Vol.2, No.4

How to tell if public school is right for your special needs child

Mentally challenged kids deserve to learn as much as they can but some parents worry if the child should go to public school or not.

A handicapped child at school
Photo Credit: andres balcazar
If you have a special needs child it doesn't mean he can't go to public school. Children with physical handicaps are often placed in classrooms with kids of their own age and grade. With mental handicaps special classes are set up to assist your child.

Getting an early start on education is important particularly for the mentally handicapped. Before the child is a year old it's imperative to get learning assistance if you want to see the child be all that he can be. Although public schooling is not available until kindergarten there are some other organizations that can help you get a placement for your child in a learning center. Learning centers attempt to prepare the child for a public school setting. The teachers will work with the student on things like sharing, not pitching fits, learning to write his or her name and other basic skills. If time in the learning center doesn't help the child or the child doesn't respond well to the teaching he may not be a candidate for public school.

You know your child better than anyone else does. If your son or daughter is unable to respond verbally but you believe they can hear and understand then public school might still be in his best interest. Even children who can't respond can sometimes still understand and learn.

The great thing about special classes in public schools for the mentally handicapped is that they cater to each child's needs. A child that can read some as well as speak and spell a little is given different assignments than those who have problems with those tasks. Kids who can't read or even hold a book are read to by the teachers.

One concern for parents of the mentally handicapped is that they will be teased or bullied by the other students. Most schools have schedules and classrooms that allow the handicapped students to be somewhat secluded from other students. For example, most handicapped classes start earlier or later than the normal schedule. In addition the students do not mingle in the hallways with the other students. They take breaks at separate times and are not left alone during bathroom breaks. They do participate in auditoriums and other special events, accompanied by their teachers.

There are varying degrees of mental retardation. Some children can steadily learn more and more up until a certain age when their learning abilities taper. Other kids have difficulty learning new things at all. In addition some mental disabilities include seizures as well as unpredictable behavioral problems. Severely mentally handicapped children are exempt from laws governing school attendance but if the child has a certain mental capacity, in some states, he must attend some sort of schooling. Usually the Department of Social Services or the Medicaid Department can arrange for testing to see where the child stands academically. Even if it is reported that the child isn't required to attend school you as a parent may still wish to have them continue to be educated as long as possible.

If your child seems to enjoy going to school, even if he doesn't learn a lot, he should go. The setting gives him interaction time with others and gives him something to work towards in life. If your child is a danger to others and medications have not helped the matter it's wise to think about keeping your child out of public school. Some private classes are available for these kids, in certain towns.

There are other special programs for your handicapped child including swimming and other sports. Check with the Department of Social Services for a list of special classes and programs for the mentally handicapped.