K-8 Schools for LD and Special Needs

Parent Q&A

  • School for 9 year old with significant working memory/language delays

    (2 replies)

    We have a sweet 9 year old girl who is currently a 4th grade student in our local public school. Despite all of the help she is getting, she was recently assessed at 2 years behind- so testing at a second grade level. She has significant language delays due to years of uncontrolled absence seizures. We are told she has little to no working memory, has major language deficits (in both receptive and expressive language) and has poor executive function. She is a super hard worker and aims to please but she is just stuck where she’s at and is not able to communicate w her peers. Do you know of a school or program that would be able to help her? Scared and feel like we keep losing time. 

    TIA

    Here's a learning resource that may be helpful to you:

    https://www.scilearn.com/who-it-is-for

    https://www.scilearn.com/for-parents

    This is a scientifically-validated program that uses specially-designed interactive software "games" to gradually improve working memory and audio processing (foundational skills that support language).The program can be done DIY online or with the support of a clinical specialist. Hope this helps, best of luck to you. 

    I've heard Raskob https://raskobinstitute.org/day-school/who-we-serve/  being a great school.  

    We didn't attend there but I would look there or similar. 

    Good Luck, 

    Chris

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  • Schools for Learning Differences Grade 2

    (1 reply)

    Hi, I am looking to move my second grader to a new school.  We need a school that can teach a bright, social, vocal girl who also has various learning differences.  My daughter needs a multi sensory learning environment with teachers who understand how to support a child with ADD/ADHD, Sensory Integration difficulties, and mild behavior challenges.  My daughter is 7.5, but has the social compete of a  kid closer to 6.5 (weak executive functioning, and needs support with some social cues).  My daughter is currently in a main stream private school- she thrived in kindergarten and first grade, however due to new teachers, and some changes in supports provided by the school we are struggling.   I need a school that can take some time modify her school work so that she can keep up with the pace of a classroom- or at least be aware when she may feel overwhelmed.   I am searching for a school with an excellent learning specialist and hopefully a strong social emotional component as well (ideally with a specialist on staff).

    I would love advice on choosing a school that supports kids with learning differences.  My daughter will be in 3rd grade in 2019/2020.

    Thank you!

    I would check out Walden Center and Schoo, in Berkeley. They are responsive to individual child needs and are willing to make adjustments to suit the child and family. They would absolutely be open to having your child work with an ed therapist during school hours and have both a child psychologist and ed therapist on staff.

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  • Private school for speech delayed child

    (3 replies)

    Hello, So we have a year or two for this, but we have a 3.5 year old who will be starting at well regarded preschool this school year. We may or may not hold her back a year before starting kindergarten (that's a whole other post), but my husband recently brought up the possibility of private school for when our daughter is ready to enter kindergarten. Our daughter has expressive speech delay and a bit slower cognitive processing delay compared to her peers. We will be living in Castro Valley which I know has a good school system. Still, we can't help wondering if enrolling her in private school for K-8 would be a better fit for her. Specifically, at this time, we are considering Our Lady of Grace for when she is ready to start kindergarten. She is quiet and extremely sensitive and, especially given her delays, I feel like a lower student: teacher ratio would really benefit her ( but of course, what child wouldn't benefit from this?). My questions are these: 1. Has anyone sent their child/ren to Our Lady of Grace in Castro Valley and have any insight into the quality of education there? 2. Are there are any other other East Bay private schools that we should consider that seem like a good fit for a speech delayed, generally slower developing and highly sensitive child? 3. Should we just scrap the notion that private school education would be a better fit for our child, and does anyone have personal positive experience with the Castro Valley public school system in supporting their special needs child? Btw, sorry for any run-on sentences.

    Sorry I can't respond to your question about school enrollment, but I wonder whether you have contacted your public school district to have your child evaluated and to see what services are available right now?  My grandson had speech therapy services from his public school district beginning when he was three until he began kindergarten and then continued to receive therapy when he began school.

    If your child is 3.5 and has speech delay, the school district is on the hook for speech therapy, provided she is evaluated through the school district and found by them to have delays. This holds true whether or not you put her in private school. That said, private schools are not obligated to go along with any particular  recommendation or IEP required intervention or accommodation. That means that your child could get a service plan through your home school district starting now, but if your kid goes to a private school from K forward, a lot  of it would likely not transfer over to that setting. Any therapies offered such as Speech, OT and PT would have to be done outside of the private school and the school would not have to recognize any educational planning or consultation with professionals. Sooo, if your kid’s delay is significant, public school is the way to go. Laws that ensure your kid gets a free and appropriate education  (FAPE) are enforceable in public schools but none of it applies to private. In fact, if your kid proves to be too high maintenance, the school does not have to accept her or extend re enrollment the next year. Truth be told, just because the parents pony up big bucks for private education, the school does not have to show your kid has learned anything or even follow state curriculum standards. There is zero accountability. And my kid has had 6 years of private education and is so far behind on basic skills we’re going to have to home school or micro school her next year with supplemental muy expensive tutoring to prepare her for public school.  Although she likely would have struggled in public, at least in the beginning, we could have maybe qualified her for an IEP, or at the very least we would have had the extra money to fill in the gaps that we simply could not afford in private school.

    in sum, think carefully before going the private route if you already know there is a delay.

    Best of luck!

    It might worth talking to the Director, Michele Hamilton at Pear Tree Community School about your daughter. She can be reached at admissions [at] peartreecs.com. My daughter attends the school and we are very happy and although she is cognitively and verbally precocious, she is slow to warm up and sensitive. She was just diagnosed with a sensory processing issue as well as anxiety. I do know that one of her classmates, who has been with Pear Tree since preschool was speech delayed and is doing very well academically. We did a year at our local public school, which is considered a "good" school and it was tough on our whole family, but it was not a Castro Valley school. It is great that you are figuring out your options now, although your daughter will also have a lot more skills by the time she is ready for TK or K, the change happens quickly, though I see my daughter has not "grown out" of some of her fundamental struggles, which I now see have been present all along. Best of luck in your search.

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  • Seeking placement/program for a child with SLD - Dyslexia, fine motor coordination issues, ADHD, severe

    (2 replies)

    My 9 child has special needs and is no longer in the public education system (we pulled him because it was going so badly).  He's not able to read and has been moved six times within the district.

    I'm seeking a placement/program and having many issues trying to find a private school to take him and wondering if there is a program that can be created.  I'm open to some creative and more traditional placments/programs.  

    Interested in district placements with supports and what worked for your kid.  

    Interested in private placments

    Interested in home school options

    He does better in a 1:1 setting or small group for learning as he has ADHD and it's severe.

    What has been successful for your child and have you put together a program if one doesn't exist?

    My son was 9 when we pulled him out of our local public school. He has ADHD, fine motor issues, etc., had been able to make some progress academically, but was completely miserable. We initially tried a charter school, but eventually ended up homeschooling (which is something I never expected to be doing). It has been a definite, though not easy, success. He is enrolled in a charter school independent study program, so we get some funds to spend on academics and enrichment. The ability to be at home, away from the social stresses and distractions of school, has made a huge impact on his ability to learn. Three years ago he was definitely academically behind. Now he is advanced, and loves taking online classes while wearing a headset. After using no technology at all the first year, we added one or two self-paced online classes, and now he is doing 4 online classes including one live class. Even this class is great, because the teacher can just turn off the kids' microphones when she is talking, and then pair them up in small groups to work. Much less distracting than sitting in an actual classroom! He still does after school activities that he enjoys and sees friends. When you homeschool, you can tailor your child's education to exactly what they need. You can spend an hour each day on phonics, or go hiking. It's extremely flexible, and when something isn't working, you can change it immediately. I never thought it would be something I could manage with my kid, who is certainly still not easy, but I'm so glad I did! Good luck!

    You might want to look into a micro-school which generally offers one-on-one support but in a small group setting. Our child doesn't have the severity of yours but it's been a great fit. There's In+Addition on the Berkeley/Albany border and Sunnyside on Grand in Oakland (which works specifically with 2E/neurodivergent kids so you might want to call them first). Good luck! 

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  • Middle School Advice for Exec Dysfunctional Kid with Anxiety

    (7 replies)

    What strategies have families used to help kids with executive dysfunction and/or anxiety manage the transition from elementary to a big middle school, with 7 different teachers and classrooms per day, and increased responsibilities? Or what private middle schools are recommended for a more "gentle" middle school experience (such as not changing classes every hour, limited homework policy, etc.)? Thanks in advance.

    I want to chime in about private middle school vs. public middle school for a kid with learning differences. My son with severe ADD (no hyperactivity but serious attention deficit including executive function) was not accepted at any of the private middle schools we applied to, including some of those recommended to you. So he instead attended a Berkeley public middle school, Willard, armed with a 504 plan as recommended by his developmental pediatrician. He had an absolutely wonderful experience.  Even though he was transitioning from a tiny K-6 private school, and he knew almost no one at the new middle school, he adjusted quickly and had a surge in learning and academic skills during his two years there. Almost all of his teachers were very receptive to the idea of learning differences and supportive of him as well as all the kids, de-emphasizing busy work and instead focusing on whether they were learning the material. Because of the much larger student body, my child was able to find like-minded souls who he has remained friends with into high school. And by the way, in 6th grade most public middle schools do not have multiple teachers with multiple classrooms.  At least in Berkeley and Oakland (and probably others) 6th graders have only 2 teachers and are fairly isolated from the 7th and 8th graders, with the intention of transitioning them from elementary school to middle school.

    Good luck! Middle school can be fun!

    I had these same concerns for my son (just starting 8th grade this year) who has similar issues. We were also concerned about the potential for slipping through the cracks without anyone to help our son navigate that kind of environment. As we started to feel the pressure to be more organized/independent and socially/environment savvy in 5th grade  (which frankly started feeling like a whole family issue rather than just one for my son), we realized that if there was one time to invest in developing the needed skills, the middle school years are the time and place. A friend recommended The Berkeley School --which I swear is the East Bay's best kept secret-- and it has been the one thing that has made our lives easier. I had always been a "my kids are going to public school!" advocate and had never even considered private school but realized that our district just didn't have the capacity (and/or expertise?) to have a whole child focus and that we really needed a skilled school team that understood--and could support the needs of--the nebulous area of executive functioning, etc. In thinking about private schools, we were concerned about finding a balance between strong academics, the social/emotional support, not too big/small, and not feeling like we were the middle class folk in a universe of different values/resources. 

    We definitely found the right balance at TBS. From the orientation onward, TBS emphasized that its staff prioritized supporting the executive functioning needs of its middle schoolers (without singling out it in any way) and in the three years that we have been there, has lived up to that mission. I was struck by your inclusion of the word "gentle" in your question because that is usually the word that I use to describe our TBS experience. (We have since also moved our other child over to the TBS elementary school). And not meant in a coddling sense but rather the school's approach to supporting the whole child. When I am at the school, it feels gentle. It feels calm. It feels like thoughtful effort goes into everything. And the teachers are super dialed in to the kids. I have seen my son blossom in ways I never could have imagined (seriously!). If I could do my own middle school experience over, I would want to be there. The academics are strong yet the school is down to earth.

    Looking back at our earlier (read: more stressful) years, I invested in every strategy, book, therapist/specialist, and constant communication with teachers but the ROI was not there. At TBS, they want to know what kind of support we want/need. I actually can just drop my kids off without worry--which, for those of us who have a more complicated family experience, is not just refreshing, it is actually sanity saving--because I know that the entire staff is committed to helping my kid navigate the day and build the skills to navigate the future. I would definitely recommend checking out The Berkeley School to see if it's a fit. When we were looking, we liked Prospect Sierra too but felt TBS was a better match.

    My daughter is a 7th Grader at The Berkeley School (TBS), and I cannot recommend TBS's Middle School program highly enough - for any student. The school-wide philosophy recognizing and celebrating diversity of all kinds - including neurodiversity - is deeply embedded in the Middle School program at TBS, and is a cornerstone of the pedagogical approach in its classrooms. The learning environment is both rigorous and manageable for students. Teachers pay close attention to every student's needs as learners, and provide individualized attention accordingly. The learning specialists at TBS provide additional bridges to learning when necessary - something which my daughter has benefitted from for nearly every one of the 10 years she has been a student at the school. 

    Please come and see if TBS might be a good fit for your child. I know that a visit to the campus will immediately reflect what our children all feel there: a sense of intimacy, ownership, community and pride in themselves as learners. 

    My situation is similar to the long response you received on 9/4, with the exception that my child has major depressive disorder and social phobia (anxiety). It wasn't until I paid for a neuropsych by East Bay Family Institute, http://eastbayfamilyinstitute.com, that she was properly diagnosed. The consultation with the testing technician was invaluable! After being hospitalized for severe depression the school finally agreed to assess her. The school district psychologist reached the same conclusions that East Bay Family Institute had reached. Then my child was finally given an IEP (Individualized Education Program). My child is finally thriving and getting the resources and accommodations she needs to excel.

    Best of luck to you.

    This is a tough one.  I was in a similar situation with my child a number of years ago, although my child also has ADHD.  I tried many, many, different strategies.  Some worked, some worked for a while, some didn't work at all.  And, different kids respond differently to the various strategies, a lot has to do with temperament of both child and those supporting the child.  In general, it is very difficult to get solid support for EF challenges. A couple of suggestions:

    Start by reading "Smart but Scattered". 

    If you have not yet had a neuro-educational assessment with recommendations done, consider doing so with a reputable, independent agency.  In my experience, this is much better than having the school assess.  Morrissey-Compton on the Peninsula is excellent.  I am not familiar with such resources in the East Bay, but if you call M-C they might be able to make a referral.

    On the home front: Put in place systems to support your child.  Get ideas from the assessment report recommendations, the book I suggested, and other sources you trust.  Consider finding a good academic coach (different than a tutor who typically addresses academic subject content) if you think your child will resist working with you or if you are not up to or able to take on the task.

    Get a good therapist involved, and if it makes sense, consider anti-anxiety medication.  As kids get older, anxiety can present as anger, often intense anger, particularly if your child is a boy.  If your child is very bright, it's important to find someone who is knowledgeable of both anxiety and giftedness - they often go hand-in-hand.

    On the school front: Once you have the assessment report and recommendations, and if your child is settled in middle school and you are seeing problems, or the teacher(s) is/are noticing problems, consider putting the wheels in motion with the school to get accommodations.  Start by requesting an SST (Student Study Team) meeting.  Do your research on 504 and IEP plans.  Different schools are more or less receptive to 504 and IEP plans.  Decide if it makes sense for your child given your child's school.  Even though my child was no where near meeting potential, the school was reluctant to grant an IEP because my child hadn't failed a grade and was managing to just get by year to year.  Other schools are more supportive of bright but struggling students.

    Take care of yourself, you may be in this for a long haul.  Hopefully your path will be straight-forward.  Mine has been very difficult.  After all else has failed, my teenager has moved to a boarding school that has a strong program in place to support such types of students.  We are hopeful.

    Good luck on your journey.

    Hi there - you might want to check out Raskob Institute. Our son who was diagnosed with ADD in 3rd grade just graduated middle school and is now on to high school! Class sizes are very small and they have to tools and teachers to work with different learning challenges. There are 2 teachers in every classroom, one of them a special ed teacher. Definitely a very gently experience even though they still change class rooms. However homework is very limited and with the home work club in place it was a very manageable experience. Wishing you good luck in your search! 

    My son goes to Orinda Academy which has been an amazing experience for him. The small school environment is helpful for low stress transitions and no one slips through the cracks. OA is grades 8-12, however I wanted to share that a lot of our students come from Raskob. I don't have personal experience, but I've heard many good things about it for kids like ours.

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  • East Bay School for 8YO with Dyslexia and ADHD

    (4 replies)

    My 8YO son has dyslexia and ADHD. He struggles in the typical public classroom with 25+ students both academically and socially. He just finished the Lindamood-Bell program and is doing great with his reading, but we have seen that he needs the smaller class size so he doesn't get distracted as easily. He often complains that he is getting bullied at school and called names. I am looking for a private school that would have a smaller class size and a more nurturing environment. Any recommendations?

    Hi 

    I'm sorry for your troubles.  We have a 9 year with dyslexia.  It is encouraging to find that Lindamood bell helped.  Some info.  If you want to go full on dyslexic school, there are many from the east bay that carpool to Charles Amrstrong in Belmont.  It is 200 kids all dyslexic.  And ADHD often goes along with it.  No bullying. And my son is convinced he is super smart.  Some parents go for a cloupke of years. In public school, it was hard to fight for resources once my son reached "grade level".   Private schools you might choose nice and small.  You will likely have to supplement.  

    Two programs.  Foundations is used at Berkeley School.  1 st to 3 Rd. And that is the program Amrstrong uses. Math made real is used at several schools and is based in Berkeley.  We found there was not one solution but decided private plus supplement worked for our son.  

    Some ideas for your son.  Other famous dyslexics? In London in told the reserve a track for dyslexics at the top schools because so many are Brillant at math and science.   Finding places where he can succeed in other areas.  

    Also Debbie Vielbaum former head of admission ls at Charles Armatrong has a consulting practice under Vielbaum consulting.   She has worked with famikies transitioning out of Amrstrong into public and private. 

    Several schools come to mind, but many are in the South Bay.  The ones that come to mind in the East Bay are Raskob, which is in Oakland and is a school geared for kids with ADHD and dyslexia and has low ratios in the classrooms and integrated therapies.  We toured their in the past and I was impressed, but we didn't end up there.  Your post doesn't mention whether math is an issue- some kids with dyslexia also have math learning affected.  The other school that comes to mind is Da Vinci school for Gifted Children in Alameda- they are a very low ratio school (5:1) and I've heard several kids with ADHD have done well there.  Don't let the "gifted" wording throw you off- there is no testing involved, and its really a description to indicate social emotional learning needs as well as asynchronous development where they can be "gifted" in one thing and way behind in something else.  Also, check out EdRev website for a listing of other schools that teach to different learning modes- you may be surprised at the options that are now all over the Bay Area.  Good luck!

    Check out Raskob, they may have the programming your son needs. Best of luck!!! I am so so sorry that your son is being bullied. 

    I am very sorry to hear about the bullying, which the school should be completely on top of preventing. However, moving to a private school is a double-edged sword, because private schools don't have the same obligations to provide an equal education to students with special needs. (See recent posts on this.) Some do, of course, but it's more voluntary. There are private middle and high schools focused on special needs students but I am not aware of a local private elementary school that does. My 3rd grade son has an IEP for a variety of conditions (including ADHD, in process of diagnosis) at his public school in the WCCUSD and I am certain he would do better in a smaller classroom - as would all the kids in his class! - BUT, the tradeoff is he wouldn't be getting his current level of service in school for free. And this year anyway there were only 19 kids in his classroom, you can't really do better than that. I have been reading about some auditory therapy used at Suma Kids in Concord to help minimize environmental distractions, and we may pursue that outside of school.

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  • Best public schools for MS & HS students with dyslexia

    (2 replies)

    Hi, I am moving to SF next month. I will temporarily be living in SF for a few months before we buy a home somewhere in the Bay Area (most likely East Bay along the BART line or down to SSF. I am looking for recommended schools to try to get into that successfully address middle school students with dyslexia. 

    I would not consider public schools based our experience. We were actually told that unless a child is two grade levels behind, public schools will not provide adequate assistance.  

    Our experience in the Piedmont School district was terrible for learning disabilities (dysgraphia). We had an IEP and our child scored 12 grade level in all standardized tests from the first year in middle school. These tests are used by the public schools to show how great the schools are. Yet the school ignored the tests when we tried to keep our child in regular classes but ask for assistive technologies or other assistance. We had outside testing that stated that our child was gifted. Yet no matter how much we fought, paid outside advocates, our child was placed in remedial classes. Our child was not on tract for getting into college. Millennium High School was not a better option.

    We eventually went to a private school and our child is not only thriving but in advanced classes.

    I would consider private schools with proven track records of assistance for learning disabilities. After being in two highly rated and wealthy public school districts, that public schools just do not treat intelligent students with learning disabilities as capable of achieving along with their peers.

    It really depends on what your child needs. Piedmont is known for having high quality public schools with good support for students with learning disabilities. It has an alternative public high school called Millenium which is reputed to serve students with special needs well. No public schools in the area that I know of do an adequate job at remediation. It can be a lot of work to fight at schools for accommodations. You might want to post again with more information about your child and the specific needs. Berkeley Unified is facing a class-action lawsuit for inadequately serving kids with dyslexia. 

    http://www.berkeleyside.com/2017/05/03/lawsuit-says-berkeley-unified-fai...

    If your son needs a lot of support you could consider Raskob, a private K-8 school for students with learning disabilities. From there your son could go to Bayhill High School in Berkeley for high school.

    Good luck!

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  • Middle schools support kids with poor working memory in East Bay

    (1 reply)

    Hi Community,

    I have a daughter who has no behavioural issues but struggles academically. She attends a one to one school and is coping with the work. She has been diagnosed with poor working memory, which results in difficulty following multi-step instruction and she struggles to retain information. We moved to WC, she attends a one to one school, but has no social engagement. Can anyone please suggest any other middle schools that could provide her with support, and the social aspects that are missing?

    Orinda Academy has grade 8 and focuses on students with executive functioning issues, slow processing, and mild-moderate learning differences.  It's a great school with a lot of built in structure to the day and 8:1 student teacher ratio, and learning support coordinator.  You can email me with more questions.

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  • What options do LD children who can't afford private schools have?

    (5 replies)

    Does anyone know of a good public MS and/or HS that has a good program for LD children? I have two children with LD and they are both struggling in the public school system. I can't afford to send them to a private school. 

    As others have mentioned, every child is different and LDs are so varied that what works for one student may not work for another.  IMy comment is just directed at private school cost.  We would never have considered private school for our daughter with LD until public school absolutely wasn't working despite lots of advocacy on our part.  We are middle-income parents ($160,000 for family of 4) and were able to get significant financial aid (2/3 of cost of tuition) for middle and high school.  It depends on a lot of different factors and you need to advocate for yourself/your kid, but if you have 2 kids with LD, I am sure you know all about advocating! Coming up with the remaining 1/3 was still a stretch, but it was definitely the right thing (for us).

    Have you thought about applying for financial aid? We go to Orinda Academy and it has been a great help to my LD son! They offer 8-12th grade and serve a large LD population. It is a warm, supportive environment that helps the kids feel welcomed right away. There is a Learning Support Coordinator that can work with you to identify the best learning tools to help your students. There is an open house coming up April 19th in the evening. I will be there or you can always message me with questions.

    I totally feel your pain... my daughter is in 10th grade and has ADHD.  I haven't been able to find any good public schools that handle LD's well, and I also think that private schools aren't necessarily the answer either.  I actually just took my daughter out of her high school and she's going to do K12 public school online with a tutor.

    I highly recommend Educational Therapist Amy Cheifetz who has been extremely empowering for my daughter and me.  She's amazing and would be a good resource for you.   Amy's contact info is (510) 207-2995.  She completely changed our lives for the better and I can't say enough how awesome she is.  Good luck!

    Hi there! I'm sorry for your struggle. As the parent of a LD child in a private school my experience is while some have (limited) resource departments, they are not really equipped (or meant) to fully remediate your child, especially if their LD's are moderate to severe. So 'private school' per se is not necessarily an answer (unless you mean schools ONLY for LD students). I would suggest the route of hiring an Ed Therapist to work with your children as often as you can afford in conjunction with their regular school. I can't speak to the IEP process but assume you have gone that route as well. Wishing you and your kids all the best!

    This is what Ive learned.

    As our kids mature, it is important to have current comprehensive testing, whose responsibility belongs to your school district. So you need to advocate strongly that your district perform testing on your children to understand the degree of disability and the best practice to intervene. You may need an educational advocate to help you with this process, and you can find a list of advocates through DREDF. We used Toby Adams, toby.adams [at] gmail.com with great results.  

    There are great NPS and Public Charters schools in the Bay Area like Orion Academy, Phillips Academy, and Realm Charter School, who are stakeholders committed to equity education. Our experience at BUSD was less than satisfactory.

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  • School district recommendation for Gifted and Special Needs kids

    (1 reply)

    Hi-I am returning to the Bay Area after 3 years in NJ.  I'd like to talk to parents about schools and districts.  I imagine that there are tons of posts but haven't been able to find any recent ones. So my apologies if this is a recurring theme.

    I have twins, boy/girl, currently going into 5th-last year of elementary.  My son is in a STEM magnet and my daughter is in Special Education classes. She has ADHD, Dyslexia, Sensory Processing Disorder.  She is concrete and gets two 1/2 private lessons at school to understand nuances and be able to follow multiple directions given at the same time.  She is mainstreamed with an aide (paraprofessional) for Science and Social Studies.  She is in the resource room for Language Arts and Math.  She is at grade level for Math but learns differently.  For instance, she will never be able to memorize the multiplication table but can calculate quickly using her fingers or manipulatives.  She is a year behind in reading but is progressing nicely. She has difficulty with her peer group as she hasn't quite figured out the "girl rules" though she understands things way beyond her years.  She has no behavioral problems. 

    I am looking for a  public school/district that can accommodate both kids before we decide where to settle.  So - essentially - I am shopping for schools - in particular 6th grade and up as I have a year to figure this out.  We can't afford private.  The special education departments won't talk to me until I am a resident of the district.  But I can't settle in one area until I am comfortable that my children will thrive emotionally in the schools.  So I in a bit of a bind.  I don't think we could afford Lamorinda unless I am missing something in the real estate market.

    Schools and community are my number one priority.  Then distance from work. I commute to SF, sometimes to Silicon Valley and work from home.  My husband commutes to San Mateo and to job sites around the Bay.  We do have a bit of flexibility with hours.  We can handle up to 1.5 hours of commuting each way (we do more to go the NYC now.) 

    Please help. Personal experience, examples, resources to get information would be so appreciated!

    Thanks,

    Deb

    Albany, if you want to live in the East Bay. Lafayette on the other side of the hills. I don't know the districts on the Penninsula, but given your commutes San Mateo might be a logical place to check out.

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School for 9-year-old with IEP for hearing loss

Jan 2013

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


 

Kindergarten recommendations for Down syndrome

Jan 2013

 

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


 

Need advice for kindergartener's mild learning disability

Sept 2012

 

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


 

Private elementary/k-8 - son with mild apraxia

Sept 2012

 

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


 

Private or Public School for 5 yr old speech delay

Dec 2011

 

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


 

School for sensory seeking 1st grader

Nov 2011

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


 

Schools - children with different learning styles

April 2011

 

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


 

Kindergarten for son w/Auditory Processing Disorder

March 2010

 

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


Schools for Learning-Disabled 5th grade Student

Nov 2015

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


School for intelligent child with learning issues

Sept 2007

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

Recommended:

Sterne School 6-12 San Francisco


Looking for an LD School for Middle/High School

Feb 2007

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


Special Ed Program for 11-y-o with ''Emotional Disturbance''

May 2006

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)


 

Learning Disabled 1st grade classroom?

July 2005

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.
Recommended:

A Brighter Today Oakland


 

School for slow learning 7th grader

Aug. 2004

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


 

Need to get 13yo assessed for learning disorder

April 2003

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.


 

School for Defiant Child

October 2002

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.

Another parent



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