As admissions decisions are being made, and offers of placement start rolling in, parents of children with special learning needs are feeling an increased level of anxiety knowing that seats are so limited. 

There are so few specialized schools offering full-time special education programs and support, and even fewer seats in these highly coveted schools. Adding to the mix is the fact that each school has its own very specific profile of students; some only serve those with learning disabilities, others serve a more diverse population of students including those with emotional, behavioral or intellectual disabilities. 

Unlike the timeline followed by many of the ISAAGNY schools, most of the specialized schools do not follow a common timeline.  This can make the process even more daunting as parents often have to wait through the spring as seats may only become available when a family sends notification that they are not returning for the following year. 

Most important, and often difficult to understand, is the fact that, although the mission and program of the “ideal” school seems perfect for the child, the one seat in the one classroom that has the open space may very well NOT be a good fit. It all depends on the profile of the class and the specific learning needs of the students.  Is there an appropriate reading or math group? Are the attentional or behavioral needs of the class too significant that it would be unwise to add another student with those needs to the group? 

As a former Admissions Director I spent countless hours explaining to very disappointed but confused parents why the committee felt the child wasn’t “a good fit”, especially when the mission and program seemed to be appropriate.  I can’t count how many times I heard, “But my nephew goes there and has the same problem….”

If there is one lesson to be learned from the agonizing special ed admissions process it would be to trust the professionals in the school to make the best decision for the child. They want the school, and the child, to be the “right fit” for the best chances at success. There is little worse than having to go back to the drawing board and start all over again after an exhaustive search for the most appropriate program.