For a Special Needs Child
By Karen Kolivosky
When a child has a disability, the right school can help to maximize his or her full potential.
Choosing an educational path for a child with special needs is challenging for many reasons, including:
• The grieving process. Parents often have to process the news of their child’s disability while immediately finding the resources to start helping
him or her. “One of the hardest things about having a kid with a disability is there’s no time to waste,” says Dr. Blane Trautwein, principal of Sunshine Cottage School for Deaf Children.
• The choices. For any given disability, there are “101 techniques that could help,” Trautwein says.
A few tips to keep in mind:
• Look for a school that focuses on educating parents as well as children. The school should be dedicated to providing support and resources to help parents help their kids.
• Consider whether the school looks at the child from a deficit model or an asset model. “It’s easy to pinpoint what remediation needs to happen, but isn’t it wonderful when a school environment can say, ‘We’re going to build on your strengths,’” Trautwein says.
• Look at teacher certifications. This is especially important for those working with special needs children.
• Go with your gut. Spend time — preferably multiple visits — observing the school in action both before and after your child enrolls. Does it feel right to you? “Parents are amazing people. They know what’s best for their child,” Trautwein says.