There are many different kinds of boarding schools in the United States. Some are highly academic and serve only exceptional and motivated students. Others are geared to working with the average to above student. And a few select schools work with children and adolescents with special needs which cannot be met by traditional or regular programs. These special needs schools can address a wide variety of disorders from Aspergers Syndrome to dyslexia to emotional problems. Some are college preparatory; others have a more transitional mission and are preparing their students for a return to the mainstream.
Families oftentimes find it a daunting task to identify the right boarding school for the “special” child. Websites and brochures don’t give enough detailed information for a parent to make an informed decision. Current psychological and academic testing may be inconclusive so parents don’t understand the problems or how to best treat them. Some families seek the counsel of an educational consultant to help them sort through the various options. Whether a family uses a consultant or searches on their own, it is vital to find the school that is the “right fit”; one that can address the child’s unique learning style.
Close to 20% of the school age population are diagnosed with a learning difference. Most of these children have a problem using language and are said to have a language based learning disorder. Others have a non-verbal learning disability and struggle with some of the following: organizational difficulties, poor social skills, visual-spacial weaknesses, conceptual reasoning deficits. Many children have attentional issues and executive functioning deficits. Some LD students just need small classes, academic support and minor classroom accomodations; others whose LD issues are severe and more debilitating, need direct and intense skills-based language remediation. There is a significant difference between academic support and remediation. Boarding schools that offer support usually have a few LD trained teachers in tutorial center. Their role is to help the LD student keep up with what’s happening in the classroom. On the other hand, remedial instruction is a structural approach to helping the child learn strategies to compensate for their weaknesses. Curriculums at these schools use a multisensory approach and experiental teaching strategies. All teachers at these schools are trained in using these techniques. It is very important for parents to understand the difference and to know what a boarding school can and can’t do before placing their LD child.