Motherhood comes with a host of choices to make about what is best for you, your family, and your child. We at Alamo City Moms Blog have a variety of moms who want to embrace these choices instead of feeling guilty or judged for them! We are continuing our series, Perspectives in Parenting, with a look at education. Five of our contributors will share their experiences of choosing schools for their children. Don’t miss our other perspectives on public school, private school, charter school, and home school.
Just like there is no one perfect parenting style, there is no single best approach to education. The same applies to special education. What’s right for your child may not be right for other children, and his or her needs will most likely change over time. Maybe your child is an infant and you already know he or she will have special education needs. Or maybe your child is currently in “general education,” and you’ve realized over the course of the school year that he or she needs help.
No matter where you are in the journey, trying to navigate special education can be overwhelming. How do you know you’ve made the right decision? Sometimes there is no way to be sure without trial and error. Just know you’re not alone, and there are many parents who have gone before you. Here are some things that have helped me along the way, and some I wish I had known before I started this journey:
My son currently attends an integrated, public, general education Kindergarten and receives assistance from a teacher’s aide. After lunch, he goes to private speech, occupational, and applied-behavior-analysis (ABA) therapy for the second half of the day. My husband and I were hesitant to have my son do anything other than all-day Kindergarten, but we realized that wasn’t necessarily best for him. We worked with the school, and now he gets the best of both worlds. He benefits from being around his peers; they benefit from being around him; and then he gets a little decompression by having quieter, individualized attention in the afternoons. I’ve also heard of some students doing part of their classes in school and doing the rest at home or online. So, be open. Don’t let anyone tell you it has to be a certain way.
Don’t judge a book by its cover.
Unfortunately, school district “grades” usually account for general education and may not accurately reflect their special education resources. Don’t assume the ritziest school districts will also have the best special education services. This will probably take some digging on your part, and your best bet is to contact individual schools and visit the classrooms. On the other hand, don’t assume that a school can’t support your child’s needs. If you’re interested in a particular school, but are unsure about its special education program, it’s best to contact the school directly.
Take it a day at a time.
I got some good advice early on: try to plan in six- to twelve-month spans rather than worrying about multiple years at a time. Don’t worry about high school when you really just need to focus on elementary school. Who knows how your child will grow and change in as little as two years?
Know the law or someone who does.
If you choose to enroll your child in public school, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) entitles each student with a disability to a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to meet his or her unique needs. The primary method for providing FAPE is through an individualized education program (IEP), and there are many laws obligating public schools to provide certain services in a prescribed amount of time. If you don’t know the laws, it can be difficult to hold the school accountable. This is where an advocate comes in handy. The Arc of San Antonio and Disability Rights Texas are good places to start.
Remember, you are your child’s best advocate!
Sometimes I feel like an ambassador for my child, and it’s my job to work together with the teachers and staff to ensure his special needs are being met. Don’t ever let someone make you feel bad for wanting more for your child. It is called “special education” for a reason, and your child deserves special accommodations. Don’t settle. If the game plan isn’t working, don’t be afraid to change it.
So, what should you pick? Public? Private? Charter? Home-school?
The great thing about San Antonio is that if you’re not satisfied with one school, there are a lot of options. Below are links for most of the Independent School Districts in the Alamo City, but if you don’t see the one you’re looking for, the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation has links for each ISD toward the bottom of its School Districts page. I’ve also included a few links for San Antonio Special Needs Private Schools, IDEA Public Schools, and Charter Schools.
Independent School Districts:
FSHISD, Special Education: 210-368-8771 or 210-368-8773
Elementary School Coordinator: 210-368-8818
Middle/High School Coordinator: 210-368-8735
The Winston School of San Antonio (private school for learning disabilities, but not equipped to educate children with certain medical, cognitive, or emotional issues)
Brighton Center (preschool)
Early Childhood Intervention.
If your child is between the ages of 0–3 and you’re concerned about his/her development, he/she may qualify for free or low-cost Early Childhood Intervention. No child and family will be turned away because of an inability to pay. After age three, you will be referred to your school district for additional assistance. The services provided by your school district for ages 3–5 will also give you a good idea of what to expect once your child is enrolled in kindergarten. Any Baby Can, Easter Seals, and the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services are all great resources to get ECI started.