Once you have had your child seen by the pediatrician and pediatric neurologist and have a clear and concise diagnosis, your next step is to request a meeting with the CSE (Committee on Special Education) in order to have an IEP put in place so your child can learn within the best environment along with the proper support staff.
An integral part of the IEP is the correct classroom placement.
Everyone learns differently and therefore one environment that may work for one child may not work for another.
Some families feel that their child should be mainstreamed, no matter what. Some families feel as though an out of district placement would serve their child best. The one thing that needs to be kept top of mind is what makes the most sense for YOUR child at this very moment in time. Over time, this will change due to the progress that your child makes. The only goal is for the child to be placed in an environment where they will learn, be successful, gain confidence, become independent, minimize anxiety, if any and most importantly to achieve their goals set before them.
The following are different options that as a family you need to look into and decide upon.
This option means that your child would be removed from the general school population for all academic subjects in order to allow them to work in a small setting that is controlled by a special education teacher. Students that are placed in this type of setting may be at different levels of learning along with learning different curriculum with different textbooks. This type of placement is appropriate for individuals who require structure, specific and set expectations along with daily routine.
This option would be for a student who needs to keep up with a specific grade level subject matter. The Resource Room is equipped with a special education teacher who works with a small group of students with techniques that are targeted and specific to the special needs population.
Inclusion Class/ Mainstream
The child is placed in a regular education classroom with his/her peers who are his/her age. This classroom has a regular education teacher along with a special education teacher whose purpose is to adjust the curriculum to your child’s needs. A very strong positive to this placement is that it enables the child to stay in the classroom with his/her higher achieving peers. This modeling affords the special needs child not only to be challenged but is in a great environment for learning and picking up social cues. The negative that is associated with this placement is that the teacher would not be able to provide the intensive help that the child may need.
Out of District
This placement will put your child in a specialized school that will address his/her academic and/or behavioral needs. As with everything there are positive and negatives to this placement. The positive is that it provides the most structure, consistency and routine within your child’s day.
For children with learning disabilities, these factors are the most important. Being in an environment where these factors are absent would cause a great deal of anxiety and/or behavioral problems. Children like to know “what comes next.” Without this knowledge, although a child could succeed, the absence of this particular piece of their day could make their day counterproductive.
On the flip side, the negative in regards to this placement is that the child is removed from interacting with regular education students. The modeling that the regular education students could provide is priceless as sometimes this is all the child needs for his/her learning to become cohesive. Additionally, school districts are not quick to provide this learning environment as it is extremely expensive.
As a parent, ask yourself these questions when it comes to the most effective placement for your child:
Does your child have friends within the mainstream environment?
Is the mainstream environment helpful, not hurtful?
What environment does your child learn best in?
What environment would be the least or most productive for your child’s learning?
Does your child need structure and routine? (If so, to what degree?)
Does your child flourish when they are amongst different staff (regular and support) as well as different children?
What areas does your child struggle with? (For example: if math is extremely frustrating and causing a great deal of stress, you may want to consider having your child go to Resource Room for that particular subject so they can receive more targeted assistance)
If your child is old enough to verbalize to you what struggles they are having in school and what they would like to be changed, then listen to them. They are the ones that are going into the school building to spend a great deal of time on a daily basis. You only want their experience to be a positive one.
Please remember: when you decide on a placement, it can always be changed.
Nothing is set in stone. However, as a parent you need to stay on top of things and monitor the situation. Unfortunately, you need to police your child’s day to day to ensure that they are learning at their optimal level and the help that has been agreed upon during your CSE meeting is actually being implemented.
I have always thought of each child and family that I have worked with as a part of a construction plan. We all have a place and a purpose to help the child. We want to build them up within every aspect of themselves. Children are a work in progress and the goal is to be in awe as to the person they will become from all aspects: academic, behavioral, emotional and social. Although it seems very hard at times, maybe even impossible, your child is depending on you and YOU CAN do this. Mistakes may be made along the way, but those mistakes can be fixed.
Stay focused and your family will achieve what may seem to be the impossible!
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