEES + OTHER COSTS

  • What is the school’s tuition?

  • If a private school, is it on the NYC Approved List (making funding tuition easier)? 

  • Is financial assistance available?

  • Are tuition insurance plans available?

  • What is the admission process like and what is the timeline?

  • What evaluations and reports are needed? How recent should they be?

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