Saturday, November 1, 2014

Choosing a school for your special child

Impressive right? well, as we say in Nigeria, "No be by dat wan abeg..." There are a lot of things to consider when picking a school for your child.

In Nigeria, children with special needs can be enrolled in a main stream class with additional supports, in a support class in the school, in a special school or center affiliates. Parents need to explore each option and decide on what they feel is most appropriate.

Guide and Checklist for Choosing a School.

As more and more people are agitating for inclusive education for special needs kids. It is imperative for parents to look for mainstream schools with good special education programs.

There are a lot of schools that seem to be offering these services but are they effective?

A parent lamented on the fact that her son has really regressed after a term in a mainstream school in Nigeria. A therapist complained about the way the teachers and cleaning staff ignored the child and expected her to see to the child’s needs. The child, a 3 year old with budding cognitive abilities who just started gaining speech was placed in the toddlers unit. It was with reluctance, after several meetings that she was then moved to a higher class.

Parents should consider the following tips and checklists in choosing a school for their kids.
Plan as early as possible in developing checklists of what you expect of a school for your child.
Visit websites of schools and ask parents with Special needs their opinion on schools.
Visit each school’s open day and talk to the principal of the school.

 School Culture and Inclusion
• Does the school culture fit with your child?
• Did the principal and staff seem genuinely supportive?
• Does the school philosophy specifically acknowledge different abilities and learning styles?
• Do you feel that the school staff will understand your child’s needs?
• Are there signs of inclusion?
• What programs are in place to effectively deal with bullying
• How many children with disabilities (or receiving additional funding) does the school currently
• Is the parent community supportive and involved?

 Class Size and Teaching strategies
 Are your child’s capabilities, strengths and challenges understood?

• Is there one staff member who has overall responsibility for the children with special needs        (e.g. Learning Support Teacher) and do they allow for parents to hire a shadow special education therapist to be with the child?

• Does the school have access to therapists (e.g. occupational therapist, speech therapist etc)?
• Do staff members undertake professional development in disability?
• What is the student to teacher ratio for all classes?

Is there a quiet place for one on one therapy follow-up session with his personal therapist or to calm the child down if he/she experiences sensory overload or melt downs?

Is there a general consensus by the parents and the child’s educational team to use the IEP
  [an individualized plan] for the child?

Do you think the IEP addresses the child’s challenges and will bring a positive outcome?
Are there Therapy materials in carrying out the IEP of the child?

What type of Assessment is being done?
Is it too structured or is it flexible enough to take into cognizance, the child’s challenges and progress attained?

Additional Services

Does the school have an introductory program to assist children transitioning into the school or an organized transition program for children moving from primary to secondary?
• How structured (prescriptive or open-ended) is the curriculum? Is there enough flexibility? How does the school support those students needing additional support in transport etc?
• What does the curriculum offer beyond the statutory subjects? Co-curricular activities?

• Does the school offer clubs, interest groups, etc?
• Do all students have access to specialist facilities (e.g. library, art rooms, science and technology laboratories, etc)?


What are the strategies in narrowing it down to the child so that learning takes place?

Social Skills and Inclusion.
Are the school grounds safe and secure?
What other signs of inclusion do you see?
Are there structured activities at lunch time and break time to encourage social skills and inclusion?

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