REEL hosted its fourth annual private school panel event in October 2023. The event featured five panelists sharing their unique perspectives on what parents should think about when considering private school placement for their twice-exceptional children.
Abby Krigin, REEL Executive Director and parent of three, kicked off the session by walking through the “DEAR” model created by REEL as a way to evaluate school fit for 2e learners. The model outlines four key practices to look for that contribute to 2e learner success, including that the school: Demonstrates curiosity and care. Embraces flexible and creative options for helping the child engage with material and demonstrate their mastery of content and skills. Accentuates and nurtures strengths, interests, and talents. Reframes challenging or confusing behaviors as communication.
Next, parents Lital Levy, Chad English, and Joyce Wong shared their experiences of working to find good-fit educational settings for their 2e children. While each of their journeys has been completely unique, the following key themes emerged.
It’s hard to get the flexibility that 2e learners need in public schools and the IEP process is laborious, although smaller, better resourced public school districts may provide a good option for some students.
So much is about teacher fit year to year, rather than overall school fit, and you can’t always control which teacher your child will have. In general, parents haven’t found that most teachers are as flexible as they had hoped.
Realize that one school can’t be the end all, be all, for each child. Schools can’t provide everything a 2e learner needs. Sometimes you have to support the strengths outside of school.
2e kids change a lot year to year, so don’t overinvest emotionally in one school setting. It’s likely that your child will switch schools a few times. Focus on your priorities at each point in time.
Keep re-evaluating - what matters for this child, right now. Second guessing yourself is not a good use of time. Think about your priorities and what will work for your child. Re-evaluate your child’s situation every year - make the school choice an active conversation.
Decide what you’re prioritizing for - nothing is perfect. Some years you may be aiming for “good enough.”
Schools consultant Dr. Lisa White of the Summit Center wrapped up the talk by sharing that 2e students are the most likely to fall through the cracks, so it’s important to look for an environment that will hold them and catch them as needed. She reiterated the parents’ perspective that it is important to “Look for NOW. Don’t think about high school in elementary school.” She outlined benefits of both public and private school settings. Public schools are free, local, larger, with more friend options, and often more diverse course offerings in the high schools. On the other hand, private schools are often specialized (e.g., supports for dyslexia interventions), with smaller classrooms, more bells and whistles, more resources per student, and kids who are more aligned with one another. She suggested parents ask the following questions as they evaluate school options:
What kind of experience does the child want to have?
How well does the child self-advocate?
What kind of accommodations are offered and will the child use them? Can the child succeed in this environment even if they don’t use the accommodations offered to them?
What do parents expect the school to provide? Are parents willing to supplement for their child’s strengths and/or needs outside of school?
Where are the students’ “people”?
Are there school-sponsored extracurricular activities where the student will find other kids they relate to?
For further details on evaluating private school options, the following blog posts from REEL’s past private school panels offer advice and guidance on the entire process.
In addition, REEL provides a chart of local schools and remote 2e school options: https://tinyurl.com/REELPrivateSchoolsList