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Elementary Special Needs School

What you need to know about elementary special education

Identifying special needs, especially in young children who are just beginning to develop, can be difficult. First time parents, especially, may not be familiar with what a “typically developing” child looks like. Before considering a special needs elementary school, here are some clues that special needs may be present and some tips for how best to support these learners. Educate yourself about your student’s learner profile. What are considered best practices for working successfully with this type of student? Then you can evaluate if a special needs elementary school may be the right choice for your family.

Special Developmental Needs

Autism spectrum disorder ranges from mild lack of social understanding, to non-verbal.

Early signs:

1. Not responding to name by 12 months.
2. Delayed speech and language skills.
3. Avoiding eye contact.
4. Upset with small changes in routine.


1. Get a evaluation as early as possible.
2. Utilize school psychologist, and occupational therapist.
3. Create a “safe” zone where the child can be alone and relax at home.
4. Pay attention to child’s hypersensitivities.

Dyslexia is very taxing, taking at least 5% more energy to process basic tasks. Dyslexics often have above average IQs and are highly creative.

Early signs:

1. Appears bright, but unable to read at grade level.
2. Tests well orally, but not on written tests.
3. Seems to “daydream” a lot.


1. Read advanced material. This engages both sides of the brain.
2. Don’t stress the misreading of “little” words (in, i’m, none, he). They will outgrow such mistakes.
3. Emphasize discussion as teaching strategy.

Not all children with ADHD are hyperactive. But if a child is, it will show during the school-age years. He may be unable to focus, and he may have trouble making good decisions or planning things.

Early signs:

1. Trouble taking turns or sharing
2. Difficulty finishing homework or chores
3. Inability to keep track of things like homework and books


1. There is no test for ADHD. Many kids have some signs. But for a diagnosis, several signs need to be present for at least 6 months. They have to be taking a toll on the child’s social life and schoolwork.
2. Treatment may include medication and behavioral therapy.
3. Classroom should provide structure, hands-on learning and teachers predisposed to support your ADHD child.

Perhaps you decide that your child would be best served in a special needs elementary school. These schools exist for students who cannot learn effectively in a conventional school environment. Elementary special education schools can be more targeted in their particular approach, flexible in their organization and have more liberty to choose appropriate curriculum and classroom management strategies.

If you are considering ADHD elementary schools, here are some key criteria to evaluate

  • Ask about the school’s approach to teaching kids with ADHD
  • Are there any teachers with ADHD? They are excellent role models. Teachers must be patient yet firm and create a safe learning environment. An impatient or judgmental teacher will derail the entire school year for an ADHD student.
  • There should be plenty of opportunity for hand-on learning
  • The entire school staff should understand and support school strategies for working with ADHD students.
  • Favorable student to teacher ratio

If you are considering autism elementary schools, here are some key criteria to evaluate

  • Teachers should have both training and experience working with autistic children.
  • Teachers should be able to access resources, training and materials as needed.
  • Teachers should be able to modify curriculum based on your child’s IEP
  • You should be able to see evidence of different teaching styles in your child’s classroom.
  • Teachers understand and deploy the key autism therapies. You are in agreement with the therapeutic strategy recommended for your student.
  • There is evidence that learners are challenged and supported both academically and socially.
  • Supportive therapies, such as speech, physical and occupational therapy are all available on-site.
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