A mother of a pre-school son reached out to me to find out if she could insist that her Catholic preschool provide a dedicated aide for her child where he was beginning his educational journey. With sensory integration symptoms and a possible autism diagnosis, her little guy would benefit from the redirection and assistance that a side-by-side adult could provide him.
“Having my son enrolled at the Catholic school is very important to us and our faith,” this mother wrote to me.
Morally, the Catholic church or any other religious academic school might have an obligation to fill this need, but legally they are not required to. It is rare, indeed, to find religious educational systems who provide the full menu of services the public school is required to under the Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) legislation.
Unfortunately, in small towns choices are limited. It is even more rare to find a private school focused on a specific learning or physical disability in a rural or remote area.
Then, the mother wanted to know if she could advocate for the public school system to send an aide to the Catholic school as an accommodation. However, the law doesn’t require the taxpayer supported public educational systems to redirect services from their entity to private schools. The law states it may be required to provide only equitable services, such as a speech language pathologist or an occupational therapist. In the public school, these professionals are engaged with students on a recurring weekly or twice weekly basis at the best.
The professional may travel to the private school OR the public school may agree to transport your child to their setting for those specific services. It’s important to know which setting the service will be provided as the burden of experiencing a disruption in the day is harder on a child with a disability who is being shuffled from one location to another than if the service is taken to where they are.
What this means is that young children who need continuous individualized support that a full-fledged public special education program can and is required to provide is best delivered in the public school. This can be a difficult decision for families who feel a call to educate their child in the spiritual/religious realms as well as the intellectual.
The mother who reached out to me decided to enroll her son in the public school. She shared it may take up to two months for her son to receive a full evaluation for a diagnosis but “at least he will get some help in the public school that he definitely couldn’t get in the private school. What’s best for him is what’s important.”
The Being Place, PLLC is here to help you achieve what’s best for you and your family. Contact us today.
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