Private Schools

There are many good reasons to choose a private school for your child. You may feel that a private school can better meet her unique learning needs, or you may prefer private schools in general. There are a wide range of choices and types of programs and many ways that private schools can help meet your child's needs.

However, in choosing a private school for a child with dyslexia, there are a few things to keep in mind. Unlike public schools, private schools are under no legal obligation to provide special educational services for your child. Teachers at a private school with a strong academic program may be unwilling to make special accommodations for your struggling child, and if your child is unable to keep up with the work, you may be asked to withdraw your child. You may still be eligible for services via the public school district, but you may find it impractical to arrange for your child to receive those services while attending the private school.

ESSENTIAL

You naturally want the best for your child. However, even if it is clear that your child is exceptionally bright, you should avoid placing him in an academically demanding private school unless it is clear that the school will be sensitive to his learning needs and provide extra support where needed. Your child will do better in the long run if he learns in a nurturing environment where he can experience success.

Some of the social and emotional issues that accompany dyslexia may manifest as classroom behavioral issues. Your child might be a physically active, kinesthetic learner, always on the move — but to a teacher, he may seem like a troublemaker who refuses to stay in his seat and obey the teacher. Again, unlike the public school, a private school is not legally obligated to retain students whose behavior is disruptive. Whereas in public school you could arrange via an IEP for specific classroom modifications to address your child's unique learning needs, in a private setting your child may simply be subjected to repeated discipline and eventually asked to leave the school.

Of course, not all private schools are insensitive to the needs of children with learning differences. In fact, a private school may offer exactly the supportive environment your child needs. Some things to look for in a private school are:

Small classes. Many private schools offer smaller classes and a higher teacher-to-student ratio than public schools. Your child with dyslexia will do better in a smaller group setting, where the teacher has more time to focus attention on her.

Flexible educational approach. It is important that the school administrator and teachers show a flexible attitude and a willingness to consider individual needs. Your child can do well in almost any environment if the adults who work with her are willing to adjust their expectations and modify teaching when appropriate.

Enrichment and special-interest programs. A private school may offer enrichment or special instruction in areas of high interest to your child, including many where your child shows a strong aptitude or talent. This may include instruction in the arts or music, athletic programs, or enrichment activities geared to gifted students.

When choosing a school, be sure to ask whether there are other students with dyslexia or learning disabilities enrolled, and what type of support can be given to such students.

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