Apply to private school for 9YO without teacher recommendations?

Hi i'm new on this forum. My 9 year old has been assessed as gifted and ADHD (2e).  My 5 year old hasn't been assessed for either but we plan do an assessment soon.  We don't live in the Bay Area but we were looking to move there for the private schools for 2e children.  I looked through the prior posts and thank you to everyone that's shared your experiences about all the other wonderful schools there.  It's really helpful. 

We started to look into applications for private schools (most of them were mentioned on this forum) and they all want teacher recommendations.  My son sometimes struggles with school - they're on a number system and he usually gets 2's and 3's on a scale of 1 to 4.  He always knows the material back and forth when we review it at home and every tutor he's had says he's bright and he knows the material, but he's not great at completing in-class assignments or performing on tests.  We weren't too worried - we thought maybe he just needed some time to grow and mature, but when we got him assessed for ADHD a couple months ago, the Psychologist also tested him for being gifted and told us he was.  She told us that his neurodiversity is impairing his ability to excel in school.  (this is what started us on a school search and ultimately this forum).  

His current and prior teachers are NOT going to write him favorable recommendations.  They all say he's distracted, doesn't focus, is sometimes lazy, is day dreaming.  We didn't share his diagnosis with his current teacher or ask her for accommodations (504 for example) because in our extensive communication with her this past month, we think she can be vindictive and that she's not supportive or nurturing at all. 

Has anyone had experience applying to schools when you're unable to produce good recommendations?  I do plan to contact the admissions offices of the schools we intend to apply to, but we were hoping for some general insight and to see what your experiences have been in this situation. 

Thanks so much.  

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Our child’s report card was not 100% glowing. Teachers have commented that our child was often distracted and needed to work on completing the assigned work. In our applications to private schools, we explained the struggles that our child had in public schools and how bored and unsupported they were. We got into multiple schools but ultimately we chose Aurora because of its small size, which is especially attractive during the pandemic, and reputation for excelling individualized education, inclusiveness  and warm support for 2e children. Teachers’ negative comments did not seem to impact our applications. But we did stress about it and made an effort to “rebut” what we thought would be negatives. We reached out to schools and asked if they would like letters from our child’s tutor/enrichment class teacher who have known them longer and better than the classroom teacher but Aurora said it wasn’t necessary. There are many kids who moved to private schools because public schools didn’t work for them, so I would not stress too much about the recommendation forms. The schools will also interview the child. We liked the fact that Aurora interviewed our child 1:1 virtually and made an effort to get to know us and our child during the application process. Our child is enjoying school for the first time in their life and is allowed increased recess time and body movement which are so helpful. They comment how much more attention they get in school and how much kinder everyone is at Aurora compared to their old school. Good luck!

Thanks so much for your feedback! That's really helpful and encouraging.  I really appreciate it.  

Those messages from the teachers are awful...lazy, dumb.  He is not either of those, as you know.  It's a brain difference.  Maybe check out Aurora or East Bay School for Boys, depending on what grade he's in.  Another mom told me about this, which is a great resource, (my son has ADHD, and is also 2e).

Wouldn’t a 2E school understand his complicated profile? My children went to a private K-12 school that probably wouldn’t have taken a child with bad (totally misunderstanding your child) teacher recs or Medicore grades but a special 2E school should! You’ll explain your child in your application! 

Most private schools are not equipped to support a child with ADD. It is not in your child's best interest to conceal or downplay the issues that go along with ADD that his current teachers have noticed. Your child could end up very frustrated, take a hit to his self esteem, and you may need to change schools again, which is disruptive and anxiety-producing for everyone. 

My child with Inattentive ADD was so tuned out that his teachers thought he had a hearing problem. This was at a private school where he'd been since kindergarten. No one at the school knew anything about ADD and could do little to support him. We decided to apply to other private schools. We did not provide teacher recommendations. He was accepted at only one of the schools we applied to, and he was only accepted there because they already knew our family. Later, when we applied to private middle schools, his 5th grade teacher was very transparent about what they'd write in the recommendations: that our son is a bright kid but has a lot of trouble staying focussed and rarely finishes assignments. None of the schools we applied to accepted him.  So we enrolled him in our local public middle school. This turned out to be a great choice.  He had a 504 plan, though the school already had in place the kinds of supports he needed, such as extra time on tests and teaching organizational skills. The school was big and diverse, and he was squarely in the middle range of students. He was no longer that one kid in the class with a focus problem.  He continued on to public high school after that, still with a 504, but now the school expected students to advocate for themselves, not the parents. Our kid could not do this and was falling through the cracks, so we started visiting private schools again.

At the high school level there are many more options for kids with learning difficulties (not so for younger grades). These schools specialize in supporting LD kids. For us it was a relief to work with a school that had expertise about our son's issues, and could give him tools to succeed beyond high school. We found a school that was a great fit, that challenged him academically while supporting his disability. 

So my advice is to be open with the schools you apply to about your son's learning difficulties, so they won't be surprised when his previous teachers report focus issues. Yes, you will be at a disadvantage if you don't provide teacher recommendations. There are some very small schools that say they specialize in 2E kids that will be happy to take your money, but I would be wary.  Public school might actually be the best choice for your kid, at least until high school, because you can request extra resources and support by obtaining a 504 or IEP.  Good luck and best wishes!

Thanks so much for the feedback and advise.  I really appreciate it.  We have been very transparent about our child's neurodiversity to the schools and they have been encouraging in an open dialogue.  I was wondering to the poster who sent their child to public and private schools, if you wouldn't mind sharing what public school district you found helpful for your child and what private school you found helpful?  

Thanks to everyone who responded.  Everyone here is so helpful and supportive.  I really appreciate this online community.