Monday, December 13, 2010

Tell prospective K parents what you think of your elementary school's special ed program!

As I look at public and charter middle schools for my special ed son, I can't help but think of those parents who are just starting the school journey with kids who may need special ed services. I have learned the hard way that I have to make repeated visits to prospective schools: first, to hear how the principal and the general tour guides talk about special ed at the school; and, second, to have more in-depth conversations with the special ed professionals at each school. Prospective K special ed parents, however, have a far larger number of schools to look into, and are going into it with many more unknowns about how much help their kid is going to need. So I thought those of us with kids already in elementaries owe it to prospective K parents to let them know what we think of our elementary's special ed program. Keeping it constructive while being as specific as possible, could people use this thread to let prospective K parents know which schools -- public, private or charter -- have good special ed programs and which have ones that need more, ahem, help? Furthermore, what questions about special ed should prospective K parents be asking at those schools? Finally, what avenues does a special ed parent have if things start to sour at their elementary school?


  1. Just for clarity's sake Don says that charters are public schools, but with certain legal differences that give them more flexibility than traditional public schools. But that is technically not the topic here, as Don well knows.

    He has a special ed child at Alamo and thinks very highly of the staff and the attention that his son receives - very professional and caring people there.

    There is a general belief that charters have a poor record with sped students. That isn't to say some charter schools don't do well with special education.

  2. Our son is getting very good SpEd services at Miraloma. They have inclusion paras (K-5) and special day classes (3-5). He recieves weekly support from OT, language, and reading specialists. He is only mildly impaired, and he is not flustered when staff change (a common problem in SFUSD). A different family might have an entirely different impression based on their child's needs and personality.

  3. Don says check out this article in Beyond Chron about National Inclusive Schools Week.

  4. I have a child that uses the RSP resources at Grattan. The principal has consistantly cared deeply for my child's success and the RSP resource teacher is a fantastic individual that has helped my child in so many ways. Can not recommend it more highly.

  5. We have a child at Commodore Sloat in Special Ed. We really like it! The principal is very focused on special ed, and there is a parent group of special ed parents. The school has sponsored talks on ADD and other developmental issues for parents in the evening. Excellent special ed department!

  6. Our kid is in inclusion at Lakeshore with speech, OT, and PT issues. We've been very happy with the staff and the services there.

    It's a tough question though because, as 7:52pm says, the answer is different depending on your child's needs.

    Next year all schools are supposed to offer all services to kids who need it, but honestly I'd be conservative and apply to schools that already have programs in place that my kids needs.

    Regarding what questions a parent of an incoming kindergartener might ask, here are a few I would think are relevant:

    How many kids at your school have disabilities similar to my kid?
    Do kids get any support in the classroom outside of what is mandated in the IEP?
    If my kid needs PT, are PT services provided on-site or are they bused elsewhere?
    Do kids with similar disabilities play on the same playground as the other kids? How much adult supervision is there? What problems have you encountered and how do you handle it?
    What training does your staff has? How long have they been at your school?
    Is the staff full-time at your campus?

  7. Mibb, thanks for your comment. You are right that every special ed kid is very different, but I do think that there are some broad patterns out there -- some elementaries are better at doing special ed than others. And K parents have so little information on the pros and cons of school's special ed departments. So please, within the limits of privacy, try to describe your child's issues and go on and say how happy (or not) you have been with your elementary.

  8. So please, within the limits of privacy, try to describe your child's issues and go on and say how happy (or not) you have been with your elementary.

    Joseph, if you were addressing me, maybe you missed the first line of my reply. :-)

    We're at Lakeshore with speech, OT, PT, and attention issues and we've been very happy with the services.

    As a parent of a kid with needs, it's hard to shake the grass-is-always-greener feeling that services might be better in a district with more money and fewer kids, like in Marin. But for various reasons we've decided to live in SF, and the services we've received have certainly been better than what we expected.

    We picked Lakeshore because we knew our kid had speech issues, and the school was recommended by friends who had a similar problem.

    As a larger school, they may have more than one inclusion kid in each class. That's nice because one adult can rotate among them and stay in the classroom longer. If my kid were alone, the adult would only be there for 30 minutes, which really is not a lot of time.

    It works out great because my kid can often do the work himself but needs help understanding the directions and then staying focused on the task.

  9. Mibb, I'm sorry. My comment wasn't directed at you but to others -- I hope more people can comment here about their school's program! -- Joseph

  10. what is the special ed program at Alvarado like?

  11. 4:02: Overwhelmed.