Searching for the right school for your child can be a daunting task, and many families smartly hire an educational consultant to help guide them through the process. There are educational consultants to work with students with all types of needs, from those who are looking for the appropriate college to others who are in need of a therapeutic placement. Looking for a school to work with a student with a learning difference is all part of an educational consultant’s job. With that in mind, I thought it would be helpful to provide questions that parents might ask their educational consultant prior to searching for schools. 1. Is it necessary that I have my child tested before we look at schools?
It is important that a family have testing in place prior to starting the school search, and your educational consultant will likely ask about this over the phone or during your first meeting. Some families have testing that was done several years earlier, and while this can be helpful, it is also important that updated testing be done as soon as possible. Most schools would like the testing up to date within two or three years. Consultants are able to recommend an evaluator to do the testing, but parents should be prepared for the results to be available at least a month after the testing has been completed. 2. What types of testing should be completed on my child?
Typically an educational consultant will be able to help a family determine which tests should be administered, and the evaluator will be able to guide the parents in this area as well. 3. How will I know that one of the schools I am visiting is right for my child?
Much work and consideration goes into creating a list of schools for families to consider when looking for the right fit for their child. Some parents search for schools on the Internet and spend countless hours looking through website after website making sure that they have thoroughly looked at a number of schools that seem appropriate. Other parents look at schools because they have heard from friends or friends of friends that a particular school is right for their child. Still others will rely on an educational consultant to guide them through the process. It is important to remember that a visit is just that. You are not committing to a school simply because you visit. Never rule out a possibility until you have seen and experienced the school for yourself.
When all is said and done and the family has visited the many schools on their list, most of the time there will be one school that stands out among all of the others. It will feel right from the classroom environment to the campus and students you meet. Usually parents and child agree but not always. Most schools will provide names of current or alumni families at the school with whom parents can speak to get additional information and to have some of their lingering questions answered. 4. What is the student/teacher ratio at a school, and how would a small class size help my child to learn more effectively?
A small class size is truly optimal for students with any type of learning difference, and small classes are one of the most important assets that a school can provide to a student. Small classes—at Eagle Hill School our ratio is six students to one teacher—are so helpful when considering the level of engagement that parents want for their child. Tutorials generally are made up of one or two students, and these classes provide the ultimate learning experience for students. But slightly larger classes provide students with a level of engagement that is quite necessary, and being a student in a small class teaches students to be focused and helps them to be vocal participants in class. Additionally, the relationships students make with teachers while at boarding school give students the confidence to look for similar such relationships in college.5. Will I need to look for a different school if my child makes significant progress in his school for students with learning differences?
If you choose the right school, it is very likely that you will not need to have your child change schools. Many schools are able to schedule each subject area of classes separately. So, for example, a ninth grader with a math disability may be taking Introduction to Algebra, and this same child will take advanced literature and writing classes. The key is finding a school that is able to offer a variety of classes and to tailor a child’s schedule to his academic profile. At Eagle Hill School, for example, we work with students who might have difficulty with decoding or fluency, and once these difficulties are resolved through remediation, students are able to take advanced classes in all subject areas. For example, we offer Calculus 2 and Literature and the Law classes, and we offer reading tutorials. The important thing is to be able to project where a student will be in a year or two years and be sure that the school will enable the child to grow.
While choosing the right school for a child with learning disabilities can feel overwhelming, partnering with an educational consultant is one way to reduce the anxiety. With their extensive knowledge, and having visited so many different schools, consultants can broaden your potential school choices as well as assist with weighing all of the factors that come into making this important decision.