Which Elementary School for LD and Special Needs?

Parent Q&A

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  • My child has just been diagnosed with learning disabilities, and it was recommended to us that she be put into a special day class at a different school from where she is currently attending. We are in Castro Valley. Despite the lauded reputation of CVUSD, I have been displeased with the way this district has handled things from the very beginning when we first enrolled our child for special services as a preschooler.

    Long story, but basically, we are planning on transitioning her (actually, there is no "transition".. she will just have to change schools again) to the special day program so that she can obtain the recommended special services. In the future, though, we are strongly considering private school for her as we feel that the school district just throws its recommendations around with complete disregard for parents (first, they were trying to force her to start kindergarten before we felt she was ready, now they are "strongly" recommending she be put into this special day class asap and even brought up the possibility of disenrolling her completely from the school district if we didn't move her to the special day class ASAP. I won't even get into what a headache it was to get her even enrolled in special services before all this or how they lost my online account multiple times. I've had it with this school district.)

    I guess my question is specifically for those parents who have kids with special learning needs, delays, or need for special services and who have experience getting the services and quality education for their kids in the public school setting vs. private school setting. Was there any improvement in the private school setting? If you have a child with learning needs who attended private school, please share your experiences and if you would recommend this route or continue dealing with the public school system. 

    There is also the issue of trying to find childcare in the public school setting. Going to public school is actually not "free" as one still needs to find childcare, and the school system absolutely has no resources whereas in the private school setting, it seems to be included.

    In my experience, public school has more services that they can offer than private schools do. But that's typical private schools, there are also more therapeutic schools called non-public schools (NPS). You have to demonstrate that the district can't meet your child's needs in order for them to pay for an NPS placement - sometimes you can pay out of pocket but it's prohibitively expensive for most people ($50k/year). I've heard through the grapevine that Castro Valley is particularly bad for special ed, I think the state education department might even be investigating them right now due to complaints. I'd recommend connecting with other CVUSD sped parents, they will be your best resource - there are facebook groups and it's worth it to be on facebook just for those connections. You should also contact DREDF to better understand your rights. They cannot disenroll you for not accepting a placement. Good luck, this sounds really hard.

    Hi, I'm also in CVUSD.  We have terrible rep for SPED.  There is a private FaceBook group called "CVUSD SPED Awareness, IEP Support & Advocacy"  that offers lots of advice and resources.  You can also contact Dredf to get an advocate's advice.  The law gives you options for least restrictive environment in the public schools...so not knowing your circumstances, sounds like you're at the beginning of the process.  You can always call for IEP meeting and bring an advocate with you.  Good luck!  I still go back and forth looking for a good fit private but haven't found that either.

    I'm sorry that you've been thrown around so much by the public schools. I'd caution against assuming that just because a school is private, it will provide more in terms of instructional and extra curricular resources.

    I am a private school teacher with utmost respect for my colleagues and am most familiar with schools in SF and the peninsula. In my experience, a private school is only better *if* it specializes in the learning profile of your child. Most private schools do a great job of supporting middle range students (including middle-low and middle-high), but do not have the resources to differentiate at extreme ends of the spectrum.

    I'm sure there are some private schools that provide child care for free--I'm more familiar with a sliding scale model and expect that it's more common in the bay area. I'd also look closely at the vacation calendars. You may find that there are fewer school days than in the public schools.

    Good luck!

    I'll be interested to read the responses of those with LD kids in public school. As you asked about private, our DD was diagnosed as dyslexic in 2nd grade while attending a parochial school. Though we could have gone through our local public school district for evaluation we opted for testing through UC Berkeley's Psychology Department. Unless they are LD private schools specifically for LD students, most private and parochial schools are not really equipped to fully 'remediate' their LD students. In our case, we opted out of the school LD services (due to an employee we found wholly incompetent) and paid out of pocket for LD support through a certified Educational Therapist. Fast forward to today, our student is on the Honor Roll in high school and only receives occasional support and has minimal accommodations. 

    If you are confident in your child's diagnosis through the school district then great, If not, I highly recommend UC's program for testing. Then I would keep up the fight with the district and invest your money not in private school but in your child as you are able with private therapy, the younger you start the better. I encourage you to find a CERTIFIED Ed Therapist - not just a 'tutor' as the training is much more rigorous. As the parent of an LD kid, I don't think you can really rely on any school to be on top of this, Good luck!

    Feel free to contact me privately. In short, private schools don't have the same legal mandates to provide services so it really depends on the school, their bandwidth, and your ability to trust that whatever services are offered going in, will consistently be offered, and revised as needed. I know some families with kids with different needs end up moving from private to public schools.

    My daughter is now 24, so my opinions aren't based on recent experiences.  But if I could do it all over again, I would keep my severely ADD daughter in public school.  We live in Oakland.  She went to public school for elementary, a private middle school and a charter high school.  The private school was small, which was good, but it didn't have the resources -- nor was it legally required -- to provide special ed services.  It made accommodations such as putting my daughter in the front row of classes, but that's about it.  The charter high school was required to provide services, but despite being in Oakland,  its regulation or management was handled by a school district in Grass Valley, which covered many, many charter schools.  (There's a word for that, but I forget what it is.)  At the time my daughter needed services, the special ed person was really rigid, and her abiding goal was not to have the district spend any money.  The upshot is that my daughter floundered through high school (she nearly dropped out) and her sense of herself as "dumb" never changed.  Obviously, private schools vary, and you didn't mention charter schools, but as public schools are legally required to provide services, I think you're on safer ground there. 

    My son (now in 7th grade) has ADHD, dyslexia & dysgraphia. He was at a public elementary school in Berkeley where the staff seemed to be absolutely mystified by his LD issues--which are completely common! The school psych even did testing and missed both the dyslexia & dysgraphia, which were both pretty obvious to us as parents. I was pretty flabbergasted. We ended up gettin the school district to pay for an outside assessment and then have both pushed for accommodations at school and paid for an outside specialist (who we then filed against the school district to pay for - you can do that, ask DREDF). 

    We thought public middle school would be a big load because of size and chaos, so we applied to private middle schools. We felt that after the help he got in elementary, his disabilities weren't severe enough to merit a place like Raskob, that specializes in dyslexia. We applied only to private schools that indicated that they were open to kids who were not neurotypical. We dragged our kid to open houses and testings and shadow days. And no one accepted him. I deeply regret putting him through that.

    Now, he's in public middle school and, while it's not perfect and we still pay for an outside expert, he's doing pretty well and we're planning on him attending public high school, too. 

    A mom I know who is also a school psychologist says that she is often called to do neuropsychs on kids at private schools and that the other parents (of the neurotypical kids) are often behind an effort to push out kids who need extra attention. I guess when you pay $30k for school, you feel like you are owed a lot!

    I echo other posters that either public school or a school that is geared to your kids type of LD are the best options. And do call DREDF!

    Thank you all so much for your replies. This has been illuminating, as I have always been sold the idea that CVUSD was one of the best districts in the East Bay, and I assumed that included the special education facet, as well. This is difficult to read but also very informative. 

    Is anyone familiar with how Alameda Unified School District compares in terms of special education services and general quality of schools (both private and public)? That would be another option I could explore. 

    I suggest checking out San Leandro Unified. It's a smaller district and their reputation isn't great compared to Castro Valley or Alameda, but some of the schools there are gems -- diverse and very caring (to me the Great Schools ratings are more a reflection of this diversity, rather than instructional quality). I know a couple of parents whose kids have IEPs, and the district tries their best to get kids the services they need. 

  • Special Needs Elementary School (1st Grade)

    (3 replies)

    Hi Everyone,

    I'm looking for a school for my daughter who is in 1st grade. I don't know exactly what kind of school I'm looking for, because she has quite the medical history, so I'm looking for help / advice. Here's some info about my daughter, Ashley.

    - Born Neurotypical

    - Diagnosed with leukemia at age 3.5

    - Received bone marrow transplant at age 4 that put her in remission

    - Suffered a viral attack to her brain, spine, and right eye at age 4.5 that resulted in a severe acquired brain injury

    - Current diagnoses / challenges includes: Cortical Vision Impairment, Speech and Development Delays, General Learning Challenges, Right foot drop (she wears a leg brace), Poor memory, Poor attention span

    She is currently in 1st grade in a Gen Ed classroom at our home school. She has a 1:1 aide, resource teacher, PT, OT, and Speech Therapy during the school day. But the public school pace is too fast for her and she learns much better in a very small (if not 1:1) setting. 

    Are there any schools in the East Bay for kids with learning delays that provide a lot more 1:1 support? A therapeutic school would be even better. And if you know if a school that would be good fit but is not in the East Bay, I'd still love to hear about it.

    Thank you!!

    Your school district can place her via IEP at Spectrim Center in Hayward. Our child had a very positive experience for the 3 years we were there. They are very willing to work with familiea' individual needs.

    Wellspring in Walnut Creek might be a good fit. I have a client who is really impacted in Language (and has autism) who is really flourishing at Anova in Concord.

    Check out Wellspring Educational Services in Walnut Creek.  Their staff/ teachers are amazing!

  • 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. 


    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, 


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



    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. 

  • 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.

  • 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.

    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.

    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!

    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.

Archived Q&A and Reviews



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

Oakland Private school for possible learning delays

Oct 2005

Wondering if anyone has experience with Redwood day school or Park day school or Archway. I am looking for a school that will pay enough attention to my child so that any problems are caught early. Right now everything seems fine, but my child is adopted and there is a high rate of attention deficit disorder in adopted children. All three of these schools are nearby and seem progressive etc. Or are there other schoools in Oakland you think would be particularly good. Also anyone know where I can get my child tested to see where she is with regard to learning skills etc,i.e. average, gifted, behind. thanks, J.F.

Reviews received:

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. 

A Brighter Today Oakland


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 strong 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 I have 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