Should you enroll your child who has ADHD in a private school? Many parents may consider this option when their children are struggling in school, hoping that smaller classrooms and more personalized attention will make a difference for their children.
Under IDEA, private schools do not have to provide the same level of special education or academic accommodations required in public schools. Susan H. Biggs, EdD, is the director of the Learning Center Flint Hill School, a private school near Washington, D.C. She tells readers of Attention magazine that private schools receiving some federal money have to make minimal adjustments for students under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
For many students, she writes, remaining in public school would ensure their educational rights and needed accommodations. But, Dr. Biggs writes, parents should explore private school options if possible because some private schools have taken a different approach to meeting the needs of their students affected by ADHD or learning disabilities. These programs can have definite benefits for students.
“Private schools are in a unique position to support students with ADHD and learning disabilities,” Dr. Biggs says. “Since the eligibility laws that govern special education in public schools do not bind these schools, they can be creative in how they support students. They can focus on the culture of the school and construct a climate that works well for students who learn differently.”
The environment, both academic and social, that private schools have the opportunity to create can make the difference in student success for children affected by ADHD and their peers.
“All students need to believe they can be successful in school,” Dr. Biggs says. “A private school can create a nurturing culture where all students are connected to the adults and feel appreciated by them.”
The key, she adds, is an administrative vision that supports teachers willing to be creative in helping students. Students struggling because of ADHD or learning disabilities are already present in private schools and would flourish with academic support, she writes.
“Private schools can offer challenging instruction and simultaneously address individual needs,” Dr. Biggs says.
How you can help?
If you choose a private school for your child, here are some ways you can help the school meet the needs of your child.
Make sure the school is a good fit for your child. Not every private school is a good option for a child affected by ADHD. Meet with the admissions team to share what you know about how your child learns best. Be sure to give the admissions office a thorough and accurate psycho-educational evaluation report that reflects both your child’s strengths and needs. Ask if there is an additional fee for programs for students with learning differences.
Volunteer and be active at your child’s school. If your child’s school has a parent advisory board, join it. Take advantage of opportunities where you can have a voice in the school and get to know the staff. Ask if you can sponsor a speaker to come talk with teachers about ADHD. You can also purchase books and videos for the school’s professional library.
Meet with your child’s teachers early in the year, before problems arise. Don’t forget to include teachers of special subjects like art and physical education. Be sure to involve the learning specialist if your school has one on staff. Ask teachers how they organize their classroom and what role you can play as a parent in supervising your child’s work at home.
—From Supporting Students with ADHD in Independent and Private Schools
Learn more about private schools options for students with ADHD in Supporting Students with ADHD in Independent and Private Schools.