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K-12 Schools: Learning Disorders & Special Needs
Questions about Elementary School
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Hi all. I'm a parent of a 9 years old girl with mild hearing loss. She uses hearing aids and she is working well with them. She also has some learning disabilities. She is in a IEP Program at a school in BUSD, with speech therapy, adapted PE, OT, and she is pulled out for one to one academics. I'm very happy with this IEP program at that school. However, I was told that my child, that is in third grade is getting to behind in academics and she doesn't fit with the regular class. She also has some social issues. She does not have friends even though she is nice and friendly. I'm very concern that the gap is getting bigger and she is struggling with almost everything. She works well one to one and in small groups. The problem is that she is lost while in a big group and she can't follow directions by herself. She really needs individual help and a new environment that help her to improve her social life. I was hopping that she could finish lower school at BUSD but I'm not sure if BUSD can provide for this special needs any longer. Is there another school district that offer similar programs with small groups? Any other options?
First, know your kids rights and advocate loudly. Sounds like she really needs to go to a non-public school to get small classes, and more individual attention. These are schools certified by the state to teach kids with learning issues that are not able to be served in a regular public school classroom. They generally have small classes, specially trained teachers in every class all day, speech and language and other services available on site.(Examples are Raskob in Oakland, or Star Academy in San Rafael).
In order to get this kind of help for your child you need to get an Independent Educational Evaluation from an outside expert who will advocate for your child. You may need to file a due process claim (i.e. sue the district in adminstrative court for failing to provide your child with a free appropriate public education) You will likely need an attorney to help you. You could start by talking to DREDF a disability rights advocacy group in Berkeley. Get a list of attorneys from them. Talk to Dr. Karina Grandison or Caroline Johnson in Berkeley about doing an independent evaluation and try and get your child to an appropriate school. If they advocate for your child and state in their evaluation that she needs a school with small classes, special teaching approaches, specially trained teachers for the entire school day that will go a long way toward getting her what she needs.
Read carefully the handout the school gives you outlining your parental rights. The district is required to pay for the outside evaluation or go to court and prove why it's not necessary. They almost always just pay for it, especially if your child is not making good progress in school it would be hard for them to prove that they are doing everything right. This is the sad reality of spec ed in public schools. They help a little, but never enough and our kids just get more and more behind unless you fight like hell to make sure they get what they need. At the minimum your child should have a para in class with her all day to help explain directions, and give her more individual support in class. Hiring a lawyer can be pricey, but the district often ends up paying your attorney fees as part of a settlement, or if you prevail in a court hearing.
There is no great district that will give your child what she really needs without a fight. I have recently sat through at least 12 hours of negotiations with my daughter's school district and we are still not really agreeing with their plan. Write a parent addendum to your child's IEP if you disagree with their assessment, the goals, the services or feel that she is not getting what she needs.
In sum document all disagreements and concerns you have. Write letters to the special ed director about your concerns, write addendums to the IEP to document any disagreement. Get a good special ed lawyer and an outside evaluation and get your kid to a school that is dedicated to educating kids with special needs and has the skills and resources to actually do it.
Most of the resource teachers I have worked with do not really know how to help our kids, although there are a few great ones out there. They know a little about a lot of things, but mostly they know how to fill out all the paperwork required by the state and their real job is to protect the school district's budget and to protect the district from legal actions by keeping the paperwork up to date. Best of luck, it's a difficult fight, but worth it. Mom with special kids
My 4.5 yo daughter has Downs and is currently enrolled in a special ed pre-K in Montclair. We are beginning to research all types of Kindergarten learning environments for her. Although we live in Oakland, we are willing to move to surrounding areas to find the best fit for her. A few of the Oakland public schools serving special needs students are in ''bad'' neighborhoods, but I hear some of the teachers are amazing. All school recommendations welcome! And specific teacher recommendations would be great, too. Many thanks! Lucky Mom
If you are willing to move, I love Hope Technology School in Redwood City. It's private but many SPED families make the case it's the least restrictive environment for their child so their home school district pays the tuition. They are an inclusion school with 40% special needs and 60% typical. We considered moving briefly for the school...
Today, my daughter is attending Urban Montessori Charter School. Montessori model is very SPED friendly based on the multisensory and individual instruction. UMCS is an inclusion school and services are provided by Seneca. We are extremely happy with the staff from Seneca. Our daughter is doing well in the inclusion environment and her peers accept her. However it's been a hard transition for me as a parent leaving the supportive nature of the SDC environment. I recommend you schedule a visit and ask to speak with Seneca before applying. 7% of the school is on IEP. 10% is considered full inclusion. The administration believes that another 7% are unidentified but working through assessments and RTI so the population ''true'' number is around 14%.
There's also the Stonebridge school which is Waldorf in Napa. I've heard great things about that inclusion school as well.
I would welcome your daughter with open heart and arms at UMCS. All means all! Good luck! Anna
I wonder if anyone out there can help. My daughter is in kindergarten this year and is 5 years old. She is confident, smart and funny. She has some speech and language delays and I can see that she learns at a different pace as other kids. I am not sure that a large class size will be good for her or that she will be able to keep up with the other kids. I don't want her to lose her confidence or feel bad about herself AT ALL. Does anyone out there have any advice as to how to proceed for the next school year? Should we stay in the bay area? Look at private schools (we can't afford much!) or is there a great school district out there that can help with her needs? I don't have a ton of faith in Oakland at the moment. Please pass on any words of wisdom, or advice that you can. Confused!
However, I found this to be a much better route than trying to afford private school and coordinate all of the services he'd need (most private schools do not provide any help for learning disabilities at all).
If your child does have a learning disability, public school is the place to be. Explore all your options (other parents of older children with learning disabilities are the best resource) there before you sign on to private education/help. Hope that helps
In my son's school, (which was in Oakland, by the way -- I'm not recommending Oakland specifically, I'm just pointing out it exists anywhere), he got help with a writing disability which involved such things as additional time for testing, time to work in the resource room when distractions were a problem, and occupational therapy. He's now in middle school and doing great. Another child at his same school had, and still has, a full-time aide to help him with his learning difficulties.
None of this is available in most private schools. In general, you would need to pay for tutoring and whatever therapy was needed, in addition to the cost of the tuition. Many do not accept students with learning differences for this reason. Karen
Hoping you can help...we're going to be looking (next year) for a private K-8, anywhere in the East Bay, for our 5 yr old son. He's bright, and can socially engage, but struggles a bit with verbal communication and has some sensory integration issues. He would benefit from relatively small class sizes, structured environment, well-behaved kids, and teachers who can use visual as well as verbal in their classroom. Does anyone know whether Prospect Sierra, Bentley, Head Royce---any others----are open to or have experience with kids with different learning styles, or are those schools best with the norm and the kids who are the top of the learning and performance curve? He isn't diagnosed with a pervasive development disorder but is one of those on the edge. Any and all advice/experience greatly welcomed. looking for best spot
My 5 yr old son is currently a kindergartner in a public school. He is having a lot of trouble keeping up with the fast paced curriculum. My son is speech delayed and has weak motor skills. The teacher says that he will have to re-do kindergarten again. So, I am looking for a good private or public school. I am totally lost on where to go from here. Any advice is welcomed.
Hello. I have a 6 year old (currently in 1st grade) son. My son is sensory seeking but doesn't exhibit such behaviors in school. At school he ''holds it in'' and behaves VERY well. After school however, he needs activity and a ''release''. We do things in his current school like have him sit on a cushion to get the sensory input. We just moved to CA so I am fairly unfamiliar with the schools in the Bay Area. I know that I would prefer a private school (school with small student to teacher ratios). Can you knowledgable folks recommend schools with staff and administration that ''get it''? I also want a staff that will allow me to bring my OT (Occupational Therapist) into the school to observe and make recommendations. We live in Oakland but I am willing to travel for the right school. Thanks! -ISO School that GETS IT!
Do you know of a school (public or private) in the East Bay, Marin or Penninsula that works well with elementary-aged children with different learning styles, gifts and challenges? We are looking for a school that is flexible, supportive (to children and parents), child-centered and if possible, uses multi-sensory approaches to supporting children's learning. Thank you! -anon
Please don't make the common mistake of thinking ''Montessori = strict and/or unfocused.'' It is so far from the truth.
My oldest son, who has Down syndrome, attended MFS for 4 years very successfully (please see an earlier post of mine from 1/05, it begins with ''I feel compelled...'' ), my younger son began MFS in preschool and is now in 5th grade. He is a strong student who works above standard grade level, but is very sensitive and has had periodic issues with anxiety and focus. The teachers are willing and able to meet with me and with him to support him in the most appropriate manner possible. They don't coddle - they learn, advise, and figure out a way to support all of their students in the best manner appropriate.
MFS has learners of all types and students who come from a variety of backgrounds and home situations. They strive to create an environment that supports and respects this diversity. I urge you to check it out. The elementary school is at 510-236-8802. -A grateful and happy MFS parent
Pre-school teacher advised that my 4-year old seems to be having difficulty following multi-direction. Lack of focus etc etc. Assumed was coz he's ''4'' but decided to get him tested/evaluated. He also has a lisp. Herrick campus speech therapist eval. Lateral lisp (the hardest to fix - of course!) and mild auditory processing disorder! Crushed!! And, of course, insurance won't pick up the tab because is too mild (doesn't hit the ''magic number'' for assistance). That in itself is unbelievable to me. Anyway, once picked myself up decided need to get help. Made appointment for speech pathologist to asist with the lisp and APD, BUT, my question is this....are there any schools in East Bay (that don't cost an arm and a leg - we have little money)that cater to kids with mild APD? Anyone in the same boat? would love to hear from you and any/all recommendations. I'm determined to give my son every tool possible to help him succeed and excel. Thank you in advance. -Anu
My child is very smart (scores high on standardized tests/IQ) but fails in school due to disorganization and lack of time management and not turning in homework. We don't think public high school is the way to go even with an IEP for Executive Functioning Disorder. From our experience, public schools don't seem to get smart but disorganized, really!! Our school district is highly rated but that doesn't make a difference. We've tried organizational help but it doesn't stick and gets expensive with the amount of support needed and for the frustration and cost we could pay for private school. We're looking at private schools in the East Bay and would love to hear from other parents. We heard about the Mentoring Academy and Tilden Prep. Any experience with either? Any other schools we should consider? Thanks. Anxious Mom of Smart but Disorganized Student
My student has struggled with being disorganized for many years. Before Holden, when he finally did complete his homework, he would forget to turn it in. There was no organization to his backpack or planner. When we found Holden, (this is his second full year at Holden, after spending grades k-9 in public school), helping him to be organized was one of our first priorities. And within a couple of months this was no longer a problem. His grades have improved dramatically, his attendance is fine, he loves his school.
One of the other many things we love about Holden is that the students are not overloaded with homework and are given ample time during the school week to complete it, thus eliminating homework battles at home.
There is much more I could say about Holden, including how the students are supported emotionally as well as academically, but you can learn more by visiting their website, or better yet, have your child go for a visit.
Hope this is helpful to you. Good luck in your search. A grateful parent
We are moving to Berkeley and wondering if BHS is a good fit for our dyslexic son coming from Charles Armstrong in Belmont. He prefers small classrooms, using his computer in class to take notes and requires quite a bit of tutoring in math. We do have an IEP in place but I wonder if anyone has had a good experience who LD kids at BHS. Are there any other private school options? sylvie
With our LD son in 8th grade it's time to start looking at high schools for next year. UGH!!! Our son has reading/processing/organizing issues. He's a hand on and visual learner. Also some ADD. He's currently at Raskob (and only for 8th grade). What high schools did you apply for for your ld kids? We were very impressed with Bay Hills, are considering possibly maybe our local public school as a last resort (and would have to get an IEP or 504)...Maybeck and Drew were suggested to me as possiblities. They seem very academic according to their websites. Any other hs's for ld kids? Also...I've been told that sometimes a district has to pay for a child to go to private school if that child can't be accomodated in the district. How does that work? Thanks in advance, anon mom
HI All, My 13 yo son has a pretty severe learning disability. He is in 7th grade in a private school and is being so amazingly accomodated. We feel very lucky and grateful. He sees an ed. therapist, tutor, psycho therapist...OY!!! My question is....what do we do for high school? Our local public hs is not an option. I know about the hs near Lake Merrit that is connected to Raskob and that is a great option, but.....what if he doesn't get in? Where else do we go? Do any of the other public districts have transfer accomodations for ld kids? WHat other private hs's do? He's not a self motivator so an independant hs program is not the thing for him. Thanks in advance. thinking ahead
- Stanbridge Academy in San Mateo: http://stanbridgeportal-com.web08.winsvr.net/ - Sterne School in SF: http://www.sterneschool.org/site/sterne/ - Star Academy: http://www.staracademy.org/ - Children's Learning Center: http://www.clcalameda.com/See also schools listed at: http://www.baprivateschools.com/specialed.htm and http://parents.berkeley.edu/recommend/schools/ld_schools.html (this page)
Good luck! Meri
Orinda Academy is not specifically for kids with learning disabilities; but they do have a learning specialist on staff and make an effort to accept and accommodate varied learning styles. Classes are small and kids can participate in multiple grade levels simultaneously to match their skill set (e.g. 12th grade English and Algebra I in the same year). Most classes use a mastery learning system, in which grades can be improved by making corrections. Mandatory study halls for those who do not complete homework encourage development of good study habits.
Gateway is a public school specifically for LD kids, but open to others as well. It accepts students from around the Bay, with a wide range of abilities and disabilities. Call to find out the details on admissions.
Drew, in SF, is similar to Orinda Academy, twice as big, older, with newer facilities and higher tuition. -OA parent
My teenager needs a school geared to bipolar kids. Does anyone have any recommendations for schools that really treat the underlying stresses of being bipolar? Thanks so much.
Also, are you aware of the New Hope Support Group, which meets monthly in Lafayette? It's a group for parents of bipolar, school-aged children and is a good source of info. and support. For more info, you can contact email@example.com. Fellow parent
We're looking for a middle school for our child who has some learning issues. He's very smart but has mild ADHD. Does anyone have any recs? Searching for a school
I am looking for a good LD school for my son with dyslexia. I was told to consider Charles Armstrong School in Belmont. Does anyone know anything about Charles Armstrong School? Can anyone recommend any other good LD Schools for Bay Area? Chris
Looking into to appropriate high schools for LD kids. Would like a high school in the East Bay, but would consider a San Francisco setting. Any thoughts or recommendations would be appreciated.
I am currently negotiating with the school district regarding a placement for my 11 year old son who has an IEP based on ''Severe Emotional Disturbance''. Over the past 3 years he has tried and failed to make it at a charter school, a public elementary, and an excellent private middle school. He was just recently asked to leave the private school, despite all of their and our best efforts to make it work, and I'm now looking towards next year, 7th grade. At this time I am realizing that he probably needs to be in a special day class. However, I am not at all satisfied with the placement the district has made, and I'd like to explore alternatives. Which brings me to my question: Does anyone have experience with/knowledge of either public or private therapeutic school programs? He does not have a learning or developmental disability, so that disqualifies him from several school programs I know of. The program really needs to be specifically for emotional/mental illness, and he also needs an intellectually stimulating environment as he's very bright. We are in WCCUSD, but I would move anywhere (anywhere!) for the right school, and I am prepared to fight hard to get the district to pay for a private placement, if that is what's needed. Any suggestions/feedback would be much appreciated. Thank you.
We're looking for a learning disabled classroom for our daughter
who is going into first grade. With both auditory and visual
processing challenges in addition to ADHD she needs a multi-
sensory curriculum and structure. Our district is offering us
general ed. with support or a special day class for severely
handicapped and we need something somewhere in between. So we
are looking around to find some other options to present to the
district--private, public or non-public. Any advice
appreciated...You can email me directly.
My 14 yr old nephew is coming to live with me from Michigan. He has an IEP there and has a designation of emotionally impaired. He has had a very rough life (mom doing drugs, chaos etc), has anxiety, is angry probably has ADHD and possibly bipolar. He is on meds but says they dont work. I need to find an appropriate high school for him. We live in Berkeley and I believe if he goes to BHS he will end up lost, doing drugs, and running around. He needs a lot of structure and not too much freedom at the moment. I am open to private school if need be, and am open to feedback about BHS. Thanks!
Best of luck to you. This process will take time but your efforts to help this kid will be very rewarding. Hang in there. Anon
Hi, We have a daughter who definitely has some info processing issues (but of course if brilliant in many other ways). She was tested in 5th grade but her situation got caught up in a battle between her teacher and prinicipal and they said that she did not qualify for any special ed. She had a horrible year and was at the cracking point by the end of the year. We homeschooled her last year and while she picked up some things really well and became much more socially adept, etc., she is still finding it hard to remember what order the months come in. She is ADAMANT that she wants to go to school this year and wear new clothes and backpack, etc. We are really worried about her. I am not interested in any info on homeschoooling vs traditional school but I would like any referrals of schools (We are in the South East Bay), programs, consultants, etc to help make this Jr High experience good for her. She already is very defensive about school and has low esteem around it (since 2nd grade), so.... Thanks for any advice Anon
As a mother of a teen boy with severe learning disability that affects the language area, I am seeking recommendations for high schools. He has an IEP and is currently placed in a private school for kids with LD. Can anyone recommend a high school that provides an appropriate environment for him-he is great at math/science, willing to work and is not a behavior prob Trying to keep ahead of the game
I am considering taking my 13 year old son for assessment for learning style. His grades are poor -- not a new development. I took him to counseling for many years -- but nothing changed. First counselor told me he was in ''psychic pain.'' That was for four years. Then I obtained a referral from my pediatritian for a second opinion. The second counselor said there was nothing wrong with him. (Actually -- it turns out there is no such thing as a second opinion in counseling). First counselor was quite put out about second opinion. It was considered changing counselors.
Anyway, my son's siblings do well in school. He is a middle child. The school won't test for anything unless the performance is two grades below the norm. Any information on insurance and learning assessment will be helpful. Also, son is tired of counseling and doesn't want to go back. Anonymous
The school district gave you incorrect information. If you put your request for an assessment in writing, they have 15 days to provide you with an assessment plan for your review and consent. You can ask for very specific types of assessments, such as a neuropsychological evaluation. After you sign the assessment plan (you have 15 days to do so), they have 50 days to complete the assessment & hold an IEP meeting (that's calendar days, not including school vacation in excess of 5 days). If you feel that the assessment performed by the district is innaccurate or incomplete, or that it wrongly classifies your child, you may be entitled to seek an independent evaluation at public expense.
We are looking for Kindergarten, public or private, in the East Bay (preferably Berkeley or North Oakland). One of the biggest issues we face in trying to find a fit is that our child constantly challenges authority at home and at preschool. He is very intelligent and highly spirited (intense/emotional)and has a difficult time accepting that adults (ie, teachers and parents) are ''in charge'' and that he sometimes needs to just do what he is told, even if he doesn't agree.
We really like the developmental private schools, but are a bit worried that he would be considered an ''outlier'' and a behavior problem, even at the more progressive privates. On the other hand we worry that the public schools don't have the resources to be flexible w/kids who challenge rules and that he would be labeled a trouble maker there as well.
There are a lot of extremely positive things about this kid -- for example, he has incredible focus for self-directed learning activities. But if he will be constantly clashing w/teachers, school will not go well.
I should add that his preschool is play-based and not a big ''rules place,'' nor is his home. At preschool and home his ideas are listened to, so it isn't true that he can't find a way to be heard. Although of course in both environments there are boundaries that are enforced. Any ideas? Anybody with a child who shares this trait who has school experiences to share? Thanks
We tried the private school route for our child, but without success, so he is now in public school and doing remarkably well.
I'd start looking seriously at your local public school district and talk to every principal and lay your situation out with them. I found many of the principals in the BUSD to be very helpful, very upfront and in the school we ended in, placed him with the best teacher for his needs and supported him with special services. Anon.
The vast majority of independent schools in this area - Prospect-Sierra, Head-Royce, Windrush, Walden, Berkwood Hedge, Berkeley Motesorri, Park Day, St. Pauls, to name a few - are all heavily populated with bright, high energy independent spirits - and the teachers are not preoccupied with making your child conform to some rigid set of rules. With the exception of Bentley - which has a more traditional style - all of these schools combine developmental approaches in their academic curriculum. At the same time, there are socialization skills that your son will gain - that come from learning to be considerate of others and group learning - that will surely present new boundaries and challenges for your child. This is a GOOD thing! - even if it is hard for him at first. Any teacher worth their salt has had plenty of experience dealing with ''defiance' without being punative.
My own experience with my now 15 year old son - who is the most opinionated person on the planet - was that his teachers and his school valued his unique approach and he gradually learned to fit in and be a part of the clasroom community without squelching his natural creativity or scepticism about authority. My 9 year old boy - who is also stong willed and hates to be told what to do - is managing just fine. While my guys are Head Royce, but i do not think they others are that different. I have sat in on most of these school's classes, and have many friends at other schools who are similarly high energy and independent - Unfortunately the only bad experiences Ihave heard about were at Cragmont and Jefferson, where time-outs and detentions were used to cool the kids down. Go to some school open houses, and arrange to actually sit in on the classes to see the dynamic.
If you are not willing to let your son be guided by a style that less ''permissive' than you - you will probably be better off homeschooling - because no teacher is going to let a child ''run wild'' or be blatently disrespectful. There is a balance here, and you should realize that setting caring boundaries for your child is a gift so that they learn self-control. Good luck
Berkeley Mom of Two Active Boys
I just happened to run into your site tonight. I live in Saratoga, Ca. I know this is not your area, but if you are still getting requests for schools that will support and help high school kids with ADHD and other LD's to succeed, I found only one on the PENINSULA, that is not either accelerated, or so remedial that you would not consider it. It is MIDPENINSULA HS< Willow Road, Menlo Park/Palo Alto. They have a ratio of 15 to one. My son has severe ADHD. He went from a D- average in Middle School, and no hope of any support from the public schools (Saratoga/Cupertino) to a B+ average in Sophomore year and now,on the road to a decent HS Career Good Luck Roselle , USC Parent
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