Selecting a school is one of the most important decisions you will make for the future of your child. It can be daunting and overwhelming for some parents – especially those who have a child with special needs. As parents, we want our child to have every opportunity to grow up to be the best they can be and their school plays a very big role in this.
We are currently deciding on a primary school for Chloe and this would have to be one of the most stressful decisions we have ever had to make. I want the best for Chloe and for our family and that will more than likely involve some changes.
There are many school options available including government, catholic or independent schools. There are also schools which specifically cater to special needs and there are other mainstream schools which have special needs programs.
We are extremely keen for Chloe to attend a mainstream school as we believe this will benefit her from a social and inclusion perspective. But there are still a few things that need to be considered when choosing a mainstream school.
1 What support will be available to my child?
Children with special needs are encouraged to attend their local mainstream school. The problem with this, however, is that funding for classroom support is extremely disappointing. I wouldn’t expect Chloe to have an aide to work with her 100% of the time, however, I do expect that she will be provided with adequate support to help her access the school program to the best of her ability.
It is important to make a list of extra needs your child may have and discuss this with the school principal so they are aware of your child’s needs and your expectations before they commence so they can make arrangements ahead of time. These extra needs may include assistance with toileting, feeding, accessibility or behaviour and educational support.
2. Is the classroom teacher or allocated aide trained in special needs?
This is a very important point to consider. There are so many tools and methods available to teachers to help them assist a child with special needs. I believe it is far better to have someone working with your child who has already been trained in this area as they will have a more active approach in providing disability support.
3. What is your gut feeling after meeting with the school principal?
It is the right of any child to attend the school of your choice regardless of whether they cater for children with special needs or not. Children can not be excluded from enrolment because of their disability. Having saidthat, I do not want Chloe to be accepted at a school out of obligation. I want the principal and teachers to be enthusiastic and supportive and assure me they are willing to do everything possible to make Chloe’s school experience a very positive one. This is exactly how I was made to feel when I first made an enquiry at the mainstream 3 year old Kindy program which Chloe currently attends and they have definitely delivered on this. Unfortunately, I am yet to experience this from my first choice of mainstream school. Perhaps it’s because they don’t have a special needs program and they are concerned about the limited funding available for support. I am not sure.
No matter what decision we end up making for Chloe, we will always be her biggest advocate and will do everything we can to ensure she receives everything she needs to become the little super star she is destined to be.
Have you had any good or bad experiences when selecting a school for your child?