Finding the Right Preschool for Your Child With Special Needs


Child Find is not the one and only school option for your child with special needs. You may also want to consider private and charter school options. Our Child Find Program placed our daughter in a program with 19 other children with special needs, with 1 teacher and 1 aide (a 2:19 ratio). (More on the Child Find process here.) This was not acceptable for us, and we know our daughter would not thrive in such environment.


We looked into private school options and found a classroom with 16 neurotypical children, 2 teachers, and 1 aide (a 3:16 ratio). The school has three other children with special needs attending who receive private therapy at school and/or take the bus to a public school take advantage of their Child Find therapies. And the staff was open (and eager) to taking Continuing Education Courses about our daughter's conditions and related support.


Our daughter is three and will be starting with the two year olds at this school until she is ready to move to the "threes" room. We've been working super hard in her private, community therapies (since her Early Intervention Program services ended) to get her ready to be in a preschool classroom with neurotypical children (walking independently, feeding independently, and potty training) this fall. We're so excited for her!


Home school is also an option. Click here for state-by-state home school options and regulations. Contact your child's school district for more information.


For parents of children with more medically complex needs, you may want to consider hospital- or home-based instruction through your state's Hospital Homebound (HHB) program, like the programs in California and Nevada. In some states you may even be eligible to be paid for providing home school to your child.


After weighing the pros and cons of public, private, and charter schools, going through Child Find, researching charter school options, and touring several private schools, we found the right fit for us. (We hope!) Here's a chart with the various school types (public, private, and charter) and their general pros and cons to consider during your search for the right school for your child with special needs.


* * *

School Types

Public

Private

Charter

Pros

  • Free

  • Individualized Educational Plan (“IEP”) and 504 Plan services that must be complied with

  • Teachers with degrees in special education (dependent on staffing shortage)

  • Free

  • May have low student/teacher ratios

  • Part-time options

  • May continue development- related private therapies (in-clinic and at-school)

  • Option for bus to Child Find provided therapies

  • May accept and voluntarily comply with IEPs and 504 Plans

  • Low student/teacher ratios

  • May continue development-related private therapies (in-clinic and at-school)

  • Option for bus to Child Find provided therapies

  • School staff may be interested in Continuing Education Programs that are specific to your child's needs (ask!)

  • May accept and voluntarily comply with IEPs and 504 Plans

Cons

  • High student/teacher ratio

  • No part-time options (difficult to maintain private therapies)

  • Therapies focus on access to curriculum only (e.g., playing on playground equipment)

  • Teachers do not have special education degrees

  • $$$

  • Teachers do not have special education degrees


"So teach us something worth knowing,

Bring us back what we've forgot,

Just do your best, we'll do the rest,

And learn until our brains all rot..."


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

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