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Integrated vs. specialized environment

Inclusive Schools: Are they right for your child?

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Depending on the nature and severity of your child’s learning disability, and inclusive school may be an option. An inclusive school is a regular school that has made a commitment to gearing part of its resources and curriculum to students with special needs.

The degree to which special-needs students are integrated depends on the school’s philosophy. For example, at Montcrest School, in Toronto, Ontario, about 30 spots out of 300 are reserved for the Learning Disability Program, wherein students receive intensive instruction in general subjects and support in developing self-esteem, but participate along with regular students in physical education, drama and music classes. At the Robert Land Academy in Wellandport, Ontario, boys in Grades 6 to 12 learn in a highly structured motivational learning environment—an ideal format, as most have concentration and attitude difficulties and some have ADD, ADHD, or learning disabilities.

There are many things to take into account to determine a good fit at an inclusive school.

“What should be happening is a matching process between the expertise and focus of the school and your child’s requirements,” says Sue Maxwell, admission director at Montcrest School.

Maxwell advises researching several different inclusive schools and being completely up-front with admission directors about your child’s special needs. Parents should also ask the following questions:

  • What is the school’s philosophy on integration/inclusion?
  • What areas does the curriculum cover, what teaching methodologies are used and what are the areas of expertise of the teachers?
  • What is the teacher-student ratio? How much one-on-one instruction and support will a student receive?
  • If a child excels, might he/she be fully integrated one day?
  • Does the school maintain contact with parents? Could you contact your child’s teacher for progress reports?
  • Is the school wheelchair accessible and can it accommodate a child’s medication needs?

To compare specific schools one-to-one, visit our compare hub.


—Sharon Aschaiek

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