OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS: When it comes to a free and appropriate public education, many parents have the option to send their children to public charter schools. Choice is good! However, with choice comes decision making and when making decisions as essential as your child’s education, it should not be taken lightly.

speech-language impairments, intellectual disabilities, physical disabilities, emotional/behavioral disorders, health impairments, and developmental disabilities are all being educated in charter schools across the nation. Charter schools typically have certified special education teachers and paraprofessionals on staff that offer inclusive and separate class services. In addition, speech pathologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and school psychologists will either be on staff, part-time or fulltime, or be contracted out to meet the services in the IEPs of the special education population of the charter school. So, just like any other public school, charter schools are not allowed to deny admission because of a disability and they are required to provide all prescribed special education services to their students.

Trying to decide between traditional public schools, private schools, home schooling, and charter schools can be a daunting task.

• The hallmark of a charter school is implementing methodologies that you would not customarily see in traditional schools. These may include arts infusion, classical education, subject specific specializations such as science, literature, or agriculture.

 Many of these methodologies implement multi-sensory approaches that allow students opportunities to move around and use a hands-on approach to learning rather than sitting at desks most of the day working on paper and pencil type activities. Students with disabilities tend to thrive in this multi-sensory learning environment that is cultivated in quality charter schools. • Most charter schools have waiting lists. Students who do not follow the code of conduct and habitually bully other students are at risk of losing their spot in the school. There is a mindfulness by parents and students that there are many children eagerly waiting to take their spot. Therefore, bullying and other disruptive behaviors that might interfere with the learning and services of students with special needs is typically at a minimum. • Charter schools are characteristically much smaller than traditional public schools. The culture tends to lend to a more inclusive learning environment for children with special needs. It is not uncommon for teachers to know every student’s name in the school, not just the students

Potential Benefits

Charter schools have some potential key benefits for students with disabilities.

• Great flexibility coupled with a small student body means that it could be easier to provide accommodations and modifications to students with disabilities. As matter of fact, a great deal of accommodations and modifications are only prescribed in traditional public schools because of overcrowding and a lack of flexibility in  teaching practices. It is not uncommon to find that many accommodations and modifications needed in a traditional public school are not needed to the same extent or at all in a charter school.