Mainstream or Special School?

Study in SA Step 1

Choosing what school any child should go to can be difficult. But when your child has special needs or learning difficulties, making the right decision is vital.

However, if your child has the option to go to either Mainstream or Special School, this decision becomes even harder.You want your child to be happy, but there is that underlying fear that if they go to special school this may in some way hinder them when they're older.

We fear that by sending them into special education, they may not be able to achieve their goals.

It is important to realise that this decision is a decision that is completely dependent on the individual child. So what might be best for one child won't be best for another.

I have chosen with my son so far, to keep him in mainstream education. Because at the moment he is happy and he is making friends and progressing (albeit slowly).

However, I am open to the idea of special school, so if he becomes unhappy or just can't manage in mainstream then I will send him to a special needs school.

At special needs schools it is often a lot less focused on academics and more focused on creativity, life skills, and social skill building. For many children these are skills they need and can be provided for them in a much less stressful and happier environment.

Of course as with anywhere, some special schools are better than others and it is important to visit several different places to find the one that is best suited to your child.

Often children can manage well whilst in mainstream at primary age, but it is when transitioning to high school that special school becomes more of a realistic option.

Mainstream High School can be very challenging for some children with special needs. They are often quite large compared to primary. And can be very academically focused. Which for many children with special needs is simply too much or too hard for them.

It is very important to stay flexible on this subject. As it might be the case that your child may be fine in mainstream up until a point, then you may have to consider special education.

The most important thing is that your child feels happy, supported and encouraged to achieve their goals. If these criteria can be met in mainstream then there is no need to disrupt them by moving them.

However, if a mainstream school can not provide a happy, supportive environment for your child then start researching your local special schools to see if you think they may be a better place for them

If your child is NOT happy in the particular mainstream school they are in.

Before rejecting the idea of mainstream altogether, ask yourself if a different mainstream school may be the answer.

Just keep in mind that the right school is the one that best supports YOUR child, a place they can be happy and also encourages them to achieve their goals. Whether this is in a mainstream or a special needs school.