December 29

Signs it’s Time to Look for a Specialized Private School and Seek Tuition Reimbursement

These are some signs a that a school isn’t working for your child:

  1. An early elementary school child with the capacity to learn has difficulty reading or doing math – especially if the child has been getting support in school and still struggles
  2. A child approaching middle school is totally disorganized, forgetful or has difficulty following multi-step instructions
  3. A child tries to leave the classroom, doesn’t know how to behave in a class or has no friends
  4. A child of any age becomes reluctant to go to school (called school avoidance), engages in self-harm, suddenly changes their group of friends and drops out of activities they used to enjoy
  5. A child of any age whose behaviors become worse or whose abilities decline.

The Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) requires public schools to recognize these, and other, signs and evaluate a child. You can ask for an evaluation in writing whether your child has an IEP or not. You’ll need an evaluation to understand your child’s needs and for admission to a specialized private school. Children with IEPs must be evaluated at least every 3 years or as needed (but not more than once a year).

If your child is exhibiting these problems or has other signs of regression, you have the legal right to enroll the child in a private school that will address the child’s problems and demand that the public school district pay the tuition. The specialized private schools in the New York metropolitan area are familiar with the process. Speak with admissions about finances and don’t let the tuition price scare you off.

Mid-year (like, NOW) is a good time to look for a specialized private school in the New York metropolitan area. There are many fine specialized private schools for all different kinds of children in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, Westchester, Southern Connecticut and Long Island, but spots fill up by early spring. Having a special education lawyer on your team at the start of your search is important; we’ll be able to tell you what you need and speak with admissions about the strength of your case. Because the IDEA awards attorney fees to the prevailing party, I (and many of my colleagues) work on a sliding scale .

June 8

What Can I Do Now?

The school year is nearing a close and you’re concerned that your child hasn’t learned, or that your child is having difficulty meeting the demands of school or their independence hasn’t increased. What can you do now? You need to know your rights!

Ask for an evaluation

If you haven’t met with your school and no one has told you that your child qualifies to receive an IEP, write a letter to your school psychologist and principal describing your concerns and ask the school to perform a psycho-educational evaluation BEFORE the next school year.

If your child has an Individualized Education Program (“IEP”), but you think there are issues or deficits that haven’t been addressed this year, it’s possible that more detailed evaluation is needed. Write a letter to your school psychologist and principal detailing your concerns. The evaluation can be done over the summer.

All requests must be written. Send your letter in a way that creates a record of when your request was received by the District – by email or regular mail using “return receipt requested.” Keeping written records is absolutely crucial.

You might need to explore private schools or supplemental services outside of school; if your child has an IEP (or should have had an IEP) there are certain circumstances where you might qualify for tuition reimbursement from your school district or where you could use the legal process to make the District pay for the extra services you obtain outside of school.