Please help with Public vs. Private S... - CHADD's ADHD Pare...

CHADD's ADHD Parents Together

20,153 members5,644 posts

Please help with Public vs. Private School Decision

LOATer profile image
13 Replies

My 6 year old was recently diagnosed with ADHD. School will be virtual minimum 6 weeks, and virtual did not go well for us in April/May since she has fidget and focus issues/easily distracted, although she is now on some medication which can help a little. We are debating about putting her in private school mostly due to smaller class size (I was reading the other posts) , but of course it is a big expense we were not planning on. We are set to get evaluated at public school for IEP /504 plan in a few weeks, and I'm not sure if I should give that up and enroll in private school (12-15 per class) or just stick with public school (23 per class). I'm so afraid of making the wrong choice. She will be in 1st grade but I can see she already started falling behind. Would appreciate any tips/advice!

13 Replies
Onthemove1971 profile image

Welcome to the group! We are excited you joined the group. You will.find so much support on this blog. I am sure someone who has been in your shoes will chime up about this issue.

First let me say, whatever your decision is.. if it doesn't go well, worse case she stays 1 year and then goes back. So please don't think it has to be forever, unless it really works.

I recommend you continuing with the 504/IEP process so you can learn more about her strengths and weaknesses. Also, you can learn how to best help her or what she needs to better support her.

Hope these help..

I will add that class size is just one aspect in education. But honestly things that are more important are the teacher and how knowledgable the staff are about ADHD. Most private schools have 1 teacher (unless it is very large) and if it doesn't go well.. if you decide on public school there are often more than 1 teacher per grade and if things don't go well you can request a change to thr other teacher. .

I undeserved that distance learning did't go well, but it sounds like you did not have the needed support for your daughter.

Hope these thoughts help.

WonderWoman776 profile image

I hear your dilemma, and I echo the previous person--worst case scenario, she stays a year and then goes back! My daughter was diagnosed in 1st grade and we quickly began seeing a need for change in schools. While we love the public school we are zoned for (my son did very well there), we realized it wasn't a good fit for our daughter. We began looking at other schools, including a private school, and finally were placed on a wait list for a charter school. We were on the wait list for a year and finally this year a spot opened up. So, she will begin 3rd grade at her new school and we could not be more thrilled. Smaller class size, more opportunity for movement--they are very health-focused and will follow her established 504. It might be worth looking at charter schools in your area as well. Definitely continue with the 504/IEP process--it's been helpful for my daughter and I like how it can be altered as she moves up in her academics. Good luck to you!

LOATer profile image
LOATer in reply to WonderWoman776

Thanks! If I choose private school how do I start the IEP process that was going to be started by the public school district? Do I have to find and pay someone to do this myself? Do I lose this public school benefit?

Onthemove1971 profile image
Onthemove1971 in reply to LOATer

I would recommend communicating with the public system and completing the assessment there. Very few schools ( of course this in the area I work in) accept outside evaluations.

Private school don't create 504 plans or IEP's, sometimes they will use some of their recommendations to assist the learning in their environment.

A private school may use a private assessment from an agency. You should ask the private school before you go through an assessment and pay for it. There are many parts to the assessment. Many time your child's current teacher is contacted and asked to fill out a questionaire to get a better understanding of the child's strengths and weaknesses.

Hope this helps, good luck!

ADHD_DAD profile image
ADHD_DAD in reply to LOATer

Just a quick addendum to address your IEP/504 question. First, private does not officially HAVE to follow the plans, but do, particularly in a location like mine where they want to be viewed as a superior alternative to a highly rated public school. Second, despite attending private school, your daughter remains by virtue of the location of your home within the public school district. The public school is still required by law to complete the assessments (upon WRITTEN request) that would be required if your child attended that school. This is required to be offered free of charge. The public school remains obligated to create an IEP or 504 and follow the same process it would follow if your daughter attended the public school. The private school then follows that plan. While we are "old hat" about battling the public school for accommodations in the plan, my son's individual counselor at the private school met with us first to work out expectations and provide recommendations for the plan and offerred to attend all meetings with the public school with us (which I did not need but appreciated).

I will say that I had anticipated less "push back " from the public school about requested accommodations since they would be implemented by the private school. However, because he could return to the public school at any time, they were as difficult as ever and as apt to deny reasonable requests as before (of course, we got what he needed as always, but I did not anticipate the level of advocacy required). It was nice though to have the private school folks roll their eyes with us when hearing of the public school conduct. They then pointed out that most of the things the public school strongly opposed are things that they just DO at the private school. Good luck

ADHD_DAD profile image

Hi there. Totally hear you on the big expense not planned on. We selected our location and built a house all based upon being in the best public school district. Here in Upstate NY, best public school equals big property taxes, but no tuition! This year we switched to private school for all the same reasons you cite. Man plans and God laughs!

Public school was a battle every year just to get what the school is required to.lrovide by law. I learned early on that only by making it more difficult and expensive to do the wrong thing could I get them to do the right thing. My mantra (review my old posts) was that I would never waiver and I would never tire of advocating for my son. I could (and did) cite what I perceived as victory after victory and successes and took pride in making the school provide reasonable accommodations to provide my son the same opportunity for success as enjoyed by students without a disability.

Then my wife pointed out that despite his consistent high 90s in science, the school recommended AGAINST advanced science in 8th grade. I fought and over rode and he got 95 in advanced science. But the teacher would calthto.say that he wasn't keeping up, he wasn't "grasping the material" (watch for this trick). He was held back from advanced math (but had a final average of 100% in 8th grade math!) Despite his high 90s averages, he was not made a part of tne honors group when kids without ADHD with worse grades did. My wife (with a broken heart) convinced me that despite all my fighting, all the public school saw was the disability and how he required more from his teachers than children without his disability. Despite those crazy, awesome grades, he didn't view himself as one of the smart kids because he was never treated that way by his teachers. He would tell me at bed time that he felt guilty that his disability made more work for his teachers which wasn't fair to the other kids (he certainly didn't hear THAT at home). So while I never tired of advocating and while I could change the teacher's actions ("ust watch me" I'd tell my exhausted wife when she was without hope) I couldn't change their minds and their attitudes and my brilliant, empathetic boy knew how they saw him.

...The private school is very small. Class sizes are around 6 children. They taylor their teaching to the learning style of the students. They looked at my son and talked directly to him (instead to us like he wasn't there) and told him that with his hard work and intelligence he was EXACTLY the kind of student they wanted in their school. He looked like the weight of the world was just lifted off his shoulders.

It's very expensive. I can do it. It will hurt, but I can do it. I am an older parent (I'm 51) and have made use of the opportunities I was given as a young man. I can do it. It's what I have worked for. His life will be better now.

You will have to make your own story, but this is ours. It's private school now for us. Good luck to you! Cherish your beautiful, quirky, unique child. ADHD can be a super power. She is in the same club as Edison,, the Wright Brothers, DaVinci, and (some say).Eisenstein. We are the ones stuck in boring, limited brains!!!

Onthemove1971 profile image
Onthemove1971 in reply to ADHD_DAD

Thank you for sharing with us your journey.. I know the world would be a better place if people just accepted kids and did not make life harder for them.

So glad to hear he is in the right place.

MM814 profile image

I have kids in high school in both a public “gifted” school and a private Catholic school. All three have adhd and the ones in catholic school struggled more in grade school. I tried both public and catholic schools with all three. One catholic school showed us the door as we didn’t “fit” into the little box they liked to put the students in (figuratively of course) but the second welcomed us with open arms and was a great fit for all three in grade school. I felt, unlike the public school, they went out of there way to get to know them and work on their strengths. I worried though that high school would be different and when my son tested into a gifted public school I was torn but it had such an amazing reputation and he worked hard to get in. It has been a disaster. They don’t care and don’t answer emails or calls when I make them. I will also say the Catholic grade school was AMAZING last spring with elearning from day one and the public school did literally nothing for the first month and very little after that. I remember that i was concerned when the boys were little that I wouldn’t get the services at a catholic school but that was not entirely true. And even when I did get services in public school I did not find them to be very helpful AND I was constantly fighting to get them the minutes. I would highly suggest finding a private school that is willing to work with your child. The fact that you are paying tuition will keep the lines of communication open which i found to be a huge factor in our kids lives. Good luck!

willandgrace profile image

We moved our son to private school because he would have DROWNED in public school. I do suggest you get the evaluation done at your public school in order to learn as much as you can about your daughter and her learning style. If you are in private school you will have to pay for a private evaluation (we just had another done for my son and it cost $4,500), so def take advantage of the public school's evaluation. I think public school Child Study Teams are usually very good. But kids with ADHD need smaller class sizes and teachers who are responsive. In private school my son got accommodations and most importantly, teachers who were accessible and extremely professional. The school I chose for my son had a learning center for kids who need extra attention. If you can find a private school that acknowledges diff learning styles you will be very happy. In our public school, he got NO attention, and I could hardly get in touch with teachers. It was really really difficult.

Baldy70 profile image

I would talk to a holistic doctor and ask about goat milk,essential oils,cherries help with focus etc..

ADHD_DAD profile image

Here's a form letter to request eval. As noted, public school must comply (free of charge) regardless of whether your daughter attend public school or private since you live in the district. Be well.

Dear Educators:

I am the parent of [student name], who is in [grade number] grade at [school name] in the [name of school

district] School District. I am concerned that the reason [student name] is not doing well in school could be

because of a disability and I would like to request that [he/she] be evaluated for special education eligibility.

Please accept this letter as my formal request for and consent to an individual, comprehensive evaluation of

[student name]’s educational and related needs in accordance with the provisions of the Individuals with

Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and its implementing regulations. The evaluation I am requesting would cover

all areas of [student name]’s abilities and areas of concern, including [area of concern 1], [area of concern 2],

and [area of concern 3]. It is my understanding that Section 1414 of the IDEA requires you to begin the

evaluation process at my request and begin the 60-day timeline with my consent.

Please feel free to contact me to discuss any necessary arrangements for conducting the evaluation. If, for any

reason, you deny this request for an evaluation for IDEA eligibility, please provide me with my written parental

notice as the IDEA also requires.

Thank you for your time and attention.


[Parent name(s)]

ADHD_DAD profile image

hi. A quick update after first week of new private school. I picked my son up yesterday and he THANKED me for sending him to the new school. It has been wonderful so far (covid was not a part of the decision to change, but he is going live 5 days per week due to small class sizes and lots of room). Last year, despite my advocacy, his life was as I described above. The most prominent thing about every part of his school day was ADHD and managing it. Now, he is a kid who is bright, WELCOMED, interesting, funny who also happens to have ADHD. He just feels like a kid not a kid with ADHD. Before, it was all ADHD all the time. Because I am a parent and feel the need to feel guilty, I feel guilty for not switching him previously. I thought I had it all figured out, but I didn't. His life (and ours) is (are) already so much better than last year.

My wife's LIFE was son's ADHD. She gave up a successful career because he needed her here to help him everyday from when she woke up to when he wenttobed. Too soon to say but she may get the part of her life which did not involve him back. She's taking baby steps.

Sabrousal profile image

Best of luck to you and your family. My son is in a hybrid homeschooling group and then taking virtual public school classes also. He's 15, we have struggled getting help at public added fuel to fire that he was gifted. Next year will be his sophomore year in high school. He'll start classes at the Community College at least by his junior year. I still have to monitor that he doing his work. Frustrating but overall he is a great kid, who got emotionally beat up for his adhd from every direction. Protect her. Think of every decision as temporary. I think small classes are great. I think meds are great...that one took me years! Good luck.

You may also like...