Therapies, Specialists, and Accommodations
What therapists visit the school, and how often? Does the school have regular access to speech therapy, OT, PT, a guidance counselor, and a pyschologist? Does the school offer adaptive PE? If your child has speech and language difficulties, ask what method the school will use for communication. Do they have access to assistive technology? Are there any extracurricular activities that are open to students with special needs? Are there electives during the day that are appropriate for students with special needs?
School Facilities and Classroom Environment
Take note during your school tour: Is there a gym? An auditorium? Music room? Art room? An outdoor playspace? A separate room for speech therapy, OT, PT, and the guidance counselor? Observe the students in a classroom: Are they engaged in a meaningful activity? Or just sitting around? Are there pictures of student work on the wall?
If your child is going to public school and will need a para, ask what training is given to the paraprofessional. Will your child get the same para every day? Will he or she be with your child at lunchtime and recess?
Guidance Counselors and IEPs
Talk to the school guidance counselor and find out how many other students have IEPs. Do any of the students have 1-on-1 paraprofessionals? Do any of the students participate in Alternative Assessment? What classroom settings are available (Gifted, Gen Ed, ICT, 12-to-1-to-1, etc.)? Are all classroom configurations offered to students with IEPs? What opportunities do special education students in contained classroom settings have to mingle with the rest of the school population? Does the school require that your child’s IEP have a specific classification in order to be eligible for admission? If you’re considering a private school in New York CIty, is it on the NYC Approved List (makes funding tuition easier)? What is the admission process, and what evaluations and reports are needed? How recent should they be?
If you get a chance, try to go back at different times of the day, particularly in the morning, during lunch, and toward the end of the day. Does the principal greet the children as they arrive? Do the buses arrive on time and deliver the children safely?
There’s a lot to consider, and I’m sure you can come up with a few more things relevant to your situation that I didn’t even mention. And by your 11th school (yep, 11 and still going) you might not feel any less stressed or lost but you will at least have these questions memorized (always keep your eye on the silver lining).