Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Moving your special needs child to another school

The fall season is associated with change. Summer ends and autumn begins, bringing with it the majestic change in the color of the leaves. But the biggest change in the fall is the return of our children to school. For most of us this means our children will go back to learning in a safe environment in the company of their friends and teachers whom they love and trust. Unfortunately, not all our children experience school in this manner. Many of our special needs children experience school differently because they encounter basic problems such as getting down five flights of stairs in a wheelchair, having appropriate support on the bus, and receiving the necessary services to ensure a successful school experience. As caretakers we act quickly when we’ve identified a problem and expect, as we should, a quick response from the school to remedy the issue(s).

Often times our response doesn’t come in a timely manner, if at all. Some of us have found creative ways to get schools to comply, while others become increasingly frustrated and resort to changing schools. Changing schools may be a good option and definitely something to consider. However, problems will be encountered with every school -- we know because we work with many schools in Manhattan and the Bronx -- and we need to find ways to make ourselves heard in our current school. This means identifying the problem and articulating it clearly and concisely to the responsible persons. If no results are obtained, make your way over to Sinergia and talk to an educational advocate who will help you present your concerns to the school's special education team. The advocate will even accompany you to a mediation session and/or an impartial hearing if necessary.

If changing schools is still the only option, speak to Sinergia well in advance of the change so we may help you prepare appropriately. Making such a change is difficult for you and your child and preparation is the key. Acquire information about the school by visiting and talking to parents about their experiences. Refrain from changing schools during the months of September and October as it will only complicate your situations. Not only will your current school be unprepared to help you make the transition, but the new school will not be prepared to accept you. Schools need time to adjust to their schedules coming out of summer break and a little patience on your side can go a long way. Evaluate your happiness level various times during the school year and if you’re ready to change schools, attend Sinergia’s “selecting your school” seminar which we offer on the month of August and let us help you through this difficult process.

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