I got an exciting email today from Max's school that got me thinking about the signs of a good school for kids with special needs. I'm no expert, and I don't play one on TV, but I have learned a few things in the years Max has been in the education system. He's only been in schools for kids with special powers; inclusion hasn't been the right thing for him, so far, although I have considered it. Some signs your child is in a good school:
1. The school offers great resources for kids and parents. Max's school does fun programs for kids—an outdoor fair, movie night, a Valentine's dance. They have really helpful stuff for parents, too, and I'm not just talking about spa night. In recent months, there's been a roundtable to discuss pediatric nutrition, a talk by an excellent financial planner, and a presentation by a rep from the Special Olympics. Today, I found out that Max's school is going to be hosting a Specialized Equipment Co-op in September where parents can donate or exchange equipment. HOW AWESOME IS THAT?! In case any of you want to suggest that your school do this, too, here's the very simple process:
• Bring your equipment for exchange or donation to the school
• Exchange or donate with other families who come to the co-op
• For very large or heavy items, bring a photo and a written description to share
• Not able to attend? The Parent Guild will maintain a list of available items
• If your equipment is not acquired by another family, you may leave a photograph and description, but you must take your equipment home on exchange day
2. The school is innovative. Max wouldn't have been on his iPad as soon as he was if his speech therapist at school wasn't familiar with the technology. His school offers yoga and music therapy. It's also partnered with a local hospital to offer aquatic therapy; this is a direct contrast to the opposite-of-progressive school we pulled him out of a few years ago, where I was once told the principal "didn't believe" in aquatic therapy. If I called Max's school tomorrow and told them I'd created a new therapy program that solely involved twirling and eating spaghetti, they'd be all "Sounds promising! Tell us about it!"
3. The principal, administrators and teachers are open to suggestion. A couple of years ago, I suggested to Max's teacher at the time that she send home sheets that described what she was working on in the class, and which supplemental activities parents could do at home. We called it Learning Link, and now teachers around the school use it. (I have a template of the sheet; if any of you want it, leave a comment and I'll zap it to you.)
4. The school is fine with you dropping in, uninvited, at any time. Obviously, this doesn't speak to the quality of the education, but it does indicate a school thinks it does a great job and has nothing to hide.
5. The teachers go above and beyond. Max's physical therapist at school was instrumental in helping us through the serial casting. His speech therapist has taken Max's iPad home to help program it. They email every week, at my request, to tell me what Max has been up to, what progress he's made, and how much he's talked about chocolate ice-cream.
What sort of stuff has made you aware that your child's school is great—or made you aware that a school wasn't great?