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Choose the Right Special Education Placement for Your Child

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Choose the Right Special Education Placement for Your Child Photo: Dave Einsel/Getty Images
There are a lot of strong opinions out there about proper placement for students with special needs. Some parents feel that every last special student belongs in the regular education mainstream; others hold on tight to out-of-district placements they feel have transformed their child. Each of these four types of special-education classroom has its supporters and critics, but all that matters is what makes the most sense for your child, right now.

Inclusion Class:

In an inclusion class, or mainstream placement, your child will be in a regular education class with his age peers. In addition to the regular teacher, there will ideally be a special-education teacher whose job it is to adjust the curriculum to your child's abilities. Inclusion placements have the benefit of keeping children in the mainstream of school life with higher-acheiving peers, but may not be able to provide the intensive help some students need.

Resource Room:

Students who need intensive help to keep up with grade-level work in a particular subject may be placed in the Resource Room, where a special-education teacher works with a small group of students, using techniques that work more efficiently with a special-needs population. Resource Room placements have the benefit of providing help where needed while letting the student remain generally with the mainstream, but they lack the structure and routine of a self-contained classroom.

Self-Contained Class:

Placement in a self-contained classroom means that your child will be removed from the general school population for all academic subjects to work in a small controlled setting with a special-education teacher. Students in a self-contained class may be working at all different academic levels, with different textbooks and different curricula. Self-contained classes offer structure, routine, and appropriate expectations, but some students may require a higher level of specialization.

Out-of-District Placement:

While a self-contained class may require your child to go to a school outside your neighborhood. an out-of-district placement places her in a specialized school specifically designed to address special learning or behavioral needs. These schools have the benefit of providing the highest degree of structure, routine, and consistency throughout the school day. However, they remove any possibility of interacting with regular education students, and they are extremely costly for school disricts.

So Which Class Is Right for Your Child?:

That's a question that needs to be answered based on your child's particular, individualized needs. Ask yourself what kind of setting your child learns best in, and what kind of setting is the least productive. Think about whether he has friends he wants to keep in touch with in the mainstream, or whether the mainstream has been dangerous and unfriendly. Think about whether he needs structure and routine, or enjoys being with different teachers and kids. Think about whether there are one or two areas in which she needs academic help, or every moment in school is a struggle. Speak to your child's teachers, other parents, special education personnel, advocates in your area, and most importantly to your child, and try to gauge what setting would be the most productive, most beneficial, most stimulating and least threatening place for your child to learn. Then monitor the situation closely. Your child's placement is not set in stone, and you can always move your child if a placement becomes too hard or too easy.

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