K-8 Schools for LD and Special Needs
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Questions about Elementary School
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?
Hi - I am a parent with two kids in special ed, my oldest is 16 so I have been fighting this battle for many years.
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
Our daughter went to Montclair's SDC too! We looked at the inclusion model at Seqouia, Cleveland's kinder where SPED teacher and GENED teacher teach side by side, NSH class in east oakland and the language-enriched K/1 NSH class at Bella Vista. We chose Bella Vista even though they discouraged us based on our daughter's global delays but in the end they conceded and I'm soooooo happy that was our daughter's kinder experience. Please ask to see the class even though they will discourage you based on diagnosis...it's still worthwhile to at least look at it.
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!
My son had a mild learning disability also, and went to an Oakland school. I found that, once I requested the testing and got an IEP for him, public school was by far the best route for us. He could go to the resource room whenever he needed help (no stigma either; kids were going in and out of the classroom for all sorts of reasons). He made great progress (no longer needs the IEP). But you do have to INSIST that the child get tested, and tell the teacher about the IEP once it's in place. Basically, you need to be your child's advocate.
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).
Find out what is going on. Act on this right away with your school - public I assume? Get the ball rolling with the teacher and the principal. We recently dealt with my daughter's learning difficulties (mostly reading issues, though there is mild language stuff too) in an Oakland public school. We started what is called the IEP process (Independent Eduction Program) . This began with requesting meetings with her teacher and the principal (in kindergarten and then again in 1st grade) and discussing the issues. Later we requested some testing - in writing. They are required to comply. Sure enough, she did come up with a disability that fit squarely into a category (auditory processing disorder) and qualified for resource help. At the same time, we researched and applied to private schools that were more developmentally based, and could go at her pace. Well, public school came through with flying colors and now she is going to a specialized reading program -one which targets her needs exactly - for the first half of her school day. As a parent, there was a lot of research and self-education involved, so hold on to your hat and go for it. DREDF (disability rights advocates) was super helpful in understanding the laws around ADA and education.
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
I'm going to give the same advice that I always give to parents of kids with a mild learning disability of any sort -- public school is the way to go. What you must do, though, is act as your child's advocate. You must request an evaluation for an IEP, in writing (which they then must give you within 60 days). If a disability is found which impacts her learning, there is federal funding available for the IEP. Your child can get additional help with problems from the resource teacher, school psychologist, speech pathologist, occupational therapist, and so on, all on the school site, and of no cost to you.
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
Our child sounds similar to yours. He has been thriving at Prospect Sierra . happy PS parents
I'm going to suggest that you reconsider public school. Please see my post under ''Need advice for mild learning disability'' a bit earlier in this newsletter for details. In general, public school can provide additional assistance and support for kids with learning difficulties, up to and including a full time aide, if indicated by the IEP (which you must formally request an evaluation for in writing). In private schools you generally have to pay for this out of pocket (and off campus), in addition to the tuition. Many private schools which are not specifically for kids with learning disabilities do not accept such kids, for this reason. Karen
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.
I'm sorry you are having a hard year. Please check out Berkwood Hedge School in Central Berkeley (www.berkwood.org). Here's a video with parents talking about their kids' experiences at the school, including the school's ability to meet kids where they are with their learning and allowing them to learn at their own pace. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5sshcRSbT9M It's one of the most established, well run, highly respected by educators and not terribly well known schools in the Bay Area. My child is thriving there. Jodi
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!
Look at The Berkeley School . It's on University Ave just a few blocks up from San Pablo. They are giving tours now. We like it a lot and I think you might like what you see there. JM
Our son is 7 and also has various sensory integration issues. And also, in class he keeps it together, but during the less structured time after class, it takes a lot for him to control himself. We found Montessori Family School in El Cerrito, and it's amazing. For starters, the teachers are great teachers. But they also work with our son and with us as parents putting together programs that help our son succeed. I know it's a challenge for them, but they understand sensory problems and take the challenge as an opportunity. Regarding classroom size: it's small. I don't know the exact number, but for instance, 10 kids and two teachers made up his kindergarten class. We have not had his former-OT come to class, but I believe some other kids have helpers for attention deficit problems and such. We are so thrilled about the school. bg
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
Aurora School , a K-5 independent school in the Oakland hills, fits your criteria. Aurora has been very good for my active 5th grade boy and for schoolmates with a wide variety of learning styles. I am happy to talk more one-to-one. Deborah
Montessori Family School , with the k-8 located in El Cerrito, is a wonderful gem of a school that addresses the needs of the individual student. Because it is a Montessori school the children progress at their own pace and are guided to make their own discoveries by means of engaging with meaningful and mulit-sensory materials. More than this, however, is the fact that the teachers and staff are knowledgable and supportive all of types of learners.
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
Anu, I am at the other end of raising children - as my son, who had several learning problems including auditory processing is just about to graduate from college. He was diagnosed at 6 and was attending Montessori Family School in Berkeley. I found that because of the way they taught (small circles with several children and a teacher only a few feet away) and their awareness of his learning style, that he was able to do work around the problems. I would recommend a small classroom situation (and would recommend Montessori Family School) in addition to learning specialists as your daughter gets a little older. Amy
Questions about Middle & High School
Our daughter has been diagnosed with a significant executive function / working memory deficit. She now attends 5th grade in a small private school in the East Bay where she is allowed a part-time aide for core academic work. For middle school, we were advised to switch her to a school that can offer a more individualized curriculum to suit her needs. Our daughter does not have any socio-emotional adjustment issues. So we are looking for a school that specializes in academic disabilities. In the East Bay, Raskob in Oakland and Springstone in Lafayette were recommended to us. Any feedback about these schools would be greatly appreciated. Our understanding is that Springstone used to cater mainly to students with Asperger's spectrum disorder. But apparently, the administration is changing course and focusing more on pure academic disabilities. Is this true? (The Sterne School and Star Academy are the other options. But transportation to/from our home in Oakland is a major factor for us to rule out these two schools.) Thank you for your advice!
My son is at Star Academy. They have a van! For most kids it's door to door or close. There are a lot of east bay kids there, so it's probably worth keeping on your list. Star 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
Sterne School 6-12 San Francisco
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
There's a new high school in Oakland Bayhills which I understand has sprung from Raskob Day school. Depending on your child's needs there's Springstone (middle and high school) in Lafayette and Orion (high school) in Moraga. Best wishes
Charles Armstrong has a great middle school. However, commuting from the east bay can be exhausting. Feel free to call the school, and ask to speak to east bay parents. There are several that go there each year. anon
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.
I highly recommend Children's Learning Center (CLC), which is a private school for learning disabilities in Alameda. (click for full review)
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.
A Brighter Today Oakland
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
I would invite you to visit our website at www.cedu.com and look at Boulder Creek Academy. It is specifically designed for adolescents with specicial needs academically as well as the emotional needs which often follow. If you need additional information on other schools or referrals of educational consultants who can help with these issues-- please call me. Sharon Kyle-Kuhn 831-688-4434. I am the area director for CEDU and may can provide information regarding other schools as well. In addition, I work with many ed consultants in the bay area and would be happy to share their names and phone numbers. sharon kyle-kuhn
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
I am a special education advocate, a volunteer with the East Bay Learning Disabilities Association, and the guardian of a teenager with LD.
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
You might wish to try Our School (formerly The Elmwood School, a Waldorf-inspired school that branched off from the EB Waldorf). They are small enough to accomodate a special child as yours seems to be. In addition, since we have a child with the characteristics ''oppositional-defiant'', creativity and spirit, I would like to suggest you check out THE EXPLOSIVE CHILD by Ross Greene, PhD. He gives parents a different take on this type behavior, with enormous compassion and understanding, laying out tools and suggestions for both parents and teachers. He even makes suggestions on picking the right school for your child. This ia a new book but in paper.
We tried the private school route for our child, but without success, so he is now in public school and doing remarkably well.
We have a son with a similar personality. We were concerned about his going to public school, as we were afraid that there would not be enough resources for him. We applied to a number of private schools in the area, and were turned down by all of them. I get the sense that many of the private schools are looking for smart, yet compliant kids. We ended up going to a Berkeley Public school and have had a very good experience. Mostly it is because his teacher is wonderful; very caring, yet straightforward regarding rules, the type of behavior that is expected of the class, etc. Working together with her, we have turned what started out as a very rocky experience for him into a pretty positive school experience. anon
Frankly, if I were you, I'd be looking into public school. We have a child with Oppositional Behaviors and no private school would accept him. I think a lot of them felt that he would be much too disruptive. Public School's mission is to educate every child, not just every convenient child.
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.
To the mom of the ''defiant'' child - I can only guess that is your first foray into the choice of schools beause you seem a bit overly concerned about how your child's independent nature will be viewed as a negative.
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