Boarding Schools for Special Needs Students

"Special needs" is an umbrella term that public schools use to describe children who require extra services in order to succeed academically.

A special needs child can be one with medical issues such as chronic disease like cerebral palsy or cancer, or chronic health issues such as food allergies, asthma, or obesity. She may be a child with behavioral issues that require special disciplinary measures. Her diagnosis may be Attention Deficit Disorder, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, Dysfunction of Sensory Integration, or Tourette Syndrome. He may be a child with developmental disabilities such as autism or Asperger Syndrome. Children with mental health issues such as bi-polar disorder, anxiety and depression are also placed in the "special needs" population. Having a learning disability such as dyslexia and Central Auditory Processing Disorder can mean a child needs special services.

Educators at public schools often place "at risk children" in the special needs population. These are students who, because of poverty, language barriers, family situations and the like, are "at risk" for academic failure. Because public schools have limited resources, they often generalize this term to include students in special classrooms that cannot meet all of their individual needs. Many parents feel their children have been "warehoused" and are not getting the educations they deserve. For this reason, many parents now advocate for IEPs (Individualized Education Plans) that include the possibility of attending a non-public school that can better meet their child's needs.

If you are considering a boarding school for your "special needs" child, you should search under the term that specifically describes your child's condition, such as "bi-polar disorder" or "Attention Deficit Disorder." This way you can find a boarding school that is set up to serve your child's individual needs. For example, a child with Asperger Syndrome may require sensory integration therapy. A child with severe mental handicaps might need an extended school year so she does not lose her progress over the summer months. A child with Attention Deficit Disorder may need to work on organizational skills and time management. The school should have the resources that match a child's individual diagnosis.

PROS
Many local school districts are simply too small and under-funded to serve every child with special needs.

Even a short stay at a specialized boarding school can produce big improvements because the programs are intense and round-the-clock.

Boarding school can build independence among children with special needs who are particularly susceptible to becoming overly reliant on their parents.

CONS
Therapeutic boarding schools are expensive. The wrong boarding school is a waste of time and money.

You are sending an often fragile or naïve child away from home, so you really have to check whether the boarding school is safe and appropriate.

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