With increasing diagnoses of learning disabilities and developmental disorders, many parents are looking into special education options at private schools. If your child requires special accommodations due to a disability, you may be wondering what services private schools offer.

This comprehensive guide will provide an in-depth look at special education in private schools.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: private schools are not required to provide the same level of special education services as public schools. However, many private schools do offer robust special education programs and will work with families to accommodate students.

Services and accommodations will vary by school.

In this roughly 3,000 word guide, we’ll cover topics like:

Overview of Special Education Law

Key Federal Laws like IDEA and ADA

When it comes to special education, there are several key federal laws that ensure equal access and rights for students with disabilities. One of the most significant laws is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Enacted in 1975, IDEA mandates that all children with disabilities have the right to a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE). This means that students with disabilities should be educated alongside their non-disabled peers to the greatest extent possible.

IDEA also guarantees that students with disabilities receive an individualized education program (IEP), which outlines their specific needs, accommodations, and goals. The IEP is a legally binding document that serves as a roadmap for the student’s education journey.

Another important federal law is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). While IDEA focuses on educational rights, ADA extends its protection to other areas of life, such as employment, transportation, and public accommodations.

ADA ensures that individuals with disabilities are not discriminated against and have equal opportunities in all aspects of society.

It is important for private schools to adhere to these federal laws to provide appropriate special education services for their students with disabilities. Failure to comply with these laws can result in legal consequences for the school.

How Private Schools Fit In

Private schools, including both non-profit and for-profit institutions, have a role to play in providing special education services. While public schools are required to provide special education services under IDEA, private schools are not obligated to do so.

However, private schools that receive federal funding or participate in federal programs, such as the voucher program, must comply with certain special education requirements.

Private schools have the option to become an “equitable participant” in the special education process. By doing so, they can access federal funds to support the provision of special education services.

This means that private schools can receive funding to hire special education teachers, provide necessary accommodations, and implement IEPs for their students with disabilities.

Private schools that choose not to participate in the special education process can still support students with disabilities through other means, such as offering accommodations within the general education setting or providing support services.

However, it’s important to note that private schools have more flexibility in determining how they provide these services compared to public schools.

It is advisable for parents considering private schools for their child with special needs to thoroughly research the school’s special education policies and practices. Consulting with experts, such as special education advocates or professionals, can also provide valuable insights and guidance in making the right choice.

Types of Services Offered

Common Accommodations

Private schools that offer special education services typically provide a range of accommodations to support students with diverse learning needs. These accommodations may include small class sizes, individualized instruction, modified assignments, extended time for tests, preferential seating, and assistive technology.

By implementing these accommodations, private schools aim to create an inclusive and supportive environment that allows students with special needs to thrive academically and socially.

Related Services like Speech or OT

In addition to common accommodations, private schools often offer related services such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy. These services are designed to address specific areas of need and help students develop skills in communication, motor coordination, and sensory integration.

Speech therapy, for instance, may focus on improving articulation, language comprehension, and social communication skills. Occupational therapy can assist students in developing fine motor skills, sensory processing abilities, and self-regulation techniques.

These related services complement the academic program and provide students with comprehensive support to enhance their overall development.

Specialized Instruction

Private schools specializing in special education also provide specialized instruction tailored to meet the unique needs of individual students. This may involve using research-based instructional methods, such as multisensory approaches or structured literacy programs, to teach students with specific learning disabilities like dyslexia.

Additionally, teachers in these schools are often trained in evidence-based interventions and strategies to support students with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), or other learning differences.

By offering specialized instruction, private schools ensure that students receive targeted and effective teaching to maximize their learning potential.

It is important to note that the specific services offered by private schools may vary. Therefore, it is recommended to thoroughly research and communicate with the school to determine if their services align with the needs of the student.

Admissions Process and Getting Services

Discussing Your Child’s Needs Upfront

When considering enrolling your child with special needs in a private school, it is important to have open and honest discussions with the school administration right from the start. Make sure to clearly communicate your child’s specific needs and any accommodations they may require.

This will help the school understand the level of support your child will need and whether they are equipped to provide it.

It is recommended to schedule a meeting with the school’s special education coordinator or counselor to discuss your child’s needs in detail. This will allow you to ask questions, share information, and get a better understanding of the resources and services that the school can offer.

Getting Documentation of Disabilities

In order for your child to receive the appropriate services and accommodations, it is essential to provide the school with documentation of their disabilities. This can include evaluations, assessments, medical records, and any Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) or 504 plans they may have.

Make sure to gather all relevant documents and submit them to the school as early as possible. This will give the school ample time to review the information and determine the best course of action to support your child.

If you need assistance in obtaining the necessary documentation, reach out to your child’s healthcare provider or educational professionals who have worked with your child in the past.

Developing Accommodation Plans

Once your child’s needs have been discussed and the necessary documentation has been provided, the next step is to develop an accommodation plan. This plan outlines the specific services, supports, and modifications that will be provided to meet your child’s individual needs.

The accommodation plan may include specialized instruction, assistive technology, additional support staff, modified assignments, or any other accommodations that are deemed necessary. It is important to work collaboratively with the school’s special education team to create a plan that is tailored to your child’s unique requirements.

Remember, the goal of the accommodation plan is to ensure that your child has equal access to education and can thrive in the private school environment. Regular communication with the school and ongoing monitoring of your child’s progress will help ensure that the plan remains effective and is adjusted as needed.

Paying for Special Education

When it comes to paying for special education in private schools, there are several options available to parents and guardians. It’s important to explore these options to ensure that your child receives the support they need without causing financial strain.

Using Insurance or Government Funding

One way to cover the costs of special education in private schools is through insurance or government funding. Some health insurance plans may cover certain services or therapies that are part of your child’s special education program.

It’s worth contacting your insurance provider to inquire about their coverage options.

In addition, government funding programs such as Medicaid or Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) may provide financial assistance for special education services. These programs are designed to support children with disabilities and their families in accessing necessary educational resources.

Researching and understanding the eligibility criteria and application process for these programs is essential.

Note: Here is an example of a website that provides information on government funding options for special education: https://www.medicaid.gov/medicaid/childrens-health-insurance-program-chip/childrens-health-insurance-program-chip.html

Private School Financial Aid Options

Many private schools offer financial aid programs to help families cover the cost of tuition, including special education services. These financial aid options are often need-based and can significantly reduce the financial burden on families.

It’s advisable to contact the private schools you are considering and inquire about their financial aid programs specific to special education.

Scholarship Opportunities

Another option to explore is scholarship opportunities specifically tailored for special education students. Several organizations and foundations offer scholarships to help families afford private school tuition. These scholarships are usually merit-based or cater to specific disabilities.

Researching and applying for these scholarships can open doors to excellent educational opportunities for your child.

Note: Here is an example of a website that provides information on scholarships for special education students: https://www.ncld.org/

Remember, paying for special education in private schools can be challenging, but with careful research and understanding of available options, you can find the financial support your child needs to thrive in their educational journey.

Choosing the Right Private School

When it comes to special education, choosing the right private school is crucial for your child’s development. Private schools offer a variety of programs and services tailored to meet the individual needs of students with special needs.

Here are some key factors to consider when selecting a private school for your child.

Researching Programs and Services

Before making a decision, it’s important to thoroughly research the programs and services offered by different private schools. Look for schools that have a strong reputation for providing quality special education.

Check if the school has certified special education teachers and if they offer a wide range of services such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, or counseling. A great resource for finding information on private schools is the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) website at www.nais.org.

Furthermore, consider the specific needs of your child. Some private schools specialize in certain disabilities, such as autism or dyslexia, while others cater to a broader range of special needs. It’s important to find a school that can address your child’s unique requirements and provide the necessary support.

Questions to Ask During Tours

Visiting potential private schools is an essential step in the decision-making process. During these tours, don’t hesitate to ask questions related to your child’s special education needs. Here are some key questions to consider:

  • What is the student-to-teacher ratio in special education classrooms?
  • What types of accommodations and modifications are provided for students with special needs?
  • How is progress measured and communicated to parents?
  • Is there a strong focus on inclusive practices and fostering a sense of belonging for all students?
  • What resources and support systems are available for parents?

Asking these questions will help you gain a better understanding of how the school approaches special education and if it aligns with your child’s needs and goals.

Signs of a Good Fit

Lastly, pay attention to signs that indicate a good fit between your child and the private school. Look for schools where your child feels comfortable and supported. A welcoming and inclusive environment can greatly contribute to their overall well-being and academic success.

Consider the school’s approach to discipline, social-emotional learning, and extracurricular activities to ensure a holistic educational experience.

Additionally, seek feedback from other parents of children with special needs who have attended or are currently attending the school. Their experiences can provide valuable insights and help you make an informed decision.

Remember, choosing a private school for special education is a significant decision. By thoroughly researching programs, asking the right questions during tours, and looking for signs of a good fit, you can ensure that your child receives the education and support they need to thrive.


While public schools are mandated to provide special education services, private schools offer more flexibility in programs and environment. Do your research to find a private school that is willing and able to accommodate your child’s needs.

Schedule tours, ask questions, and speak with administrators to ensure the school can provide the right support. With open communication and planning, private schools can be a viable option to help students with disabilities thrive.

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